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The Benefits of Reiki: What Does the Research Say?

Updated on December 8, 2011


More and more people are looking into natural and alternative therapies as options for treating their health problems. Many people swear by these therapies, however I became curious as to whether there was any research to support these claims. This article is specifically about reiki. It explains what it actually is, and also discusses the current research available on this healing technique, listing and summarising the results of several studies.

What is Reiki?

Reiki is a technique that originated in Tibet several centuries ago. The aim of this technique is to help an individual to relax and relieve stress, whilst promoting healing at the same time. Reiki has started to become popular in Western countries since the early twentieth century. It is even used in some American and European hospitals to help relieve pain (Baldwin et. al, 2008).

The basic principle of reiki is that it uses the energy surrounding a person to encourage relaxation, whilst healing at the same time. Not only does it help the mind, but it can also help with a person's physical problems and creative ability.

The main benefits of reiki are that it "is easy to learn, does not require expensive equipment...elicits a relaxation response and helps patients to feel more peaceful and experience less pain." (Bossi et. al, 2008).

What Does the Research Say?

The research currently available on reiki is "scarce and conflicting" (vanderVaart et. al, 2009). Many studies have been classified as being poor, because of their many limitation and lack of reliability. This needs to be kept in mind whilst reading the summary of the research detailed in the rest of this article.

One study, conducted by Baldwin et. al, (2008), used reiki on rats to determine its effects. The flaws in previous studies are mentioned in this one, but the authors of this study decided that measuring the heart rates of rats, which are easy to monitor, could allow for more accurate results.

This study found that when the rats had reiki performed on them, their heart rates were modulated, meaning their stress levels were reduced. This was the case in both stressed and non-stressed rats. This finding suggests reiki could be effective in reducing stress in humans as well.

Another study, conducted by Assefi et. al, (2008), researched the affects of reiki on a painful illness called fibromyalgia. This study found that neither reiki, performed by a reiki practitioner, nor "sham reiki", performed by an actor, resulted in decreased pain in the study's participants. The recommendation of this study was for more research to be conducted into reiki before it is recommended as a therapy to relieve pain in chronic pain sufferers.

A third study by Rubik et. al, (2006), researched the effect of reiki on bacteria cultures. The bacteria used in the experiments were heat-shocked, causing damage to their growth. When reiki was performed on the cultures, the bacteria began to display improved growth. This study found the context was important and strongly influenced the results. Reiki was found to be more effective when the practitioner was in good health him or herself.

Reiki has also been used in a study of people with Alzheimer's disease (Crawford et. al, 2006). This study investigated the effect reiki had on the memory and behaviour deficiencies on the study's participants. The results of this study were promising. It found that there were increases in mental functioning of the participants, especially in the areas of memory and behaviour problems. It is important to note that these improvements were found in patients with mild Alzheimer's disease only. The implications of these findings are that patients with Alzhemier's who have reiki administered may be less likely to need hospitalisation and medication as their illness progresses (Crawford et. al).

There are many more studies available that have researched the benefits of reiki. I don't have enough time to summarise all of them. But the literature that is available suggests that there may be some proof that reiki can promote healing. If you wish to try reiki, I encourage you to do so, but remember that it is not a miracle cure.

Reference List

Assefi, N., Bogart, A., Goldberg, J., & Buchwald, D., (2008). Reiki for the treatment of fibromyaldia: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine 14(9) 1115-1122. Retrieved March 5th, 2010, from Academic Search Premier.

Baldwin, A.L., Wagers, C., & Schwartz, G.E., (2008). Reiki improves heart rate homeostasis in laboratory rats. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine 14(4) 417-422. Retrieved March 5th, 2010, from Academic Search Premier.

Bossi, L.M., Ott, M.J., & DeCristofaro, S., (2008). Reiki as a clinical intervention in oncology nursing practice. Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing 12(3) 489-494. Retrieved March 5th, 2010, from Academic Search Premier.

Crawford, S.E., Leaver, V.W., & Mahoney, S.D., (2006). Using reiki to decrease memory and behavior problems in mild cognitive impairment and mild Alzheimer's disease. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 12(9) 911-913. Retrieved March 5th, 2010, from Academic Search Premier.

Rubik, B., Brooks, A.J., & Schwartz, G.E., (2006). In vitro effect of reiki treatment on bacterial cultures: Role of experimental context and practitioner well-being. Journal of Complementary Medicine 12(1) 7-13. Retrieved March 5th, 2010, from Academic Search Premier.

vanderVaart, S., Gijsen, V.M.G.J., de Wildt, S.N., & Koren, G., (2009). A systematic review of the therapeutic effects of reiki. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine. 15(11) 1157-1169. Retrieved March 5th, 2010, from Academic Search Premier.


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