Reiki Scientific Studies

(Excerpt from The new Revised and Expanded edition of The Reiki Sourcebook 2009 by Bronwen and Frans Stiene)

Mikao Usui is quoted saying in the Reiki Ryôhô Hikkei that the mind and body are one. Recent studies in the world of science are beginning to finally comprehend that statement. Brainwaves and body pulses and their roles in stimulating healing are all being researched today, allowing the concept of Reiki, as spiritual energy, to be more widely understood by the medical community.

The energy fields projected from the hands of bodyworkers are in the range of intensity and frequency that can influence regulatory processes within the body of another person.

Excerpt from “Energy Medicine-The Scientific Basis” by James L. Oschman

The challenge, however, has been to find technology that can measure accurately what this energy is. An answer to this is not to measure the Reiki itself but its resulting benefits.

The National Center for CAM in the USA believe a new direction for research into biofield therapies is by measuring the wellbeing of the client. ‘The advantage of focusing our research on positive psychological states, such as positive meaning, is that people can be trained to increase these states, and the subsequent effects on wellbeing and health can be directly measured.’

Excerpt from “Your Reiki Treatment” by Bronwen and Frans Stiene

An example of this type of research has been undertaken by the Brownes Cancer Support Centre in Western Australia. Their 2004 Patient Care Report concluded that there was an overall improvement in both quality of life and symptom distress scores for patients who received Reiki. There was also an improvement in these areas over the course of the Reiki sessions from treatment 1 to 6. 

A report in 2003 of a randomized trial using healing touch with cancer patients showed that a relaxed state was induced, with lowered respiratory and heart rates and lower blood pressure. The therapies also reduced short-term pain, mood disturbances and fatigue.

Historically, the introduction of ‘Therapeutic Touch’ by Dolores Krieger into nursing in the 1970s increased interest in other energetic systems such as Reiki. This in turn has boosted the amount of research that has recently been undertaken using Reiki and other forms of energetic work.

The system of Reiki is also being accepted into hospitals and hospices across the world. Patients can often bring their Reiki practitioner with them, or Reiki is made available to them.

The article ‘The first Reiki Practitioner in our O.R.’ by Jeanette Sawyer in 1988 in the “AORN Journal” describes the steps that were taken to allow a Reiki practitioner into the theatre at the request of a patient during a laparoscopy.

Also in 1988, patients were given the opportunity to experience a 15-minute pre-and post-surgery Reiki treatment. More than 870 patients took part and as a result there was less use of pain medication, shorter stays in hospital and increased patient satisfaction. This was discussed in the article, ‘Using Reiki to Support Surgical patients’ by Patricia and Kristin Aladydy in the Journal of Nursing Care Quality.

Heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz, whose wife, Lisa, is a pro-active Reiki practitioner, has worked with Julie Motz, who used Reiki on his patients. These patients had received heart transplants and had experienced open-heart surgery. Motz treated 11 patients in total and none of them had the usual post-operative depression. The bypass patients had no post-operative pain or leg weakness and the transplant patients experienced no organ rejection. Motz has written about this experience in her book, “Hands of Life”. 

Listed below are a number of Reiki clinical trials. For more research details, there are some Reiki books with relevant research material, or personal observations, written by both doctors and nurses. “Spiritual Healing”, by Daniel J. Benor, has listed a number of Reiki trials as well as some very interesting trials on distant healing and healing through touch in general.

There are many aspects of Reiki being researched today, some to see if Reiki speeds up healing; others to see if, how and whom it relaxes, some to measure biomagnetic fields, and others to verify the concept of distant healing.

Unfortunately, in the race to prove the efficacy of bioenergetics some recent researchers have disconnected themselves from their Reiki roots and its precepts. Using animals for research in the medical world is common, but it is unacceptable that research be undertaken on animals to ‘prove’ if Reiki works or not. The foundation of the system of Reiki focuses on compassion and Oneness and hurting anyone or anything goes against these basic principles. It is better to not have these scientific facts if the only way that humanity can measure energy’s effectiveness is through animal research.

Here is a well-known trial completed using Reiki to examine its effect on human blood levels:

Human Hemoglobin Levels and Reiki Healing: a Physiologic Perspective

Wendy Wetzel.

Published in “Journal of Holistic Nursing”, 7 (1), pp. 47–54 (1989).

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine the effects of Reiki on human hemoglobin and hematocrit levels.

Procedure: The hemoglobin and hematocrit levels of 48 adults participating in a Level 1 course were measured. Demographics and motivation were also examined. An untreated control group was used to document the changes in hemoglobin and hematocrit under normal circumstances.

Findings: Using a t-test there was a statistically significant change between the pre-and post-course hemoglobin and hematocrit levels of the participants at the p > 0.01 level. 28 per cent experiencing an increase and the remainder experiencing a decrease. There was no change for the untreated control group within an identical time frame.

Conclusions: That Reiki has a measurable physiologic effect. The data supports the premise that energy can be transferred between individuals for the purposes of healing, balancing, and increasing wellness. Some individuals found that their blood levels went up while others went down which is consistent with the concept that Reiki is balancing for each individual.

This trial tests Reiki on patients with chronic illnesses using electrodermal screening:

The Efficacy of Reiki Hands on Healing: Improvements in Adrenal, Spleen and Nervous Function as Quantified by Electro-Dermal Screening

Betty Hartwell and Barbara Brewitt.

Published in “Alternative Therapies Magazine”, 3 (4), p. 89 (July 1997)

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to evaluate the therapeutic effects of Reiki treatments on chronic illnesses using electrodermal screening.

Procedure: This study was carried out on five patients with life-threatening and chronic illnesses: lupus, fibromyalgia, thyroid goiter, and multiple sclerosis. Eleven one-hour Reiki treatments using 4 different Level 2 practitioners and one Reiki Master were performed over a ten-week period. These Reiki practitioners systematically placed their hands over the same body positions including the neurovascular regions on the cranium, neurolymphatic points on the trunk and minor chakra points on the limbs. No new conventional or alternative medical treatments were given during this period. Initially, three consecutive treatments were given and then one treatment per week for eight weeks.

Findings: The patients were tested three times during the study.

1. Before the study commenced. 2. After their third treatment.

3. After their tenth treatment. Each individual was measured for skin electrical resistance at three acupuncture points on hands and feet. At the cervical/thoracic point the measurements went from 25 per cent below normal to the normal range. The adrenal measurements went from 8.3 per cent below normal to normal — some time between the middle and last measurements. The spleen measurements went from 7.8 per cent below normal to normal after only three sessions. All the patients reported increased relaxation after Reiki treatments, a reduction in pain and an increase in mobility.

These trials are concerned with the effect of Reiki on pain relief and other symptoms:

Pain, Anxiety and Depression in Chronically Ill Patients with Reiki Healing

Linda J. Dressen and Sangeeta Singg.

Published in “Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine Journal”, 9 (1) (1998).

Purpose: To measure the results of Reiki and its effect on pain, anxiety, and depression in chronically ill patients.

Procedure: 120 Patients who had been in pain for at least 1 year were trialed. Their complaints included: headaches, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, peptic ulcer, asthma, hypertension and HIV. Four different styles of treatment were performed on 3 groups of 20 people. The four styles of treatment were: Reiki, Progressive Muscle Relaxation, no treatment and false-Reiki. Each of the groups received ten 30-minute treatments, twice a week over five weeks. Patients were examined before and after the series of treatments. Reiki patients were examined three months after completion.

Findings: Reiki proved significantly superior (p<.0001–.04) to other treatments on ten out of 12 variables. At the three-month check-up these changes were consistent and there were highly significant reductions in Total Pain Rating Index (p<.0006) and in sensory (p<.0003) and Affective (p<.02) Qualities of Pain.

Conclusion: Significant effects of Reiki on anxiety, pain and depression are shown here. Some possible variables were not controlled.

Using Reiki to Manage Pain: a Preliminary Report

alta[email protected] Cross Cancer Institute, Edmonton, USA.

Published in Cancer Prev. Control, 1 (2) pp. 108–13 (1997).

Purpose: To explore the usefulness of Reiki as an alternative to opioid therapy in the management of pain. This was a pilot study.

Procedure: 20 volunteers experienced pain at 55 sites for a variety of reasons, including cancer. A Level 2 practitioner provided all Reiki treatments. Pain was measured using both a visual analogue scale (VAS) and a Likert scale immediately before and after each Reiki treatment.

Findings: Both the instruments showed a highly significant (p < 0.0001) reduction in pain following the Reiki treatments.

This trial was to determine if it is possible to gauge the experience of a Reiki treatment using normal trialing procedures:

Experience of a Reiki Session

J. Engebretson and D. W. Wardell. University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, USA Published in “Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine”, 8 pp. 48–53 (2002).

Purpose: To explore the experiences of Reiki recipients so as to contribute to understanding the popularity of touch therapies and possibly clarify variables for future studies.

Procedure: All Reiki treatments were 30 minutes long and performed in a sound proof windowless room by one Reiki Master. There were audio taped interviews immediately after the treatment in a quiet room adjoining the treatment room. The recipients were generally healthy volunteers who had not experienced Reiki previously.

Findings: The recipients described a conscious state of awareness during the treatment. At the same time, paradoxically, they experienced sensate and symbolic phenomena.

Conclusions: Conscious awareness and paradoxical experiences that occur in ritual healing vary according to the holistic nature and individual variation of the healing experience. These findings suggest that many linear models used in researching touch therapies are not complex enough to capture the experience of the recipients.

This particular trial is not specifically about Reiki but deals with the effectiveness of *distant healing which is relevant to Reiki practitioners:

A Randomized Double-Blind Study of the Effect of Distant Healing in a Population with Advanced AIDS

Fred Sicher, Elizabeth Targ, Dan Moore II and Helene S. Smith.

Published in the Western Journal of Medicine, 169, pp. 356–363 (December 1998).

Purpose: To find the effect of distance healing (DH) on AIDS patients during a six-month double-blind study.

Procedure: Forty patients with advanced AIDS were randomly divided into two groups. Half the patients received DH in addition to their usual medical care. They were not told they were being given DH. Forty healers from various locations throughout the US with an average of 17 years of experience were used. The healers practiced a variety of healing methods including Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Native American, shamanism, meditative, and bioenergetics. Each of the treated subjects received DH for one hour a day for six days from each of a total of ten different healers, and this was performed over a period of ten weeks.

Findings: After six months, treated patients had significantly fewer outpatient visits and hospitalizations, less severe illnesses, fewer new illnesses, and improved mood.

Other research and articles relating to Reiki research include:

Alternative Medicines Gain in Popularity, Merit Closer Scrutiny

Journal of the National Cancer Institute

1999, July. Vol. 91, No. 13. pp. 1104–1105.

Katherine Arnold

Autonomic nervous system changes during Reiki treatment: a preliminary study

Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine

2004, December. Vol. 10. No. 6: 1077–1081.

N. Mackay, S. Hansen, O. McFarlane

Diagnosis Cancer: The Science & Controversy Behind Touch Therapies Patients claim benefit, but some doctors question evidence


Spring Issue 2005.

Jennifer M. Gangloff

Effect of Reiki Treatments on Functional Recovery in Patients in Poststroke Rehabilitation: a Pilot Study

Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine

2002 December

S.C. Shiflett, S. Nayak, C. Bid, P. Miles, S. Agostinelli

Evaluation of Healing by Gentle Touch in 35 Patients with Cancer

European Journal of Oncology Nursing

2004, 8, 40-49.

C. Weze, H.L. Leathard, J. Grange, P. Tiplady, & G. Stevens

In Vitro Effect of Reiki Treatment on Bacterial Cultures: Role of Experimental Context and Practitioner WellBeing

Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine

2006, January. Vol. 12. No. 1: 7–13.

Beverly Rubik, Ph.D., Audrey J. Brooks, Ph.D., Gary E. Schwartz, Ph.D.

Long-term Effects of Energetic Healing on Symptoms of Psychological Depression and Self-perceived Stress

Alternative Therapies Health and Medicine

2004, Vol. 10. Issue 3, Pages 42–48.

A. G. Shore

Reiki in Psychotherapy

Perspectives in Psychiatric Care

2005, October. 41 (4). 184–187.

Mary Ann LaTorre

This page is an excerpt from The New Revised and Expanded edition of The Reiki Sourcebook 2009.