“Magic is science that we just don’t understand yet”
Arthur C. Clarke
Until recently, western science has largely disregarded energy-based approaches to healing as nothing more than ‘hocus pocus’, attributing any efficacy claims to a simple placebo effect. As a Reiki practitioner, I have often hesitated to reveal my practice to others, waiting for the seemingly inevitable comments about ‘made-up nonsense’ and the facial expressions that showed they clearly thought I was crazy. Many practitioners of energy healing and psychology often face resistance from the medical and psychological communities, who prefer to work with evidence-based practices backed by rigorous research and testing.
And I completely agree that they should.
If I visit a doctor or other healthcare practitioner I absolutely want to know that their methods have been rigorously tested and proven to work before they start treating me. I take my health and wellbeing very seriously, and if there is something wrong that needs medical attention I’m going straight for the proven techniques, not the airy-fairy nonsense spouted by people who sing to trees.
Despite prevailing beliefs to the contrary, there is a growing body of research demonstrating that energy healing techniques such as Reiki, and energy psychology techniques such as EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique, or ‘tapping’) and TFT (Thought Field Therapy) are extremely effective. Over 100 research studies, review articles, and meta-analysis have been published in peer-reviewed journals to date, and the quality and quantity continues to grow.
“I’m going straight for the proven techniques, not the airy-fairy nonsense spouted by people who sing to trees.”
(Articles published in peer-reviewed journals are considered by the academic community as highly credible. The research study and findings are reviewed by other experts in the field, offering an unbiased view and consideration of whether the methodology was sound, whether the conclusions drawn are supported by the evidence, whether there were any limitations to the study that where not address, and if there are any areas requiring more clarity before the article can be accepted and published.)
Can we measure the energy coming from the hands of an energy healer, and is it different to that coming from a non-healer?
Dr. Schwartz at the University of Arizona tackled this question in a study measuring the shift in bioenergy that occurs when practicing a hands-on or hands-near healing modality such as Reiki. Under normal conditions, the energy emanating from the human body has been measured as in the 2.1 GHZ range. Dr. Schwartz measured the bioenergy coming from the hands of individuals both before and after practicing energy healing and found that the frequency of oscillations shifted significantly. In fact, the shift was so significant that the statistical likelihood of it occurring by chance was less than 1 in a million (p < 0.0000001). To ensure that this was a result of the energy healing and not due to some other cause, Dr. Schwartz measured the bioenergy shifts from ‘sham healing’ – individuals that went through the motions of the healing practice but didn’t deliver any energy healing.
“The statistical likelihood of it happening by chance was less than 1 in a million.”
In fact, the ‘sham healers’ didn’t know how to practice energy healing at all. These results showed no significant change in bioenergy frequency at all, confirming that not only can we measure the energy emanating from the human body, but that we can measure a significant change in energy frequency emanating from the hands of an energy healer.
Can we measure significant results – actual healing or improvement in a health condition – from energy healing?
In an experiment using mice, Dr. Schwartz was able to show a physical effect from Reiki energy healing. When stressed, mice will typically develop microvascular leakages from their intestines that can be seen and measured using medical imaging. Dr. Schwartz found that stressed mice that received Reiki healing had significantly fewer leakages than mice that did not. Dr. Schwartz again controlled for other possible causes and included a ‘sham healer’ in the experiment that acted as if but did not give or know how to do Reiki. The mice that received ‘sham healing’ did not fare as well as those that received the real Reiki healing.
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Perhaps the most exciting and promising research has come from a series of energy healing studies focusing on the Bengston method of hands-on healing. In these studies, mice were injected with a form or cancer routinely used in hundreds of cancer studies outside of energy psychology and then given energy healing via the Bengston method. Prior to this study, no mouse injected with this type of cancer had survived past 27 days. Amazingly, in the Bengston healing studies, not only did the mice survive, but were completely cured of cancer and went on to live out their full two-year lifespan. These studies and results have been replicated at Universities across the county, including Indiana University, Brown University, University of Connecticut, and UC San Diego.
What about energy psychology? What scientific evidence is there for that?
There are over 400 types of psychotherapy, with most having little to no research to validate them. The growing body of research into energy psychology puts it in the top 10% for published research for psychotherapeutic modalities. Of the 50 random-controlled trials and 40 pre-post outcome studies that have been conducted, 98% of the studies found energy psychology methods to be effective.
The Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology has complied a complete overview of the current research into energy psychology, including further information and references for the studies on energy healing mentioned in this article.
Evidence that Reiki and other energy healing modalities are effective is becoming stronger and stronger, and so attention is now turning to HOW it works – the mechanisms by which energy healing and psychology impact the body and mind. Research out of South Korea has discovered the existence of a new vascular system – the Primo Vascular system – thought to be the first physical evidence of the meridian system found in traditional Chinese medicine. Research has also shown an interaction between EFT and gene expression, suggesting that EFT’s influence on the immune system may be epigenetic (modifies or changes the gene’s function without changing the underlying DNA).
As the evidence and our understanding of the mechanisms of energy practices grows, energy healing and psychology will hopefully become increasingly understood and accepted as an evidence-based practice with real scientific research backing its effectiveness. Until then, I guess I’ll have to continue to put up with people thinking I’m a little bit nuts.
For more information on the studies mentioned in this article, visit the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology. This article is for educational purposes and should in no way be construed as medical advice. Always seek the advice of a qualified doctor or healthcare practitioner before starting any treatments.