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Biofield Therapeutics: Reiki Therapy




The secret art of inviting happiness

The miraculous medicine of all diseases

Just for today, do not anger

Do not worry and be filled with gratitude

Devote yourself to your work. Be kind to people

Every morning and evening, join your hands in prayer.

Pray these words to your heart

And chant these words with your mouth


Dr. Mikao Usui





Allison H. Schwartz




Ø      What is Biofield Therapy?

Ø      What is Reiki?

Ø      Origins of Reiki Healing Therapy

Ø      Reiki Treatment Sessions: What to Expect

Ø      Reiki Practitioner Training

Ø      Empirical Research on Reiki Therapy

Ø      Conclusions

Ø      References


What is Biofield Therapy?


Seeking alternatives to traditional medical treatments, many individuals are pursuing alternative and complementary methods of treatment and healing.  Biofield therapies are increasing in interest and practice and include Qigong, Shen, Therapeutic Touch (TT) and Reiki.














Biofield Therapy is often referred to as “energy healing” or “laying on of hands” and is described as “one of the oldest forms of healing”.  Biofield or energy healing involves the transfer of energy from healer to patient and the manipulation of the human body’s energy fields. The energy field is an active “Biofield” that exists within the human body and within an 18-inch perimeter of the body. 

The National Institutes of Health Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) classifies Reiki as a Biofield modality “that involves touch or placement of the hands in or through Biofield, the existence of which has not been scientifically proven (


Biofield practitioners adhere to holistic philosophies that focus on the emotional, physical and spiritual states of health. Energy healing is considered useful in the treatment of general health and vitality, emotional issues, bodily functions and healing. Reiki is one of the most widely known forms of “energy healing” has emerged as alternative treatment increasing interest and research in clinical settings.  (, (














What is Reiki Therapy?


Reiki is an Eastern healing practice and the name originates from the Japanese concepts of REI (spirit) and KI (life force, energy). Reiki is also described as the Japanese word for “universal energy” and within traditional Eastern healing focuses on the “KI” or imbalance of the life force energy.  Stress, toxins, addictions, etc. negatively impact the flow of the life force and Reiki healing involves the re-balancing of the subtle energies, which increase feelings of well being, reduce stress and promotes good health.  (


Reiki is described as a healing system or a healing art and it is based on the foundation that “a life force energy” flows through every living thing.  This infinite quantity of “life force energy” is accessed through Reiki therapy. Chi or Ki is that life force which is an important factor in emotions, thoughts, health and well-being.  If the life force is low, restricted or blocked within an individual there is likely to be an imbalance of health or emotion or spirituality. Reiki heals by flowing or passing through the impacted areas of the energy field and charges them with positive energy restoring harmony.  (


The theoretical concepts underlying “energy healing” and Reiki Therapy have been associated by some researchers with models in quantum physics, bioelectromagnetism and physiology, however, the absence of scientific data in conventional sciences does not support that premise in a medical context.


The absence of a consistent unified theory regarding Reiki therapy and the lack of specific measurable scientific data subjects Reiki to critical analysis common to the alternative healing arts. Some critics suggest there is no evidence that Reiki healing is due to anything other than suggestion or placebo effect and produces efficacy levels less than or similar to massage therapy ( 


Reiki practitioners and advocates cite a holistic, “mind-body” paradigm of balance in which healing is a return to a state of harmony and balance, an intrinsic, universal variable that is not defined or measured within the framework of western medical science.  Healing is not equated with the removal of symptoms, which characterizes the current medical model.  “Reiki is a simple treatment that restores homeostasis to the body: equilibrium to the mind and fulfillment to the soul” (


Reiki therapy is appropriate for all ages including children. All practitioners’ caution: It should be appreciated that Reiki is a holistic, complimentary therapy and that it is not a substitute for professional medical treatment.


The most commonly reported benefits from Reiki include:

Ø      Stress reduction

Ø      Pain relief

Ø      Relaxation

Ø      Increased energy and stamina

Ø      Reduction of anxious feelings

Ø      Increased feelings of well being



Origins of Reiki Healing Practice:


Mikao Usui (1865-1926) is identified as the originator of Reiki as a healing art in the last centuries.  Devoted to the practices of Tendai Buddhism, Mikao Usui also studied martial arts, medicine, philosophy, religion and traveled extensively. Traditional stories and myths have attributed Reiki to ancient Tibetan practices that Dr. Mikao rediscovered   while studying ancient sutras (Buddhist Teaching written in Sanskrit) during a lengthy fast and meditation on Mount Kurama.  Other sources suggest Mikao Usui; a gifted educator adopted and integrated ideas, beliefs and knowledge from a vast background of Chinese Medicine, Chi Gong, Kiko, and western healing systems.  (












Initially, Dr. Usui’s practice of Reiki was linked to very strict practices of meditation, service and spirituality. Consequently, one of his students, C. Hayahi (1878 – 1940) suggested a more practical, applicable practice of healing. The technique was called Hayashi Shiki Reiki. The Hayashi Shiki form of Reiki focused on vibrational energy therapy facilitated by touch, which is believed to balance the Biofield, ultimately resulting in improved health and functioning. The accessibility of Reiki healing through clinics, the exchange of compensation for healing and availability to the public expanded and integrated Reiki therapy into more traditional medical treatment formats. (














In 1936, Mrs. Hawayo Takata introduced Reiki to the United States. An American citizen of Japanese descent living in Hawaii, Mrs. Hawaya Takata had struggled with chronic health issues including a lung condition, gastrointestinal problems and “a nervous breakdown”. Seeking an alternative cure in her parent’s homeland of Japan, she sought treatment at the Hayashi Reiki Clinic and after several months was free of symptoms. Devoted to Reiki, she stayed on at the clinic for training. Exporting her training to North America, Mrs. Takata promoted Reiki as an energy healing art and introduced Reiki energy healing into western culture (



Reiki Treatment: What to Expect:

Traditional Reiki Healing is a hands -on application of light touch to a fully clothed recipient.  The healing recipient is either seated in a chair or lying on a treatment table in a quiet setting.  The treatment session typically lasts 20 minutes to 60 minutes; however it can last longer if necessary.  Reiki can be performed during surgery or if an individual is unconscious. 


A full Reiki treatment consists of placing the hands on 12 positions on the head, and on the front and back of the body either directly on or very near the body of the person being treated. Reiki is a non-invasive therapeutic technique with few documented side effects.











During and following a Reiki treatment some people report a sense of warmth, gentle tingling sensation and a deep sense of relaxation.  (


















Some individuals report their experience as follows:


"I didn't even realize just how stressed I was! My back feels better than it has in months." --J.R.



“I climbed up on the padded table wondering... what this would be like. I really had nothing to compare this experience with but I guessed it would be something like a "relaxation" therapy. Martha put her hands on my shoulders as I lay on my back. She didn't move her hands. I could only feel the warmth. In a few moments, I felt myself calming. It was predictable.”
     “As she moved her hands to my elbows, I started to feel more comfortable with the whole experience and could sense a goodness surround me that was safe and protective. Suddenly and unpredictably, tears were streaming down my face and a sadness that I had been keeping well hidden poured out. For several minutes this continued - totally pure feeling without a clue as to the cause or how long I was carrying these feelings around! Then, just as suddenly, it stopped. The calm returned.”
      “She passed her hands back and forth just above my body and it felt like cleansing waves. I felt pain simply "float off" into the universe. It was remarkable and so effortless on my part.”




A number of Reiki practitioners believe that energy can operate outside the limits of time and space, and remote healings are an effective form of Reiki treatments.  During a remote healing treatment, the recipient is “sent energy” through the process of visualizations.



 To experience a remote healing at no charge visit:







Reiki Practitioner Training:


Reiki is taught and practiced within the First Degree, Second Degree and Master levels. Each level specifies training and limits of practice.  Unique to Reiki Training are a process of initiations referred to as attunements or empowerments. The goal of attunement is to explore and connect with a level of consciousness, which is the source of the subtle Reiki vibrations.



·        First Degree:  3 months minimum practice. Trusting the wisdom of energy, the student focuses on the “energy” and change begins.  First Degree can be used for self, pets, food, water & environment and non-local (distant) healing. 8 hours of classroom training


·        Second Degree: trained in the use of symbols to access Reiki mentally for distance healing. Further attunement allows the student to increase the flow and healing power of Reiki.  8-12 hours of classroom training.  Through more reliable intuition, the student becomes a compassionate, effective energy healer.


·        Third Degree:  3- 10 years of Reiki practice and discipline and an apprenticeship of one year. Empowered with the master symbol, the student becomes a Reiki Master and can teach others (


None of the traditional Reiki trainings include training in professional treatment or the limits, dynamics and factors of a therapeutic relationship. Currently, there are no professional standards in the practice of Reiki and practitioners are not governed by licensing laws (












Empirical Research on Reiki Therapy


Is There a Biological Basis?


Reiki masters and treatment recipients report physiological changes identified as increased blood flow, reduction of muscle tension, and increased energy associated with the application of the therapy.  Pain reduction and accelerated healing were initially documented by Kreiger (1979) as an increase in hemoglobin levels as a result of touch therapy (TT). Adopting a similar perspective, Wetzel (1989) hypothesized that Reiki therapy enhances and improves the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood. Establishing a sample group of 48 patients receiving first degree Reiki training and a comparison group of 10 individuals, the researcher collected hemoglobin and hemocratic values pre and post Reiki treatment.  Notable and significant changes in the blood measures of the treatment group suggest a correlation of physiological response associated with Reiki therapy. Similar changes were not observed in the control group.

In a recent study conducted by Wardell and Engebreston (2001) the researchers hypothesized that biological and physiological changes occurring during Reiki treatments would approximate physiological responses observed in relaxation and stress management applications . The research design included a 30 minute Reiki session directed on the eye and abdominal area of the body. Researchers specifically focused on the measure of blood pressure, temperature and skin conductance, as well as concentration of secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA) in saliva, cortisol samples, muscle tension and subjective reports of anxiety levels before, throughout, and after the treatment application. Salivary measures provide a measure of patient stress.  Data analysis evidenced reduced levels of blood pressure, reduction of reported anxiety levels and a reduction in measured electromyography (EMG) which supports the proposed stress reduction hypothesis. Additionally, measured increases in skin temperature throughout the treatment may provide preliminary evidence for the development of a relaxation hypothesis. Methodological alterations coupled with measures obtained from repeated therapeutic sessions in a less artificial setting would be most useful for future research. Although the concepts remain in the initial stages of research, the significant biological and physiological changes occurring in a short period of time warrant future investigation.








Supporters of Alternative Healing…


            The implementation of Reiki therapy within the public health sector is an increasingly common practice. Many treatment centers that combine Reiki therapy with more traditional forms of medicine report a wide range of patient benefits including significant reductions in the use of pain medication, a decline in reported anxiety levels as well as diminished feelings of abandonment, emotional upheaval, and stress. Although Reiki proponents propose that the therapy is effective in the treatment of physiological, psychological and stress related pathologies of differing severities; preliminary scientific investigations and clinical observations present ambiguous and contradictory findings.

            Various researchers have noted a relationship between touch therapy and the reduction of anxiety and pain in the clinical population. Data presented by Ferell-Tory and Glick (1993) suggests the utility of therapeutic touch therapy in order to assist cancer patients while coping with anxiety and pain related to the onset of illness. Similarly, Simington and Laing (1993) note the importance of implementing ancient healing therapy for the reduction of anxiety within the elderly population.

            In a more recent study, HIV patients suffering from an array of disease-related symptoms such as anxiety, pain, and severe sleep disturbance were trained to practice first degree Reiki healing as a method of symptom relief (Miles, 2003). Researchers obtained standardized measures of pain and anxiety from the thirty patients through the administration of questionnaires, pre and post Reiki application. Results indicate a reduction in the pain and anxiety symptoms received from participants, independent of the mode of Reiki application. Although conclusions remain relatively limited, the observed differences suggest the importance and benefits of the integration of alternative healing treatments in the clinical setting.

             As additional studies begin to highlight the potential benefits of Reiki healing, questions concerning longevity and long-term impact of treatment become more relevant. Addressing the issue in a recent dissertation article, Goldman and Shore (2002) examined fifty patients over a six week period.  Participants were placed in one of the three treatment protocols: a traditional hands-on therapeutic setting; participation in remote or distance healing and one group was maintained in the absence of any type of treatment. Clinical data obtained through the administration of standardized inventories suggest an increase in positive affect. Subsequent analyses of questionnaires administered a year later to the same patients indicated the patients had maintained the benefits of improved affect which suggests long-term maintenance benefits of Reiki healing. 

















The Evidence Refuting the Benefits of Reiki Therapy

            A review of  studies focusing on the efficacy of Reiki Healing are predominately descriptive, anecdotal studies with significant limitations in sample size and randomized control studies suggest conflicting, inconclusive results.  A pilot study conducted by Shiftlett et al. (2002) examined multiple variables including the reduction of depression in stroke patients receiving Reiki therapy. Experimenters assessed a non-treatment “historical comparison group” of 20 individuals gathered from past hospital records and 50 stroke patients. Controlling for the possibility of a placebo effect, patients were placed in three different conditions. Data analysis revealed no significant reductions in depressive state among the treatment groups. However, small detections of favorable moods and positive energy were detected. The use of a larger sample larger sample population may have emphasized this finding. Additionally, the possibility of an unreliable comparison group may account for the absence of significant findings. These research designs and findings are characteristic of many of the studies involving Complementary and Alternative Medicine treatments.











Directions for Future Research


In addition to the mentioned design limitations, the absence of significant results in the realm of Reiki research is also attributed to lack of appropriate research models. While examining the relaxation response, some investigators contend that research focusing exclusively on the quantitative aspects does not provide a comprehensive explanation. Consequently, data collected by Engerbreston and Wardell (2002) involved qualitative data obtained from post-Reiki session standardized clinical interviews as well as quantitative measures similar to those employed by Miles (2003). After completing a thirty-minute session with a Reiki master, twenty-three participants were interviewed. Subsequent analysis of the descriptive interview data reveals significant changes in the participant’s orientation of place and time, the establishment of reciprocal relationships with the Reiki master as well as intensified perceptions of sound and temperature, especially warmth and feelings of comfort. Overall, patient’s descriptions indicated a liminal state most frequently linked to ritual healing processes often associated with religiosity. Quantitative measures were similar to those reported by Miles (2003) and were ultimately predicted operating under the investigation of Reiki and the presence of a relaxation response.















Within the scientific community no single theory presents a comprehensive description of Reiki function or successfully identifies the biological mechanisms responsible for the experiential components of treatment. Overall, current research is plagued by methodological limitations including small sample sizes, few randomized, controlled studies, and limited case reports. Similarly, inconsistencies in experimental results may result from therapeutic sessions placed in the artificial setting of a research laboratory as well as the presence of an unfamiliar experimenter. Due to similarities among the practice of Reiki, Therapeutic Touch (TT) and distant healing, the alternative therapeutic techniques are often studied together within a single study. The development of research designs isolating one type of therapy would provide the most useful data concerning its effects and function. Ultimately, the construction of an ideal theoretical perspective would integrate findings from descriptive studies or interviews and quantitative results or precise scientific measures.


Increasing numbers of people are exploring Complementary and Alternative Medicine and researchers in medicine, social sciences and research are recognizing the concept of health as a multi-dimensional evolving construct of mind, body and spirit.  Reiki therapy is a non-invasive, low risk treatment that is currently being used in hospices, nursing homes, hospitals, and provides benefits for chronically ill patients with cancer and HIV/AIDS. There are ongoing clinical trials of Reiki Healing techniques for diabetic peripheral vascular disease, stroke rehabilitation and traumatic brain injury, which may yield substantive data in the future. It appears that Reiki Therapy may be an important and valuable adjunct to traditional medical treatment (

















Engebreston, J. & Wardell, D. (2002). Experience of a Reiki Session. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine,8, 45.


Ferrell-Torry, A., & Glick, O. (1993). The use of Therapeutic Massage as a Nursing Intervention to Modify Anxiety and Reduction of Cancer Pain. Cancer Nursing, 16, 93-101.


Kreiger, D. (1975). Therapeutic touch: the imprimatur of nursing. American Journal of Nursing, 75, 784-787.


Miles, P. (2003). Preliminary report on the use of Reiki for HIV-related pain and anxiety. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine(9)2, 36.  


Shiflett, S., Nayak, S., Bid, C., Miles, P., & Agostinelli, S. (2002). Effect of Reiki treatments on functional recovery in patients in poststroke rehabilitation: A pilot study. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (6) 8, 755-763.


Shore, A. & Goldman, L. (2002). The long-term effects of energetic healing on symptoms of psychological depression and self-perceived stress. Dissertations Abstracts International, 63(3-B): 1575.


Simington, J. & Laing, G. (1993). Effects of Therapeutic Touch on Anxiety in the Institutionalized Elderly. Advanced Clinical Nursing Research, (4), 2, 438-450.


Wetzel, W. (1989). Reiki Healing: a physiologic perspective. Journal of Holistic Nursing, 7, 147-       154.



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