ENERGY MEDICINE: The Reiki Experiments

Over the last few decades we’ve seen the rise of alternative medicine. As we become frustrated with allopathic choices, more and more of us are looking for another way. And some of those ways are going to challenge us. I take supplements, do biofeedback for migraine, meditation for stress, and see an integrative physician. And recently I had a Reiki session.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Reiki, it is a form of energy medicine grounded in a spiritual practice in which universal energy (ki) is transferred through the palms to promote balance and healing. The original system was developed by Mikao Usui in 1922 and has been adapted over the years by subsequent teachers.

The scientific effectiveness of Reiki has yet to be established as most of the limited studies have been either flawed or inconclusive. I did find a fascinating study of Reiki healers and their ability to influence the growth of E. coli bacteria however. University of Arizona researcher Gary Schwartz (PhD) and Beverly Rubik, a biophysicist, conducted this study at a NIH funded center. The work is detailed in The Energy Healing Experiments.


Fourteen Reiki healers would each come in on three separate days and work with a set of E. coli filled test tubes. After completing a standardized form which asked about their well-being, the healer performed a Reiki treatment on a box of test tubes. In another part of the laboratory, a control group of test tubes was placed without the knowledge of the healers. These tubes received no treatment. There were 42 boxes of Reiki treated test tubes and 42 boxes of untreated test tubes.

All of the test tubes were heated to slow the growth of the bacteria to 50 percent of the normal growth rate. If a Reiki practitioner was successful, one would expect more surviving cells in the test tubes which received Reiki than those tubes which had not received the treatment.

So what happened? Shockingly, Schwartz and Rubik found that the untreated Reiki control samples fared better than about half the samples given the healing. How was that possible? After several days of head shaking, Schwartz wondered about the emotional state of the healer. Could that have been a player?

Luckily the researchers had gathered that data and were able to take another look. In cases where the Reiki healer reported feeling physically and emotionally healthy, there was a positive correlation between giving a healing and cell growth. However, when the practitioner reported being stressed or unwell, those samples tended to be negatively impacted.

Obviously, there is a lot of work to be done in this area. But the point really is to know that Reiki (and other methods like it, including Quantum Touch) is on the horizon and offers the possibility of healing. It wasn’t that long ago that most Americans regarded chiropractors as dubious and now they’re mainstream health care providers. Some of these new energy modalities are likely to do the same.

Further reading:

The Energy Healing Experiments- Gary E. Schwartz, PhD

Soul Medicine- Norman Shealy, MD and Dawson Church

Energy Medicine: Balancing Your Body’s Energies- Donna Eden

The Magick of Reiki-Christopher Penczak



Filed under Books, Energy medicine, Spiritual/Mysticism

47 responses to “ENERGY MEDICINE: The Reiki Experiments

  1. Enjoying all we have in common. =)


    Energy med!

  2. A very interesting post thank you. I practise yoga, Jin shin Jyutsu and yoga and the more I work with energy the more in awe I continue to be! The autobiography of Matthew Manning details some healing experiments he took part in, and is a really fascinating read.

  3. pacphotography

    Good post. I’ve been interested in reiki for a long time. I will look into the books you mentioned to further my studies. Thanks!

    • Some Reiki groups have these open nights where you can try it out for minimal or no cost. You can also attend to see if you want to invest the $ to become a practitioner. Look in your area.

  4. I am a reiki practitioner and have been for over 15 years it is an amazing ablity and a wonderful healing tool

  5. I enjoyed reading this post, and the comments, especially the one comparing “knowledge” with wisdom. I feel that the ancient healing is a two-way flow, rather than one-way. It is subconsciously regulated. The energy field flows around and through practitioner and recipient, and when it balances, in comes the quantum leap.

  6. My experience echoes this. Thanks.

  7. Great topic! All energy healing work works because humans are all energy, even though people think they have solid bodies with tissues and bones. Yes we do have them and this is how they look in 3rd dimensional reality, but this is not all what defines the human being. There is so much more to the human Being!
    What is the matter and the energy? It is the same stuff vibrating at different speed at subatomic level. Just check Enstain’s ecquasion E=MC2 and the current quantum physics discoveries how particles behave at subatomic level. As humans, all what we need in order to benefit from any energy work is to open our minds, let go of any kind of preconceived ideas, expectations and judgment, and stay present in the moment as oppose living in the future or the past that is only in the mind. Mind can transcend the construct of time but not the human body, at least not yet 🙂
    Seems simple, yet there is ever growing Hollistic and Wellness industry like never before….
    To the inner wisdom!

  9. I experienced a night of Reiki breathing at a workshop, several years ago. The session had a profound affect on me for many days afterwards. I could never express in words what I felt, much to abstract, but it was very powerful.

  10. Allopathic medicine and alternative medical practices come from two different belief systems. The former is based on “science”, which developed from the Enlightenment philosophy in the 18th century. The catch phrase now is “Evidenced Based Healthcare”. Most alternative healthcare practices developed over thousands of years from observation and experience. These are more akin to “wisdom” than “knowledge”. Furthermore, they tend to work best for those who believe in them, rather than respond consistently among a variety of subjects (especially those who are skeptical). I suspect that as long as insurance companies and governments pay for healthcare, allopathic remedies (and their side-effects) will be the norm. On the other hand, I suspect that me might be healthier if we pursue and pay for what we believe in.

    • Belief plays a role in allopathic medicine as well. So does something as simple as a pat on the back from your MD and a statement like “I think this will do the trick”. We will need to make a lot of changes to take advantage of alternative modalities. I like some of Andrew Weil’s ideas on how to do it.

      • Absolutely! My concern is how few people realize that they have beliefs about what makes them healthy and how prevent pharmaceutical marketing influences those beliefs.

  11. Interesting read. I agree–not all alternative treatments should immediately be discarded. But I also think we need studies to help determine their safety and effectiveness. I enjoyed learning about this therapy. And thanks for stopping by my blog. I appreciate it. 🙂

    • More research on alternative health modalities would be great, but, as the article pointed out, there are so many odd, unexpected variables that accurate results are hard to come by.

  12. Interesting. I’ve used no drugs or meds since I was nineteen and have found herbs and nature cures work very well. Ginger is my main stay for stomach or dizzy problems. I have lived healthy without medical help for over forty years. Not that I don’t get sick occasionally but the events are short term and it seems my body has more power to heal since it doesn’t depend on drugs.
    I am a Christian and that is why I initially stopped using medicine. I had migraines. A doctor gave me morphine and I never used it. Since drugs were and still are a killer for young people, God convicted my heart. I was teaching the youth to stay away from drugs and for me to take them? I wouldn’t do it. I was healed with prayer. I WILL CLARIFY, I have nothing against doctors. God has given them the wisdom and knowledge to do a lot of good in healing but many doctors will tell patients, ” I do what I can with what we know but the healing or no healing is determined by Someone else.”

    • Good for you! I’m sorry that back in the day, there were lousy choices for migraine. We now have a range of drugs that will abort migraines (for some people) and I just want people to know that things have gotten a little better in that area. I’m sure you would like Larry Dossey’s books on the power of prayer.

  13. Matt Knox

    Very interesting. Good post 🙂

  14. doctornitro

    Not to mention the good old placebo effect, always asserting its role.

    • Which gives all prescription medicine a boost as well. It is amazing how little a medicine has to perform over the placebo effect to get approval. Wish I had the # at hand but it’s only a couple of percent.

  15. I’ve been practising Reiki and Shiatsu on people for many years. I find it’s particularly helpful when people are stressed, they report that they’ve started laughing again, and a very old lady got off the table the other day, and said she felt her joints had been oiled!.
    I’ve never made any claims about healing illnesses, I simply do it for people’s well being. These days many people are working just with energy, so when I went to a chiropractor, she didn’t touch me. But by that evening, my neck was burning with the energy re-alignment, my spine was easing, and I slept like the dead!.
    I have a friend who is a hospice nurse, and not only does she use her Reiki training, but she’s doing a year long course in alternative treatments to use on cancer patients.The times they are a-changing ( very slowly)

  16. Very interesting! I have several friends who are Reiki practitioners at different levels. There are so many variables to consider. The experiment you write about using test tubes filled with E.coli is fascinating but, I wonder if the results reported have more to do with the use of test tubes instead of real people or the state of mind of the practitioners? Reiki is traditionally practiced on humans and the healing energy transmitted through (not by) the practitioner does not focus on one thing (a bacteria, a disease, a headache, etc.) but on the whole (body, mind and spirit). Thanks so much for sharing this with us. Food (yes to garlic!) for thought.

  17. Very interesting. I’ve never heard of Reiki but I’ve heard of things like it. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Hi, I enjoyed your post. I’ve practiced Reiki for years, and found the results you discussed to be interesting. My understanding has always been that the energy coming through the practitioner is not their personal energy, but the Universal Life Force (Rei) Energy (Ki), and so therefore the healer is healed themselves while they are transmitting the energy to the recipient. That said, from experience I do know that in order to be able to transmit and hold that energy for the focused healing of another person, it is important to be feeling well myself. I also think that sometimes things of this nature just work, even though we may not have the capability to fully understand the how’s and why’s of why it does. I suppose that’s the mystery of it all!

  19. I had reiki after a serious car accident which left me in plaster from hip to toe for 4 months. It was surreal and worked for sure!

  20. Very interesting. But would the Reiki healer tell you if he/she is emotionally okay? I’d have a concern about that in light of the article. But thanks. Good read.

  21. I studied at the University of Arizona and had the privilege of taking various courses with Professor Schwartz. In one of them, he brought an energy healer to class, to demonstrate the practice on several students. I still remember the day quite clearly. Professor Schwartz was very active in promoting the study of such practices, and I am happy to see that more than a decade and a half later, he’s still continuing his work. Thank you for your post.

  22. Reiki really works! I do it on myself at least once a week (it also helps me fall asleep better) since being trained in it years ago!

  23. Amy

    I believe in a lot of alternative medicine whereas before I was a huge skeptic, but chiropractic is not one. Please don’t go to a chiropractor, go to

  24. My daughter, who is a nurse, used what she called healing hands to subvert a SVT (super ventricular tachacardia) episode. When I would have one, my heart rate would jump from normal to 180-210 in a matter of seconds and could last for hours (until I would get treatment). It did help, but the episode was so strong, I had to get treatment after a few hours.
    I also visit a myofacial massage therapist who uses this technique.
    Thanks for enlightening the masses. 🙂

  25. Pat

    I took Reiki 1 and found it amazing – immediately fell in love with what seemed like a real possibility to help others. I got a huge energy rush from the whole experience and was full of how amazing it was.
    I took Reiki 2 and it seemed to me the nearest thing to magic there was in my world. Adding in signs and symbols was just weird. The fact that this extraordinary power worked astounded me.
    But it can be exhausting too.
    I rarely practise now and ought to do my trickle charge each day, but don’t often.
    I think more needs to be discovered about this method of healing and people who engage in it need to be careful not to deplete their own energies.

  26. Fascinating, I really enjoyed reading this. I trained in Reiki years ago but haven’t consciously used it for a long time. This may re-inspire me. Thanks for sharing:-)

  27. Loved the post. Found it fascinating! I am a Reiki master and practitioner for 20 years and my parents are both Reiki masters too. I was taught that the energy that flows through the practitioner to the patient was neutral and therefore unaffected by the practitioner’s state of being. Very interesting to see these results. Appreciate you highlighting research studies in your blog.

    • I’ve also read that about energy flow, but then there’s also a lot made about intention when giving healing (at least in some practices). I think you’d find the book profiled really interesting. Your library might have it.

  28. Interesting experiment. As a massage therapist and Reiki practitioner with almost 30 years of experience I was fascinated by the results. They should serve as a warning to all energy workers. You can’t give something you don’t have!
    A friend of mine is a cancer survivor. Her MDs told her over 10 years ago that she only had 6 months to live. She practices qi-gong and several other energy techniques. Recently she became involved with pranic healing. She was very impressed with the results and wanted to become a practitioner so she could help others. When she attended the first class they told her that she could not practice pranic healing because she had cancer. You must be completely healthy and strong to do this work.
    It sort of made sense to me at the time, but it makes even more sense now.

  29. Interesting results, I haven’t tried Reiki myself. I have had acupuncture for a few nagging problems, and have either been cured or had the suffering noticeably relieved. Modern medicine seems to have gone down the control the symptoms route rather than attempting to cure problems.

    • Acupuncture is another example of alternative medicine becoming mainstream. Western medicine has its place. If I’m in a car accident, I want a top trauma team in a modern hospital. But many long term and degenerative kinds of things are not well handled by allopathic choices.

      • Both paths have their place, I agree about the modern trauma team, but have found that a good meal with ginger and green onion vegetables on rice with hot and sour soup clears my sinus better than over the counter products, and is more satisfying. 🙂

      • You sound like my daughter. There’s nothing garlic can’t kill off!! I’ve found old fashioned ginger ale is the best thing for my upset stomach, beats Tums.

      • I agree garlic works, however being single again I have noticed its very effective on romantic aspirations 🙂

  30. very interesting post thank you, many years ago i did have reiki done and it was great for the first time ever i wasn’t in pain and was able to stop taking my tablets for a good couple of weeks, unfortunately i did not have enough money to get any more done but i do recommend it if you can afford it, have a great day 🙂

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