Scientific Evidence for Reiki?

When I was in my twenties, my roommate came home one day and exclaimed, “I just learned this technique where I can place my hands over your body and provide healing and relaxation. Want to try it?”

“Hunh?” I thought, “This is just ridiculous. How could that possibly work?”

Now, over 25 years after my roommate’s announcement, all the major hospitals in the Greater Boston Area and many others around the globe offer reiki as part of their care programs.   The good news, for the analytically minded amongst us, is that science is now able to supply evidence that supports the efficacy of reiki and other healing modalities.

Reiki is a form of energy medicine which can be defined as “the diagnostic and therapeutic use of energies (e.g. lights, sound, heat, gravity, pressure, electricity, vibration, magnetism, electromagnetism, or chemical energy) whether produced by or detected by a medical device or the human body.  Energy medicine involves the use of certain energetic intensities or frequencies (whether from a machine or hand) that stimulate the repair of tissues or built-in healing mechanisms.” (source: James Oschman).

There are many scientific, controlled studies that have been done about reiki. The two listed here are just a sampling, but they  are indicative of what has been studied:

  • In 2000, William F. Bengston conducted and published research into the effectiveness of hands-on healing.  His healing research produced the first successful full cures of transplanted mammary cancer in mice by a hands-on technique as published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 14, No. 3, pp353-364, 2000.  In the experiment, they obtained five experimental mice with mammary cancer which had a predicted 100% fatality between 14 and 27 days subsequent to injection. Bengston treated these mice for 1 hour per day for 1 month and the mice lived their normal life spans while control mice sent to another city died within the predicted time frame. Three replications using skeptical volunteers and other laboratories produced an overall cure rate of 87.9% in 33 experimental mice.
  • In addition, in 2006, Ann Baldwin and Gary Schwartz showed that personal interaction with a reiki practitioner significantly decreased noise-induced microvascular damage in an animal model.  Conclusions of their study are that reiki can be administered to animals and results in a reduction in stress-related physiological response (significantly more than when offered by someone who is pretending to give reiki).  Their research was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (12(1): 15-22).

My own personal experience with Reiki has been that it supports healing by lowering stress and increasing feelings of calm. In my early 30s, I was scheduled to have bone removed from my foot and thought it might be helpful to have a reiki practitioner join me in pre-op.  I had heard that it might help me to calm my nerves before surgery. When the reiki practitioner arrived, she placed her hand on the center of my back and immediately I was filled with warmth, light and a calm, centered feeling. She sat near me during the pre-op period and her presence (and the reiki energy she was sending) helped me stay calm. The nurse was surprised at how even and mellow my pulse was.

The good news is that in addition to our subjective experiences, we now have mounting evidence that supports profound quantifiable outcomes for reiki. Stay tuned for research that supports other energy medicine modalities.

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