LE MARS, Iowa | Himalayan salt lamps are all the rage these days -- they're pretty, pink-ish orange and semi-practical as a lighting source.
But what's that other benefit to having one around? They clean the air or make you feel better?
Nicole Brandt, the proprietor of Siouxland Reiki & Spirit Nook Crystal Shop in Le Mars, said the real benefit of of salt lamps comes from the fact that salt (known formally as halite) is a crystal. And crystals, besides being beautiful, are good for you -- they're used in an alternative medical practice called "crystal healing."
"Crystal healing works with our energy field," said Brandt, who has about a year of practice in crystal healing. "Crystals have a perfect, very orderly, molecular blueprint. And when they are near our bodies energetically pick up on that, that just stable energy from the crystal. And so our bodies want to try to mimic that perfect, stable energy."
In practice, Brandt said crystals help balance the body's energy, take away stress, aid in emotional problems, boost confidence and help the body heal properly.
And unlike pills, which have only one (well, two) routes of administration, crystals can be applied in a number of ways -- they can be kept in pockets and purses, held in the hand, placed under the pillow or around the room, or even placed in the bathtub (though Brandt warned that users need to be aware if a particular crystal has any toxic properties).
And, of course, crystals can be worn as jewelry.
"That's the most common use, people have been attracted to putting jewels on their bodies for you know, thousands of years," Brandt said.
But are all crystals -- or rocks, for that matter -- created equal, in terms of energy-healing properties?
"Being studied for thousands of years, people have used crystals and they have noticed that different crystals work with different problem areas that we may come across in our mind, body or spirit," Brandt said. "So every rock, even just a rock you would find going on a hike or walking outside, our bodies could work with that."
Even a common, un-pretty rock might have some healing potential.
"It might have some healing properties," Brandt said. "It probably has a mineral like quartz, which is a crystal, inside of it. The more it has that crystalline property, like from a quartz or from a diamond, the better, or the more clear the healing will be."
It bears mentioning that varieties of quartz (a common crystal made of silicon and oxygen that goes by different names depending on the color) are among the most common healing crystals.
The following is a brief list of healing crystals Brandt says are among the most common:
One of the most famous types of healing crystals, amethyst is actually a purple variety of quartz.
"It's usually the stone people pick up first when they start getting into crystals," Brandt said.
Amethyst is good to soothe irritation and hostile feelings and promoting tranquility and peace. When people put amethyst under their pillows, Brandt said they may sleep better.
"Sometimes when we can't get to sleep at night, it's because we are thinking thoughts throughout the day, things that stressed us out, problems we had, problems that we'll have tomorrow," Brandt said. "So the amethyst kind of just helps calm that, calms our state of mind, so we can have a better night of sleep."
Another very common healing crystal, rose quartz is good for matters of the heart -- it promotes love of oneself, friendships and romantic matters.
"It has a very soothing, loving energy," Brandt said.
Like amethyst (and most others on this list) rose quartz is found often in jewelry.
Known as the "master crystal," Brandt said quartz is one of the most versatile, all-around healing crystals.
"It amplifies energy and promotes healing on all levels," she said.
Brandt was quick to point out that quartz has found many uses in natural science -- in watches, computers, lasers and even space shuttles.
"It puts out a very high vibration, and it's known to increase energy in the body, increase healing in the body," she said.
A blue stone used sometimes as a gem, sodalite is calming and brings clarity.
"It works with the throat, so speaking truth, communication with others, if you have a speaking engagement or you have maybe social issues, carrying a sodalite, holding it in your hand, maybe rubbing it or carrying it in your pocket or something, will help alleviate some of that," Brandt said.
Another variety of quartz, this one yellow-ish in color, citrine can inspire brightness and cheer, as well as self-confidence and abundance.
"It's just a very happy, energetic, positive stone," "It carries that bright, happy vibration."
Dark stones like black tourmaline work as "grounding stones," which Brandt said help "connecting yourself with the Earth -- it's good to be connected to God and the universe, but also connected to the Earth."
"If you are just have too many things rushing around in your brain -- you have this to do, you have that to do, you're stressing out, this person said something bad to you, a grounding stone just helps you kind of start from zero, calm down, get yourself connected to Earth," Brandt said.
Long used as a semi-precious gemstone, the reddish-orange carnelian is known as the "feel better stone," Brandt said.
"It boosts personal power, self esteem, and creativity," she said.
Yet another type of quartz, green aventurine "works with the heart chakra" like rose quartz, Brandt said.
"That aids in relationships," she said.
"You can think of green like growth," she said. "So it helps if you have, like, old heartbreak, it helps kind of renew your heart."
This can help new growth take place.
Aventurine's green color is associated with abundance, Brandt said.
"Abundance of joy, love, even money," Brandt said. "So a lot of people will keep a green aventurine in their purse and their wallet -- to hopefully attract more money."
Finally, the salt in salt lamps -- though many people take in too much of it through diet, Brandt said there are a lot of great, healing uses for halite.
"That's why salt baths are so great, because you're bathing in that crystal," Brandt said.
Salt lamps, she said, have much the same affect.
"If anyone has been in a room with a salt lamp, they can attest that it just promotes a calming peacefulness within that room," she said.