Blog Post

Reiki Remains Junk Science

47306417 - snow against calm woman receiving reiki treatmentSMB asks: “Have there been any recent studies to prove the effectiveness of Reiki?”

Not that I am aware of.

The most up-to-date report on the clinical status of Reiki can be found on the website of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at the National Institutes for Health.

“Several groups of experts have evaluated the evidence on Reiki, and all of them have concluded that it’s uncertain whether Reiki is helpful. Only a small number of studies of Reiki have been completed, and most of them included only a few people. Different studies looked at different health conditions making it hard to compare their results. Many of the studies didn’t compare Reiki with both sham (simulated) Reiki and with no treatment. Studies that include both of these comparisons are usually the most informative.”

A 2011 review of all existing research on “energy healing” – which includes Reiki, therapeutic touch, and healing touch – found that none of the studies were of a size or quality that allowed researchers to draw reliable conclusions.

“The existing research does not allow conclusions regarding the efficacy or effectiveness of energy healing. Future studies should adhere to existing standards of research on the efficacy and effectiveness of a treatment . . .”

Also in 2011, a study was conducted among 189 patients who were receiving outpatient chemotherapy. The purpose of the study was to determine if providing Reiki therapy during their chemotherapy session was associated with increased comfort and well-being. The study was a double-blind, randomized clinical controlled trial with patients receiving either actual Reiki, sham Reiki, or standard care.

The study found that patients in both the Reiki and sham Reiki groups experienced statistically significant improvements in comfort and well-being while the standard care group did not experience any of these improvements.

This finding led to the following conclusion:

“The findings indicate that the presence of an RN providing one-on-one support during chemotherapy was influential in raising comfort and well-being levels, with or without an attempted healing energy field.”

From a scientific standpoint, the main problem with Reiki is that it is based on a belief in a universal life force which is also known as vitalism.

Dr. Steven Novella, academic clinical neurologist at the Yale University School of Medicine, describes vitalism as a “pre-scientific belief that some spiritual energy animates the living, and is what separates living things from non-living things.”

For a long period of time, vitalism was a kind of “place holder” for whatever aspects of biology were not currently understood, he explains.

“But as science progressed, eventually we figured out all of the basic functions of life and there was simply nothing left for the vital force to do. It therefore faded from scientific thinking. We can add to that the fact that no one has been able to provide positive evidence for the existence of a vital force – it remains entirely unknown to science.”

As Dr. Novella rightly points out, the discarded science and superstition of the past has, in many cases, become the “alternative medicine” of today.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is of the same opinion about Reiki.

“The explanation of the efficacy of Reiki depends entirely on a particular view of the world as permeated by this ‘universal life energy’ (Reiki) that is subject to manipulation by human thought and will. Reiki practitioners claim that their training allows one to channel the "universal life energy" that is present in all things. This ‘universal life energy,’ however, is unknown to natural science. . . . Neither the Scriptures nor the Christian tradition as a whole speak of the natural world as based on ‘universal life energy’ that is subject to manipulation by the natural human power of thought and will. In fact, this worldview has its origins in eastern religions and has a certain monist and pantheistic character, in that distinctions among self, world, and God tend to fall away.”

Even more concerning are the spiritual dangers of becoming involved in Reiki. As I explain in my book, The Learn to Discern Compendium, practitioners go through three attunement rituals in which the student is connected to “higher levels of consciousness” and is permanently connected to the “Reiki source.” During this process, they are attended by “Reiki Guides” and other “Spiritual Beings” who help implement the process. In addition, the initiate is given a spirit guide who will then use him or her as a channel for the transmission of Reiki energy.

In other words, Reiki is an occult-art, which explains why exorcists say it can be a point-of-entry for demons.

All of the above raises the question – if Reiki has never been proven to work, and can be a gateway to demonic activity, why would anyone want to participate in it? Why risk it?

For that matter, why are so many hospitals allowing it to be provided to patients?

They shouldn’t be, and as we reported last week, this brave nurse is trying to at least insure that patients receive full disclosure about the nature of this practice by campaigning for the use of spiritual consent forms by hospitals.

Reiki has no place in modern medicine and because of its spiritual risks, should be banned from all professional medical institutions.