It was first documented in medical literature as recently as 1898, but the pineal gland has long been the subject of spiritual awe. French philosopher René Descartes described it as “the seat of the soul.” Madame Blavatsky, the founder of theosophy, called it “the third eye.” And esoteric schools of thought have venerated it for thousands of years.
The pineal gland is shaped like a pine cone (hence the name) and is located near the center of the brain, between the two hemispheres and slightly above the junction of the eyebrows. In medical circles, it’s described as small endocrine gland—about the size of a grain of rice—with purely physiological functions: like the thyroid, pituitary, and other endocrine glands, the pineal gland synthesizes and secretes a hormone—in this case, melatonin. Melatonin is responsible for regulating the sleep/wake cycle, and influences the hypothalamus, a region of the brain that’s involved in thirst, hunger, sleep, and emotional activity.
It’s also said in some circles that the pineal gland is able to produce small amounts of dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a powerful psychedelic that’s a component of the South American herbal brew, ayahuasca. David Wilcock, author of The Source Field Investigations, goes so far as to say DMT produced by the pineal gland can encourage encounters with mystical beings. In theory, this might account for the purported ability of pineal gland meditations to enhance spiritual awareness.
If this were the case, why aren’t we all walking around in an altered state of consciousness? Proponents of the pineal-gland-equals-gateway-to-the-divine say it’s because this tiny organ is easily damaged by modern lifestyles. Stress, poor diet, fluoridated drinking water, and other influences can adversely impact the pineal gland, they say, causing it to become calcified. Additionally, few of our modern-day practices are designed to activate the pineal gland, and it could simply wither from lack of use.
But some spiritual traditions say you can heal the pineal gland and fully activate the third eye, increasing perception, awakening intuition. Here’s how:
Calcification is a condition in which calcium phosphate crystals are deposited in various organs and tissues in the body. Calcification of the arteries is a widely-accepted risk factor in heart disease, and calcification of the joints and tendons is linked with osteoarthritis and tendonitis. Can the pineal gland become similarly calcified? Some theories say yes. According to Wilcock, most people have a chunk of calcium in the center of the brain, which looks white on an X-ray or MRI. Drinking sodas, and eating refined and processed foods may contribute to calcification. The biggest impact, though, is fluoride from tap water and toothpaste. To decalcify the pineal gland, avoid fluoride in all forms. Use filtered water for drinking and bathing, and buy fluoride-free toothpaste; to remove fluoride from the body, iodine supplements are recommended. Tamarind (an Ayurvedic herb), liver detox supplements, and dry saunas are also said to help.
2. Detox and stimulate
Certain herbs and supplements are thought to stimulate the pineal gland and promote detoxification, including removing calcium deposits. You’ll find many of these safe and effective supplements at your local vitamin store. These include:
- Hydrilla verticillata, a type of seaweed that’s available in supplement form.
- Spirulina, a type of blue-green algae that comes in pill, powder, and capsule forms; chlorella, another form of
algae, is also beneficial
- Zeolite, a mineral supplement that’s thought to remove heavy metals and toxins.
- Ginseng, an herb used widely in Traditional Chinese Medicine; you’ll find it in tincture and capsule form.
- Bentonite clay, a fine, powdered substance that’s said to absorb and remove toxins, heavy metals, and chemicals from the body.
- Cod liver oil, high in omega fats, is thought to nourish the pineal gland and is said to help decalcify calcium deposits.
3. Meditate in the dark
Darkness encourages the pineal gland to produce melatonin, but our circadian rhythms and normal cyclical relationship with darkness have been disrupted by the advent of electricity and 24-hour light. Many metaphysical schools and traditions recommend meditating and doing other spiritual practices in the dark, to encourage the pineal gland to secrete melatonin. One simple exercise: darken a room completely using opaque curtains; turn off the lights, including digital clocks or other devices that emit small amounts of light. Take a comfortable seat and, with your eyes open, gaze into the darkness. Place your mind’s attention on your breath, and if thoughts arise, let them drift off. Do this for at least 10 minutes; use a small penlight or candle to ease out of the meditation.
4. Scent yourself
Certain essential oils are thought to stimulate and awaken the pineal gland and encourage heightened spiritual awareness and deeper states of meditation. These include sandalwood, frankincense, lavender, pine, and davana oil, made from Artemisia pallens, or dhavanam, an aromatic herb that’s native to India. Add a few drops to a warm bath, sprinkle on your pillow at night, add a few drops to a spray bottle of water for a room spritzer, or inhale directly from the bottle before meditating.
5. Chant om
There’s an actual physiological effect to chanting “om” or certain other sacred sounds; chanting causes the bones in the nose and head to subtly vibrate, which is thought to stimulate the pineal gland. For a simple healing practice, chant “om” for 5 minutes or longer, on your way to work, in the shower, or before bed for enhanced sleep. For a full practice, wear loose clothing, sit comfortably, and place your right hand, palm up, in your left hand and resting in your lap. With eyes closed, take a deep breath in and on the exhale chant a long “aaaaauuuuuummmmm” sound. Bring your attention to the third eye and notice the subtle vibrations in the bones of your head and face.
6. Hang up
Cell phones are said to damage the pineal gland by emitting EMFs, electromagnetic fields, and some studies have documented the disruption of melatonin from exposure to EMFs. There are essentially two types of EMFs: low-frequency, emitted by electricity and household appliances, and high-frequency, from cordless land lines, laptop computers, Wi-Fi, and other such sources. Limit cell phone use, don’t carry your phone on your body, use your cell only where reception is good (the weaker the reception, the more power your phone emits), use a combination shielded wire and air-tube headset for your cell, and stick to a landline—not cordless—as often as possible. For detailed information on detoxifying the body from electronic pollution, see Zapped by Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD.
7. Play with rocks
Rocks, stones, and crystals have long been used to stimulate and balance various of the body’s chakras, centers of spiritual power in the body. Crystals that balance the sixth and seventh chakras, located in the center of the forehead and the crown of the head, are also said to heal the pineal gland. These include amethyst, moonstone, pietersite, sodalite, rhodonite, purple sapphire, and purple tourmaline. Because the colors indigo and dark purple are associated with the third eye, any crystal in that color family is said to help. To use them, lie on your back, place one in the center of your forehead, and draw your attention to the area.
8. Take melatonin
If your pineal gland is not functioning at top capacity, and melatonin production is impacted, taking melatonin supplements can help. Studies show that melatonin helps promote sleep, and some research also suggests melatonin supplements can enhance feelings of peace and well-being, and may have some impact on cancer prevention and longevity. Start with 1 mg a night; you’ll find it in tablets, liquids, and capsules, and in sublingual form, which is more readily absorbed by the body.