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Research on Energy Healing

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"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. "
                                                                                             - Albert Einstein

Research On Energy Healing

     There has been much research done on energy healing including  Reiki, Qi Gong, Therapeutic Touch, Johrei, Prayer, and more. It seems the trouble with doing healing research is finding large enough numbers of patients that match in personal ailments in addition to as many life factor characteristics as possible to be a good comparison (age, lifestyle, drug use, etc). Another factor to consider is that healers are not all alike either! I have compiled some information below including some of the research that has been done, some books, and some websites for you to consider if you would like to read about what has been done as far as energy healing research. Once again, this is just a small sampling. There is a lot more out there and I am sure that more outstanding research will be done in the future.

General Healing Studies:

  • (1950's & 60's) Dr. Bernard Grad & colleagues at McGill University in Canada found that when a healer held a container of water and sent healing energy into it, barley sprouts grew taller and stronger than those in the control group that did not receive the treated water. They did another study on "laying on of hands" and found that wounded mice in a container held by  a healer were healed significantly faster and with fewer complications than the control group of mice. He also showed that healers could reduce the size of cancerous tumors in laboratory animals and that those treated had prolonged life compared with those who were not. (Calm Healing: Methods for a New Era of Medicine - Robert Bruce Newman, Ruth Miller)

  • (1988) Dr. Randolph Byrd did a double-blind remote prayer study on coronary care unit patients which showed significantly less severe symptoms and required less assistance than those not prayed for. (The ESP Enigma: The Scientific Case for Psychic Phenomena - Diane Hennacy Powell, M.D.)

  • (1990's) Dr. Elisabeth Targ and Fred Sicher tested healing in a double-blind study with patients having end-stage AIDS. During the 6 month trial, 40% of the control group died but all patients in the healing group were alive and had improved! They decided to run another test with a larger group all perfectly matched down to personal habits and found that the treated group did better physically and psychologically than the untreated group. And none of them knew who was being treated or not since it was a double-blind study and healings were done at a distance. (The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe - Lynne Mctaggart)

  • (2004) Dean Radin with molecular biologists Ryan Taft and Garret Yount from California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute in San Francisco (CPMC) tested "Possible Effects of Healing Intention on Cell Cultures and Truly Random Events." They used human brain cell cultures to see if they would grow more when exposed to healing intention (bypassing the problem of placebo effect or expectation since they used brain cells instead of people). They also used 3 hidden Random Number Generators in a shielded room where Johrei practitioners projected healing to the cultures in flasks. They found that the treated cells grew more as the experiment progressed with no significant trend in the control cell cultures. The odds of that happening being 1,100 to 1. In addition, they found that all 3 random number generators produced peaks on the same day that the cell cultures deviated from chance- with the odds of that happening being 1.3 million to 1. Their conclusion was that certain forms of focused attention appear causally to influence both living and non-living systems. The environment was affected: the Johrei practitioners would condition the space that they did the healings in by meditating and chanting as well as doing healings on each other. (Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality - Dean Radin)

Reiki Specific Studies

  • Study abstract from ISSSEEM (International Society for the Study of Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine ) website:

"Efects of Reiki on Pain and Selected Affective and Personality

 Variables of Chronically Ill Patients by Linda J. Dressen & Sangeeta Singg, Ph.D.

This experiment examined the effects of Reiki (a laying-of-on-hands healing modality) on pain, mood, personality, and faith in God. Participants (N = 120) were randomly assigned to one of the four groups (ns = 30). The Reiki Group received ten sessions of Reiki. Progressive Muscle Relaxation Group received ten sessions of relaxation therapy. Control Group received no treatment. Placebo Group received ten sessions of false-Reiki. Statistical analysis led to the following conclusions: (1) Reiki is an effective modality for reducing pain, depression, and anxiety. (2) Reiki is effective in enhancing desirable changes in personality and strengthening the faith in God. (3) Gains made by Reiki tend to persist over longer periods of time. (4) Attunement seems to be a vital part in Reiki training. (5) Chronically ill patients experiencing stress and pain tend to be receptive to Reiki.


  • Study from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine website:

"The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine

Autonomic Nervous System Changes During Reiki Treatment: A Preliminary Study

Nicola Mackay, M. Sc.; Stig Hansen, Ph.D.; Oona McFarlane, M.A.; Institute of Neurological Sciences, South Glasgow University Hospital NHS Trust, Glasgow, UK.; The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. December 2004, 10(6): 1077-1081. doi:10.1089/acm.2004.10.1077. Published in Volume: 10 Issue 6: March 9, 2005

Objectives: to investigate if a complementary therapy, Reiki, has any effect on indices of autonomic nervous system function.

Design: Blind trial.

Setting/Location: Quiet room in an out-patient clinic.

Subjects: Forty-five (45) subjects assigned at random into three groups.

Interventions: Three treatment conditions: no treatment (rest only); Reiki treatment by experienced Reiki practitioner; and placebo treatment by a person with no knowledge of Reiki and who mimicked the Reiki treatment.

Outcome measures: Quantitative measures of autonomic nervous system function such as heart rate, cardiac vagal tone, blood pressure, cardiac sensitivity to baroreflex, and breathing activity were recorded continuously for each heartbeat. Values during and after the treatment period were compared with baseline data.

Results: Heart rate and diastolic blood pressure decreased significantly in the Reiki group compared to both placebo and control groups.

Conclusions: The study indicates that Reiki has some effect on the autonomic nervous system. However, this was a pilot study with relatively few subjects and the changes were relatively small. The results justify further, larger studies to look at the biological effects of Reiki treatment."

  • Scientific Evidence for Reiki chart found on the "Transition to Parenthood" website which is compiled from studies listed in "Natural Standard" which is an organization that produces scientifically based reviews of complimentary and alternative medicine topics:

Autonomic nervous system function

One randomized trial suggests Reiki may have an effect on autonomic nervous system functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure, or breathing activity. Large, well-designed studies are needed before conclusions can be drawn.

Depression and stress

There is evidence that Reiki can reduce symptoms of distress when compared with placebo. More information is needed before a conclusion can be drawn.


Patients in a preliminary ("phase II") trial of Reiki in combination with standard pain medications (with opioids) were reported to experience improved pain control. Further research is needed to confirm these findings.

Stroke recovery

In a randomized controlled trial, Reiki did not have any clinically useful effect on stroke recovery in patients receiving appropriate rehabilitation therapy. Selective positive effects on mood and energy were noted.


Reiki may contribute to reduced perception of pain, improved quality of life, and reduced fatigue in cancer patients. More studies are needed.

Cognitive impairment (mild)

Early research suggests that Reiki therapy may improve behavioral and memory problems in patients with mild cognitive impairment or mild Alzheimer's disease. However, additional studies are needed to confirm these findings.


Reiki instruction may help HIV/AIDS patients reduce pain or anxiety, but study results are unclear.

More Reiki studies listed from that website:

1.    Astin JA, Harkness E, Ernst E. The efficacy of "distant healing": a systematic review of randomized trials. Ann Intern Med 2000;132(11):903-910.

2.    Crawford SE, Leaver VW, Mahoney SD. Using Reiki to decrease memory and behavior problems in mild cognitive impairment and mild Alzheimer's disease. J Altern Complement Med 2006;Nov, 12(9):911-913.

3.    Eliopoulos C. Integrative care-Reiki. Director 2003;Spring, 11(2):46.

4.    Fleming D. Reiki: a gift and a skill anyone can learn. Beginnings 2003;Jan-Feb, 23(1):12-13.

5.    Kennedy P. Working with survivors of torture in Sarajevo with Reiki. Complement Ther Nurs Midwifery 2001;7(1):4-7.

6.    Mackay N, Hansen S, McFarlane O. Autonomic nervous system changes during Reiki treatment: a preliminary study. J Altern Complement Med 2004;10(6):1077-1081.

7.    Miles P. Preliminary report on the use of Reiki HIV-related pain and anxiety. Altern Ther Health Med 2003;Mar-Apr, 9(2):36.

8.    Miles P. Reiki vibrational healing. Interview by Bonnie Horrigan. Alt Ther Health Med 2003;Jul-Aug, 9(4):74-83.

9.    Miles P, True G. Reiki-review of a biofield therapy history, theory, practice and research. Alt Ther Health Med 2003;Mar-Apr, 9(2):62-72. Comment in: Alt Ther Health Med 2003;Mar-Apr, 9(2):20-21.

10.Olson K, Hanson J, Michaud M. A phase II trial of Reiki for the management of pain in advanced cancer patients. J Pain Symptom Manage 2003;26(5):990-997.

11.Potter P. What are the distinctions between Reiki and therapeutic touch? Clin J Oncol Nurs 2003;Jan-Feb, 7(1):89-91.

12.Scales B. CAMPing in the PACU: using complementary and alternative medical practices in the PACU. J Perianesth Nurs 2001;16(5):325-334.

13.Schmehr R. Enhancing the treatment of HIV/AIDS with Reiki training and treatment. Alt Ther Health Med 2003;Mar-Apr, 9(2):120, 118.

14.Schflett SC, Nayak S, Bid C, et al. Effect of Reiki treatments on functional recovery in patients in poststroke rehabilitation: a pilot study. J Alt Compl Med 2002;Dec, 8(6):691-693.

15.Schiller R. Reiki: a starting point for integrative medicine. Alt Ther Health Med 2003;Mar-Apr, 9(2):62-72.

16.Shore AG. Long-term effects of energetic healing on symptoms of psychological depression and self-perceived stress. Altern Ther Health Med 2004;10(3):42-48.

17.Tsang KL, Carlson LE, Olson K. Pilot crossover trial of Reiki versus rest for treating cancer-related fatigue. Integr Cancer Ther 2007;Mar, 6(1):25-35.

18.Vitale AT, O'Connor PC. The effect of Reiki on pain and anxiety in women with abdominal hysterectomies: a quasi-experimental pilot study. Holist Nurs Pract 2006;Nov-Dec, 20(6):263-272. Quiz, 273-274.

19.Wardell DW, Engebretson J. Biological correlates of Reiki Touch(sm) healing. J Adv Nurs 2001;33(4):439-445.

20.Whelan KM, Wishnia GS. Reiki therapy: the benefits to a nurse/Reiki practitioner. Holist Nurs Pract 2003;Jul-Aug, 17(4):209-201.

21.Witte D, Dundes L. Harnessing life energy or wishful thinking? Reiki, placebo Reiki, meditation, and music. Altern Compl Ther 2001;7(5):304-309.

22.Wong SS, Nahin RL. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine perspectives for complementary and alternative medicine research in cardiovascular diseases. Cardiol Rev 2003;Mar-Apr, 11(2):94-98.


Websites that include energy healing studies:

Books to Consider:

  • Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis; James L. Oschman Churchill, 2000
  • Spiritual Healing: Scientific Validation of a Healing Revolution; Daniel Benor, 2001
  • Vibrational Medicine; Richard Gerber, 2001
  • Infinite Mind: Science of Human Vibrations of Consciousness; Valerie V. Hunt, 1996
  • The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe  (Lynn McTaggart)
  • The Intention Experiment: Using Your Thoughts to Change Your Life and the World  (Lynn McTaggart) 

"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
                     -Wayne Dyer