Scientific Explorations of Energy Work

“How does energy medicine work?” is one of the questions I get asked most frequently in my practice.  “Can I expect to get better?” is another.  With the nature of my practice and my background in science, i know that I cannot make any unfounded claims- nor do I want to.

Kirlian photography

Kirlian photography

However, research into the mechanisms of energy medicine is extensive and fascinating.  Following is a slice of some of these explorations and how they have come into applicable fruition.

To begin, Reiki is a form of energy healing in which the practitioner uses light touch to channel energy.[1]  The word Reiki is comprised of two Japanese words: rei, meaning “hidden force” or “spiritual”, and ki, meaning “life energy.”  It can be used to manipulate the body’s energy field located around the body to assist in the healing process occurring from reduced or blocked ki in the body.[2]  At first glance, the practice of Reiki seems fairly mystical with its origins as an ancient art form of laying-on of hands, later rediscovered and propagated by Zen Buddhist, Makao Usui[3] in the late 19th and early 20th century.[4]

However, in the past three decades scientific enquiry has attempted to explain the supposed beneficial effects of Reiki:

  • In the 1980s it was discovered that during the practice of Reiki the brain wave patterns of the practitioner and receiver become synchronized in the alpha state, characteristic of deep relaxation and meditation.
  • Additionally, the Schuman Resonance phenomenon, with waves pulsing in unison with the earth’s magnetic field, was simultaneously also observed.  In these instances the biomagnetic field around the practitioner’s hands was measured to be at least 1000 times greater than normal, independent of the practitioner’s internal body current.
  • In 1990 a Kirlian photograph taken while a Reiki practitioner was concentrating on activating Reiki captured an image showing a beam of energy or light flowing from a Reiki practitioner’s hand.[5]
  • The same electromagnetic currents at least 1000 times greater than the practitioner’s internal body current or heart muscle have been measured to emanate from Reiki healer’s hands in the range of 2-20 Hz, centering around 8-10 Hz.  With an application of 8-10 Hz of energy, significant healing of damaged tissue and some psychological impacts have been measured.[6]
  • A study in 2006 on the effect of Reiki on in vitro bacterial cultures demonstrated that Reiki improved the growth of heat-shocked bacterial cultures when a healing intention was present[7], suggesting that the “universal life energy” “channeled” may be modulated by the human biofield in certain psychophysiological states.[8]

 

Recently, within the past decade, more research on Reiki has been carried out as an increasing number of patients explored its use and it gradually become incorporated as an adjunct modality in health care practice.  Reiki has been studied in areas of surgery, chronic illness, neurology, stroke rehabilitation, cancer care, cancer pain, and mental health and research has been performed in the United States, Canada, India, and Australia.[9]  Anecdotal evidence demonstrates that Reiki reduces stress preoperatively, decreases recovery time, decreases the need for the use of analgesia, reduces hospital length of stay following surgery, reduces stress, reduces fatigue and improves coping ability in patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), reduces pain and improves comfort and quality of life in palliative care, and aids relaxation in patients with HIV/AIDS.  No anecdotal evidence has been found to suggest that Reiki can harm recipients.[10]  Findings and clinical accounts consistently indicate Reiki recipients’ deep sense of relaxation and well being.[11]

Following are findings from some highlighted scientific studies on the use of Reiki:

  • Practitioners have noted improved communications between recipients and care givers as recipients’ emotional distress is diminished during Reiki sessions.[12]
  • In studies on the use of Reiki in mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) clients, Reiki had impact on RMBPC (Revised Memory and Behavior Problem Checklist), showing to have a significant impact on quality of life, including reduction in walking at night, remembering recent events, losing or misplacing things, and depression issues.  Annotated Mini Mental State Examination) were significantly improved with Reiki sessions once per week.  According to the researchers, improvements strongly recommend the use of Reiki for MCI or mild AD clients.[13]
  • In measuring the effect of Reiki on the autonomic nervous system (ANS), diastolic blood pressure (DBP) and mean blood pressure (MBP) showed significant reduction in the Reiki group while there were no changes in either the placebo or control groups.  Peripheral vascular resistance was reduced in the Reiki group, probably caused by reduced sympathetic outflow to the resistance blood vessels.  The authors concluded that Reiki has some effect on ANS (as compared with placebo and control groups).[14]
  • In a study conducted at YaleUniversity exploring the effects of Reiki on autonomic activity early after acute coronary syndrome (ACS), Reiki administered by nurses was found to significantly increase vagal activity as measured by high-frequency heart rate variability (HF HRV).  The magnitude of the effect on HF HRV seen was similar to that of propranolo in the BHAT (Beta Blocker Heart Attack Trial).  The researchers concluded that the findings suggest a potential clinical role for Reiki in post-ACS inpatient setting. [15]

Physical touch in health care has also been reported as having calming and comforting effects though several studies involving placebo Reiki suggest the consequences of Reiki are not due to physical touch but to the effects of Reiki healing.[16]


[1] Richeson, Nancy E.; Spross, Judith A.; Lutz, Katherine; Peng, Cheng. “Effects of Reiki on Anxiety, Depression, Pain, and Physiological Factors in Community Dwelling Older Adults.” Research in Gerontological Nursing. 2010, Vol. 3, No. 3, p. 187.

[2] Herron-Marx, Sandy; Price-Knol, Femke; Burden, Barbara; and Hicks, Carolyn, Feb 2008. “A Systematic Review of the Use of Reiki in Health Care” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Therapies. Feb 2008, p. 37.

[3] Richeson, Nancy E.; Spross, Judith A.; Lutz, Katherine; Peng, Cheng. “Effects of Reiki on Anxiety, Depression, Pain, and Physiological Factors in Community Dwelling Older Adults.” Research in Gerontological Nursing. 2010, Vol. 3, No. 3, p. 187.

[4] Gray, John Harvey and Lourdes Gray.  Hand to Hand: The Longest Practicing Reiki Master Tells His Story. United States, John Harvey Gray and Lourdes Gray, 2002, p. 11.

[5] Herron-Marx, Sandy; Price-Knol, Femke; Burden, Barbara; and Hicks, Carolyn. “A Systematic Review of the Use of Reiki in Health Care” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Therapies. Feb 2008, p. 37.

[6] Crawford, Stephen; Leaver, Wayne; Mahoney, Sandra.  “Using Reiki to Decrease Memory and Behavior Problems in Mild Cognitive Impairment and Mild Alzheimer’s Disease.”  The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.  2006, Vol 12, No. 9, p. 911-2.

[7] Rubik, Beverly; Brooks, Audrey J.; Schwartz, Gary E. “In Vitro Effect of Reiki Treatment on Bacterial Cultures: Role of Experimental Context and Practitioner Well-Being.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2006, Vol 12, No. 1, p. 7.

[8] Rubik, Beverly; Brooks, Audrey J.; Schwartz, Gary E. “In Vitro Effect of Reiki Treatment on Bacterial Cultures: Role of Experimental Context and Practitioner Well-Being.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2006, Vol 12, No. 1, p. 12.

[9] Herron-Marx, Sandy; Price-Knol, Femke; Burden, Barbara; and Hicks, Carolyn. “A Systematic Review of the Use of Reiki in Health Care” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Therapies. Feb 2008, p. 39.

[10] Herron-Marx, Sandy; Price-Knol, Femke; Burden, Barbara; and Hicks, Carolyn. “A Systematic Review of the Use of Reiki in Health Care” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Therapies. Feb 2008, p. 40.

[11] Nield-Anderson, Leslie; Ameling, Ann. “The Empowering Nature of Reiki as a Complementary Therapy.” Holistic Nurse Practice. Apr 2000; 14(3):24.

[12] Nield-Anderson, Leslie; Ameling, Ann. “The Empowering Nature of Reiki as a Complementary Therapy.” Holistic Nurse Practice. Apr 2000; 14(3):24.

[13] Crawford, Stephen; Leaver, Wayne; Mahoney, Sandra.  “Using Reiki to Decrease Memory and Behavior Problems in Mild Cognitive Impairment and Mild Alzheimer’s Disease.”  The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.  2006, Vol 12, No. 9, p. 911-913.

[14] Mackway, Nicola; Hansen, Stig; McFarlane, Oona. “Autonomic Nervous System Changes During Reiki Treatment: A Preliminary Study.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2004, Vol 10, No. 6, p. 1077-1081.

[15] Friedman, Rachel S.C.; Burg, Matthew M; Miles, Pamela; Lee, Forrester; Lampert, Rachel. “Effects of Reiki on Autonomic Activity Early After Acute Coronary Syndrome.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Sept 2010, Vol 56, No. 12, p. 995-9.

[16] Herron-Marx, Sandy; Price-Knol, Femke; Burden, Barbara; and Hicks, Carolyn. “A Systematic Review of the Use of Reiki in Health Care” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Therapies. Feb 2008, p. 40.