Field Notes from The Tucson Gem Show: Pulse Taking and Stone Medicine

Emily and I just got back from one of our favorite annual events: The Tucson International Gem and Mineral Show.  For those of you who are not familiar with this event, it is the largest gathering of gem, mineral and fossil dealers from around the world. It takes over the better part of the city of Tucson, Arizona for a month every year around this time (for Miami locals- think ‘Art Basel for Gems and Crystals’).  Dealers set up exhibitions in convention centers, meeting halls and hotels. Some of the hotels turn their rooms into ‘shops’ for the show which happen to be some of our favorite places to go.  People often ask us, ‘Where do you all shop for crystals?’. The answer is simple: The Tucson Gem Show.  Once you’ve been, you’ll never shop for crystals anywhere else.  If you are drawn to gems and minerals in any way- for their beauty, jewelry, interior design, energetic or spiritual purposes, you owe it to yourself to make it out to Tucson for the gem show at least once in your life.

Chris with an exceptionally large quartz cluster in Tucson

Chris with an exceptionally large quartz cluster in Tucson


The use of gems and minerals as jewelry, decoration or as a specimen to be displayed in a museum is obvious to most people. Each one has its own unique beauty, and their structure tells a story about the Earth. In the case of meteorites, we can even learn about the origins of the moon, other planets and our entire solar system. But what about their use in the healing arts? I was skeptical about this many years ago when Emily first started using them in her work. I was always interested in crystals and stones from a scientific and aesthetic standpoint. But to actually ‘use them’ to achieve some sort of a healing effect was a bit beyond my comfort zone.

So, when Emily first offered to treat me with stones, I said, ‘Of course!’. It could not be harmful and I’m always up for trying something new. She performed an acupuncture treatment on me based on how I was feeling at the time, then created a formation of crystals around and on top of my body. It was rather simple- clear quartz points at the four corners of the table, some amethyst clusters around my sides and a few others placed over chakra centers on my torso. I closed my eyes and relaxed to let the needles do their work and smiled about the Zen Garden-like human sculpture I had become.

What felt like just a few minutes passed, and Emily said, ‘OK, you’re done- I’ll take out your needles now.’

Astonished, I said, ‘But you just put them in like five minutes ago. Shouldn’t we do a little longer?’

‘You’ve been out, snoring on and off, for about forty-five minutes!’

‘Huh?’, gathering myself together, ‘I felt time pass by so quickly, and I was in a very deep place of meditation. Lots of light, colors, pleasant and floating the whole way.’

And I felt amazing! The stones had genuinely enhanced my acupuncture experience. I was an instant convert and now incorporate stones into all my energetic treatments and love to have them used on me when I receive treatments.

Over the years, we have acquired more and more knowledge on how to incorporate stones into our practice. Our primary teacher in this arena is Jeffrey Yuen, an 88th generation Taoist master whose classes Emily has been attending for over fifteen years. I started studying with Jeffrey in 2014, and I’m eternally grateful for all the knowledge he has shared. Understanding the principles of Taoism is a lifelong path of learning and self-discovery. While the primary focus of Jeffrey’s teachings has to do with Chinese Medicine, the principles which it is based upon can be applied to any type of healing art, including Western Medicine.

Crystals and stones are considered a part of the Materia Medica (the ‘textbooks’) in Chinese Medicine as a type of herb. In Chinese Medicine, an ‘herb’ can be plant, animal or mineral, as the Taoist considered all parts of the natural world to be medicinal. Many modern-trained practitioners of Chinese Medicine do not learn how to use stones in their practice as their purposes are often related to spiritual and alchemical practices. The use of crystals and stones in Chinese herbal medical practice was removed with the influence of communism in China, as it was considered to be religious, spiritual and “woo-woo.” Fortunately, we have had the privilege to receive training in the ancient knowledge practices which recognize the transformative power of stones when used in the appropriate setting.

There are several ways we can use and select stones to assist the treatment of any particular condition. At this year’s Tucson Gem Show Class, Jeffrey Yuen discussed the selection of stones for treatment based upon the characteristics of the patient’s pulse. A full discussion of pulse diagnosis is far beyond the scope of this blog post, but a brief description is as follows:

  • The pulse of both the left and right radial is palpated by the practitioner. The pulse has three positions, using the styloid process of the radius as the ‘center’ point (see diagram below). The styloid process is the palpable ‘bump’ at the end of the forearm bone on the ‘thumb side’. In this diagram, it is right under the point in the middle labeled ‘Guan’.

pulse image

Pulse positions and their corresponding organs. The Styloid Process of the Radius Bone is right below the position marked ‘Guan’

  • Each position of the pulse corresponds to a different meridian in the body. Remember- the names of these are the Chinese Zang-Fu organs. They do not correlate directly with the Western organ concept utilized in conventional medicine.
  • Assessing the strength, flow and character of the pulse at each of these positions is a part of making the proper diagnosis in Chinese Medicine. Making this diagnosis correctly is absolutely essential and the diagnosis will dictate the appropriate acupuncture points, herbs (including stones), dietary and lifestyle recommendations.
  • After a treatment, especially with crystals and acupuncture, the pulses can be re-assessed to see if their character has changed. Depending on how they have changed, one can assess the success of treatment and make further decisions about future treatments.

So how could a crystal actually influence your pulse? The answer is based in physics and chemistry. Everything in the universe is vibrating. All molecules, and the atoms they are made from, are shaking all the time. The speed and strength with which they shake determines if they are solid or liquid, hot or cold, inert or reactive. Bringing two substances into proximity or contact with one another can alter this vibrational behavior. As human beings, a great portion of our molecules are in some form of liquid or colloid (which is solid mixed with liquid, like blood or bile). Liquids are particularly good conductors of vibration, and solids are even better. So our bodies will absorb and transport vibrational energy quite easily. For a quick experiment to prove this, all you need is a tuning fork.

  • Strike the tuning fork and hold it next to your ear. Notice how loud it is, how intense the sound and how quickly you are able to hear it as you bring it closer to your ear.
  • Next, strike the tuning fork and place the end of the handle on your forehead. Notice how loud it is now and where you hear it. How quickly does it spread to your ears? If you place it in the center of your forehead, you should hear it equally in both ears (If you don’t, go see a doctor to check out your ears! This is an old-school physical exam test for hearing problems…)

The presence of the crystal near or on your body is the same as the tuning fork, but it is more subtle. Some people may ‘feel’ the crystal, and it can manifest in many ways. For some, it is a physical sensation- it feels cool or warm, tingling or buzzing. For others, the feeling is emotional: they feel relaxed, happy, centered or focused. Some people may not resonate well at all with a crystal and might even feel anxiety or feel palpitations. This is especially true with crystals containing minerals/elements which are highly reactive, like sulfur, antimony, arsenic or iron.

It is a challenge to understand the vibrational characteristics of each individual crystal. There are thousands of types of stones and it’s impossible to know them all. Fortunately, a working knowledge of a couple dozen is enough to cover most needs. Learning how to apply them to an individual’s present needs is an even greater challenge. Using our knowledge of energetic diagnosis, we apply stones to complement our healing practices. We look forward to seeing you in the office soon for some crystal healing.

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At MBCWC, holistic health care is just the beginning. We are complementary healers focused on whole-patient care.


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