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The Impact of Reiki in Controlling Stress and Depression

Zigkeyeah Collier

October 6, 2009



Stressing about Stress: There is Hope


Text Box: “Today’s generation is constantly being bombarded with external stressors… According to the American Psychological Association, approximately 48% of Americans are living under extreme stress, and many have reported that their stress level has increased over the past five years” (     The famous 19th century novelist, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, once wrote: “We live longer than our forefathers; but we suffer more from a thousand artificial anxieties and cares.  They fatigued only the muscles; we exhaust the finer strength of the nerves.” Today’s generation is constantly being bombarded with external stressors such as war, economical crisis, increased unemployment, obesity, and disease. According to the American Psychological Association, approximately 48% of Americans are living under extreme stress, and many have reported that their stress level has increased over the past five years ( Stress is a common factor of life, and can positively influence a person’s mind and body. However, the American Psychological Association claims that being subjected to high levels of stress continually can have negative effects on a person’s health, relationships, and cognitive and psychological functioning (2009). Attacks on these key components of a person’s well-being increase risks of depression and anxiety, resulting in overeating and lack of ambition or energy to exercise. There are a wide range of medicinal treatments that help to overcome anxiety and depression, along with supplements that claim to target weight loss by “curbing appetite” or “increasing energy”.  Although medicinal treatments have high rates of effectiveness, the side effects tend to be more severe than the ailment, implanting new stresses on the patient, and causing regression back to the original problem.

 More people are beginning to seek natural, alternative treatments to reduce stress and improve mental and physical capability without the use of prescription drugs. One such alternative treatment is Energy Healing.  Energy Healing establishes its assertion on the idea that people suffering from mental illness contain unbalanced energy and “healers” are able to direct their positively balanced energy to the patient through mere focus and intention on healing ( This premise has been around for centuries in every culture, and is the main conviction of Christians who relay stories of a Messiah whose touch could heal the sick.  Recently, Energy Healing techniques have risen to the forefront of alternative treatments to cure psychological illnesses caused by constant high levels of stress, and one treatment in particular has captured the attention of both the medical and scientific world; Reiki (pronounced rā-kē). Reiki, and other energy healing methods, are beginning to gain popularity in Western culture by offering a natural, alternative method to treating mental illnesses, but it is important to understand whether Reiki healing directly impacts the physiology of the body by targeting the biological factors that lead to stress and depression, or if the faith of the patient yields a false impression of healing.




Healing Hands: The History and Claims of Reiki Healing


Text Box: Dr. Mikao Usui, a 19th century Japanese professor and Christian priest, is credited as the founder of the art of healing through touch by transfer of energy        The practice of energy healing is an age old treatment, but Reiki was originated in Japan by a professor and Christian priest, named Dr.Mikao Usui. According to Tanmaya Honervogt (1998), that a group of Usui’s senior students asked him to demonstrate the healing powers of Jesus Christ (p. 32). Unable to perform the task given by his students, Usui began to study other Christian beliefs more extensively, along with other religious systems such as Buddhism and the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, in hope of finding the methods of healing through touch. Through extensive research and meditation Usui discovered that from the hands comes the power to heal, and began his teachings he called Reiki.

Text Box: The aura is a field of energy through which a person’s “life force” frequency is located. If the life force is blocked, the healer must locate the blockage by searching the Aura and realign the Chakra, resulting in a renewal of the “life force”Reiki is a non-evasive treatment, using only the hands of the practitioner as a tool, and does not affect or interfere with any other medications or treatment. The claims and benefits of Reiki are numerous and compelling. Reiki is believed to cure anything from physical pain, such as arthritis, to mental illnesses such as depression (\). Reiki teachings claim that the body is a system of functioning parts that uses energy such as any other machine or mechanism. The organs of the body create a continuously changing frequency defined as the human “life force”. If the life force becomes blocked or initiates a low frequency it can possibly create an imbalance in the person, diagnosed as a medical or mental illness. Reiki Healing unblocks the life force by finding the negative energy through the surrounding energy field, commonly referred to as the Aura (ôr'ă), and realigning the seven energy centers, known as the Chakras (shă-kră’), thereby completely restoring well-being and overall good health. Reiki Healing claims that the treatment de-stresses the patient and allows the body to heal naturally ( Unlike a physical massage, Reiki Healing proclaims that energy restoration and rebalancing can be done without physical contact, and over long distances, between the practitioner and the patient since it involves only the transfer of energy ( Also, Reiki teachings specify that the longevity of the treatment is dependent on the patient’s desire to be healed, yet this doesn’t mean that the person has to have faith in the treatment ( If the person desires to be healthy, Reiki Healing professes it will work regardless of a person’s belief in the technique; this separates Reiki Healing from other alternative methods such as prayer or psychic healing which relies on the faith of the client.


Treating Depression with the Push of a Button…a Belly Button


Text Box: The Stress Response System involves the hypothalamus (brain) activating the anterior pituitary to release the hormonal signal CRH, triggering the adrenal gland to produce cortisol and release it into the blood stream. This activates a person’s fight or flight response        Depression is a mental illness, classified as a mood disorder, which currently plagues nearly 20 million Americans between the ages of 15 and 44 ( Depression is not a mere case of “the blues”, but a chemical imbalance of serotonin and norepinephrine levels the brain ( Both neurotransmitters are excreted by one neuron and received by another through receptors located at the signaling site. Serotonin and norepinephrine levels trigger the structure of the brain that regulates emotion, stress, appetite, and sexual drive;  the hypothalamus. When a person becomes stressed, norepinephrine is synthesized and serotonin is up taken into the cell triggering the hypothalamus to activate the pituitary gland and produce a hormone called CRH. This hormone activates the adrenal gland (located near the kidneys) to release another hormone, called cortisol, into the blood stream. Cortisol gives a fight or flight response by increasing glucose levels, heightening cognitive function, and reducing susceptibility to physical pain by numbing the senses to prepare for “impact” ( If the reuptake of the neurotransmitters is disrupted, the adrenal gland is kept in the “on” position and continues to release cortisol into the blood stream. High levels of cortisol in the blood for a lengthy period of time causes bodily reflexes associated with the fight or flight response to fatigue and ultimately malfunction, initiating s feeling of continuous stress on the body. Antidepressants target serotonin receptors in the brain by inhibiting the reuptake of the neurotransmitter and giving the body the ability to regulate the pathway leading to the adrenal gland, thereby preventing the release of more cortisol into the blood stream. However, Reiki healing centralizes focus on the lower half of the body, such as the naval and the kidneys where the adrenal gland is located. It is believed that there are three blocked chakras associated with people suffering from acute depression; the first being the Root Chakra.

        The Root Chakra, located in at the base of the spine, anchors a person to the earth, and is responsible for driving the physical will of a person( The branches of the body involved with the root chakra are the blood, the spine, anus and rectum, teeth, nails, and prostate gland. Reiki healers claim that an unbalanced root chakra is unable to acknowledge reality and receive it joyfully; therefore the person overindulges in food, alcohol, or sexual actions, resulting in unhealthy habits and obesity. If the Chakra is completely blocked, the person lacks emotional drive or physical energy, in addition to feelings of sadness and anxiety.

Text Box: There are 7 main chakras, but the three that are focused on primarily for the healing of depression are Root chakra (red), Naval chakra (orange), and Solar Plexus chakra (yellow).The second chakra, referred to as the Naval Chakra, is centered right below the naval. This chakra encompasses the kidney, the pelvic girdle, the liver, the bladder, and body fluids such as gastric and lymph fluid as well as the blood. When the Naval Chakra is blocked, the person views life as uninteresting or expressionless, and they have an inability to form sensual and meaning personal relationships. Due to their “emotional paralysis” (  the person acquires low self-esteem, causing low self-worth and contemplations of suicide.

        The third chakra, called the Solar Plexus Chakra, is located above the navel at the base of the rib cage. This chakra was corresponds to a person’s self perception and ego. The solar plexus governs the lungs, diaphragm, spleen, stomach, and the pancreas. If the aura of this chakra is perceived as black, the solar plexus is unbalanced, causing the person to feel moody and unharmonious. The person becomes restless with life and its results thereby affecting their sense of security and accomplishment. Usually the person blames others for preventing their advancement in life, and exudes hostile tendencies towards others (

        The Reiki practitioner, or the “healer”, is able to see the unbalance of the three chakras through the color of the surrounding aura of the patient. Next, the healer lightly places his finger tips around the origin of the chakra, or alternatively positions both hands about an inch above origin of the chakra, being careful to keep the fingers close together. Once the hands are in place, the transfer of energy can begin. For example, when the healer focuses on the Solar Plexus chakra, the healer intently concentrates on the healing the patient while centering each hand an inch above the base on each side of the rib cage. The positive energy from the healer initiates the body of the patient to accelerate its own natural process of restoration. The healer loses no energy, but is simply a medium from which positive energy from the environment can flow (

        Unlike antidepressants, which claim that effects and restoration of serotonin and norepinephrine levels may take years before improvements are noticed, most Reiki patients claim that they leave the session feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.




Too Good to Be True or So Glad It’s True?: Experiments Examining the Effects of Reiki on Healing Depression


         As dissatisfaction in current medicinal procedures grow, more people in Western society are turning to alternative healing methods as treatment for physical and mental illnesses. Like many other alternative healing practices such as prayer, psychic healing, physical massage therapy and acupuncture, Reiki claims to harness energy, or support, from a healer, and use it to activate the natural ability of restoration found within the patient’s own body. However, what separates Reiki from these aforementioned alternative methods are the claims presented by Reiki treatment. It is believed that Reiki healing can be achieved without physical contact between the patient and the healer, isolating it from acupuncture and massage therapy which specifically uses physical contact as a means of healing. Due to Reiki harnessing energy as the method of healing, Reiki healers assert that performing Reiki over long distances have the results as performing Reiki using the hands. Another claim offered by Reiki treatment assures that positive results using Reiki are achieved independent of the patient’s faith in the treatment. Therefore, Reiki excludes itself from the classification pertaining to prayer and psychic healing by presenting the idea that healing is able to occur, regardless of the feelings or confidence level of the patient. Miraculous claims such as these provide reason for skepticism in the ability of Reiki to cure mental illness. If there is not physical contact with the body, is Reiki truly addressing the physiological state of the patient, or is there fallacy in the assumption that the faith of the patient has no effect on the outcome? 

        One such clinical trial, conducted by Dr. Adina Goldman Shore(2004), recreated a prior experiment that tested the effects of Reiki as treatment for the mental illness, depression (Head note section, para. 1) . Shore’s experiment focused on three main hypothesis based on the claims presented by Reiki therapy: 1) Reiki healing is a viable method in treating depression by relieving stress and anxiety in the patient 2) Results of the treatment will not vary if Reiki is performed over long distances in comparison to physical contact between the healer and the patient, and 3) Reiki treatment will yield results despite the faith or beliefs of the patient( Head note section, para. 12). Shore treated 45 patients, ranging in ages 19-78, over a period of 6 weeks. Twelve highest ranking Reiki healers plus two level 2 healers were used for the experiment; all 14 healers were trained in long distance Reiki healing practices. Shore selected her participants by screening, using standardized questionnaires that tested depressive symptoms (BDI), hopelessness (HS), and anxiety/stress (PSS). The 45 participants selected ranged on the scores as being mildly depressed to severely depressed, but did not test positive for having any other types of sever psychotic disorders, sever physical illness, or were taking any medications that could interfere with the results of the treatment. The participants were assigned to 1 of three classified groups: 1) Reiki treatment using touch healing 2) Reiki treatment using long distance healing, and 3) Placebo Reiki treatment. The participants were subjected to Reiki treatment for 1to 1.5 hours once a week throughout the 6 weeks, for a total of 6-9 hours of treatment.

Text Box: Figure 1: Goldman’s Results When comparing Reiki treatment between Groups 1,2, and 3        To test the effects Reiki had on treating depression in the participants, Shore administered the BDI, HS, and PSS assessments to all 45 participants before and after the  treatment. The participants were told not to change any habits during the extent of the experiment, therefore Shore controlled for any outside interference that may cause a change in results. Her findings concluded that initially there was not a significant difference (P >.01) among all 45 test subjects, meaning each subject had similar assessment results showing high symptoms of depression, stress, and hopelessness. However, Shore ( 2004)  states that after the 6 weeks of treatment there was significant difference (P< .01) between the two groups that received Reiki treatment and the group who received the placebo treatment (Results section, para 1). Shore (2004) stated that those who received the Reiki treatment had lower retest score for depressive symptoms, hopelessness and stress, whereas the control group who received the placebo treatment had increased scores on the 3 assessment tests ( Results section, para. 1). These results satisfy the hypothesis that Reiki can aid in treating depression, even with limited exposure to treatment.


Text Box: Figure 1: Goldman used 3 groups to test the effects of Reiki Healing on depression by administering assessment before (Table 1) and after (Table 2) the 6 week experiment. Group 1 and Group 2 were administered actual Reiki treatment, except Group one was a “hands-on” treatment, while group 2 received “long distance treatment. Group 3 received no treatment and was the control. Goldman found that although each group initially ranked similar with little to no significant difference in test assessment, at the end of the experiment there was still no significant difference between groups 1 and 2, but a significant difference when the two groups were compared to Group 3.The second hypothesis focused on the claim that treatment results will not vary when Reiki technique is administered through close proximity between patient and healer as opposed to long distance healing. Shore found that there was no significant difference in effect between the group who was administered the Reiki treatment through touch and the group who received Reiki treatment via long distance. Therefore, Shore (2004)accredited Reiki as a treatment, such as a drug, rather than physical therapy, adding more evidence to the presumption of Reiki’s ability to transfer energy for healing (Discussion section, para. 10).

        Lastly, Shore directed attention on the postulation that Reiki treatment is independent of faith or confidence in the treatment. To test this, Shore (2004)  reported that the participants receiving the hands on Reiki treatment were told that they were the control group and would be receiving a placebo and would receive actual treatment at the end of the study (Design and Procedure section, para. 6). This lead the group to have no expectations in receiving any changes in their results. In contrast, the participants in the control group received a placebo treatment, but were led to believe that their treatment would be administered long distance, resulting the participants anticipation and expectation of an actual change in results. Shore found that although the control group was primed to have faith and expectation that there would be a change resulting from the treatment, there was no significant change in behavior when the participants were retested, yet the participants who were told to expect no results from the treatment showed significant changes when retested for depression, stress, and hopelessness. Shore (2004) stated that there was a significant difference in change of results and behaviors between the two groups (P< .01), showing that Reiki “effectively reduced negative symptomatology regardless of the expectation…, and expectation alone does not produce such changes in symptomatology” (Discussion section, para. 10).




Reiki…A “Touchy” Subject: Summary and Analysis on Reiki Healing


       Reiki is an interesting treatment due to its claims of using biofield energy to rebalance and aid in the natural restoration of the body. Its natural methods of healing, non invasive technique, and lack of negative side effects make Reiki seem like a miraculous and uninhibited source of treatment for curing physical and mental illness. A recent case study was conducted in 2009 by Beverly Meland at the Great Opportunities Adult Day Services in Skokie, Illinois,  where six elderly participants, suffering from dementia (a mental illness that causes confusion and anxiety) and  ranging from ages 68-91, were administered 20 minutes of hands-on Reiki Healing treatment twice a week during a 4 week period.  Meland (2009) reported The therapists of the adult day-care facility observed and commented that all six patients who had received the Reiki treatment showed less anxiety and were more cooperative (Abstract section para. 1). The participants became more talkative, less depressed, and more relaxed while experiencing less physical pain, thereby providing further evidence that Reiki is able to relieve tension and pain in the body.

        Studies such as the Shore and experiment and the Meland case studies provide evidence that Reiki healing does aid in the lessening of stress and reducing the symptoms of physical pain and mental illness; however, these studies, and others conducted under the same hypothesis, fail to provide explanation for the physiological reasoning behind Reiki healing. Therefore the assumption that bio-field energy healing, such as Reiki, has no standing on whether the body is able to convert one person’s energy into activation energy for bodily restoration. With this being said, there is a hypothesis on why Reiki portrays a sense of healing, yet it has little to do with “life force” and aura. When undergoing Reiki therapy, whether it be hands on or distant treatment, the patient must lie down and close the eyes, portraying to the body that the person is resting. While in this meditative state, there are no threats or outside stressors that may cause cortisol levels to increase, which decreases the anxiety and tension related to the fight or flight response, allowing the body time clam down and repair itself. This can account for the feeling of rejuvenation and complete relaxation experienced in the patient after the treatment. With increased attendance to these sessions, it is possible that the patient is creating a conditioning response, so when stress does arise, either externally or internally, the body immediately reacts in a way similar to the actions during the Reiki session. Reiki just allows for the patient to relax enough to reduce cortisol levels in the blood, resulting in body restoration, along with a conditioning that will allow the patient to become equip to handling stress

        Although the mechanism of how Reiki targets the body physiologically, there is evidence that Reiki treatments do reduce symptoms of depression, as well as other physically related illnesses. Therefore Reiki healing should be used as a companion with other medicinal treatments, which could result in heightening the body’s response to the medicinal treatment reducing the longevity of the medicinal treatment.





























Literature Cited

Derting, Libby. "Healing Mental Illness with Reiki Therapy." Essortment. N.p., 2002. Web. 4 Oct. 2009. <>.

Honervogt, Tanmaya. The Power of Reiki: An Ancient Hands-On Healing Technique. New York, NY: Henry Holt, 1998. Print.

McConnell, Kathy. "What is Reiki." Reiki Healing Path. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Oct. 2009. <>.

Meland, Beverly. " Effect of Reiki on Pain and Anxiety in the Elderly Diagnosed with Dementia: A Series of Case Reports.” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 15.4 (2009): 56-57. Print.

Miller, Jason. "Understanding Mood Disorders." Understanding Mood Disorders. Bipolar, 16 May 2006. Web. 5 Oct. 2009. <>.

Schimelpfening, Nancy. "The Chemistry of Depression: Brain Chemistry Basics.", 2006. Web. 5 Oct. 2009. <>.

Shore, Adina G. "Long-term Effects of Energetic Healing on Symptoms of Psychological Depression and Self Perceived Stress.” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 10.3 (2004): 42-48. Print.

Tremayne, Peter. "Treating Depression with Reiki." Treating Depression with Reiki. Ezine Articles, 2 May 2006. Web. 5 Oct. 2009. <>.

"APA: One-Third of Americans Live With Extreme Stress." Fox Fox News, 25 Oct. 2007. Web. 4 Oct. 2009. <,2933,304957,00.html>.

"Energy Healing." Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic, 2009. Web. 5 Oct. 2009. <>.

"How to Heal Yourself Through Reiki." eHow, n.d. Web. 5 Oct. 2009. <>.

"Reiki Healing." Energy Healing Info. N.p., 2008. Web. 3 Oct. 2009. <>.


Literature  Cited (cont’d)

"Reiki Healing Health Benefits." N.p., 2003. Web. 3 Oct. 2009. <>.




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