The Science Of Energy Healing

Reiki is becoming increasingly popular as a complementary therapy and awareness of Reiki is growing among the general population. In this article, Reiki practitioner and teacher Andy Chrysostomou takes a look at Reiki from a scientific perspective and examines some of the scientific theories that can be applied to Reiki.

Reiki is sometimes perceived as a 'flaky' yet effective spiritual healing method with no real scientific basis for its effectiveness and the mechanism of how Reiki actually works is rarely considered. Reiki is generally described in very esoteric terms, practitioners often talk of a mysterious 'intelligent energy' that 'knows where to go' and 'what to treat' and always 'works for the highest good'. This kind of New Age or spiritual explanation of Reiki may be satisfactory to some, but most people need something more tangible and practical to help them understand and accept the system of Reiki. I feel it is important to try to determine how Reiki actually works to improve emotional and physical well-being.

Over the years, I have seen and experienced for myself the amazing effects of focused Reiki treatments. With this in mind I have looked at the science of energy healing in some depth, primarily for use in my Reiki book 'The Essence Of Reiki', but also for my own knowledge and satisfaction. Quite apart from that, I believe many more people would take energy healing more seriously if they only knew there were scientific studies carried out into energy healing and theories postulated into the mechanisms of energy healing

Some of the more relevant research shows for example, that energy healers produce an EM field1 (electromagnetic field), infra-red energy2,3 and biophoton4 emissions from their hands when healing. Which roughly translates as the tingling and heat that practitioners and clients feel when working with the Reiki energy. All living things produce an EM field from the heart, the brain and other internal current sources5, but energy healers are able to produce a more coherent EM field and can focus and direct this energy. Numerous studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of EM field therapies using machines to produce the EM field, and studies in China have shown the effectiveness of Chi Qong healing on tumours in rats. The US government is sponsoring a study into prostrate cancer and Reiki, so there is ongoing research in progress.

How EM fields actually assist in the healing process has been studied, and there are a number of theories posited for the mechanism. The three primary theories are through Currents of Injury, Signal Transduction Pathways and Biologically Enclosed Circuits.

Currents Of Injury

Currents of injury are set up when the body undergoes any physical trauma. Currents of injury are electrical signals that initiate the repair process and tell the required cells to go the injury site and repair the damage. In tests on newts, it was demonstrated that by draining away the body's internal current of injury, the repair process can be halted, and by applying an external current the repair process can be accelerated. This healing effect of externally applied EM fields has been demonstrated over a number of studies. This is one mechanism to explain the healing effects of Reiki.

Signal Transduction Pathways

Signal transduction is the process by which cells convert one form of signalling into another, usually a biochemical reaction. With EM field therapies, the initial signal is electromagnetic and the response is a healing cascade. How this works at the cell level is still theoretical at the moment, but it is believed the EM field affects the frequency of the charged ions' binding state. The charged ions spend time in a bound state at the cell wall and an unbound state free within the cell. The EM field seems to change the ratio of time spent bound to time spent unbound. It is this change that appears to initiate the cells healing cascade. It has been found at precise frequencies, this mechanism can trigger the healing cascade.

Biologically Closed Electric Circuits

This theory is quite similar in some respects to currents of injury. It has been proposed that there are distinct and intrinsic electric pathways in the body. The Biologically Closed Electric Circuits (BCES) hypothesis posits that endogenous (internal to the body) currents are set up when any pathological disorder occurs.6 It should therefore be possible to treat the disorders with exogenous (external to the body) electrical signals. This method was developed and used to treat malignant tumours with electrotherapeutic techniques.7,8

As a Reiki teacher, I do not need to know the science behind Reiki to teach or use it, but it does allow me to explain Reiki to sceptics and more importantly to medical professionals that would otherwise see Reiki as a diversion at best and a complete waste of time at worst. Understanding how Reiki works helps to spread Reiki beyond the confines of the 'New Age spiritual' community and into the lives of ordinary people. Knowing how Reiki works does not make it any less spiritual nor does it make it any less amazing. However much we learn about Reiki, it will remain a beautiful and life-changing journey. Usui-sensei wanted Reiki shared in the community because he felt there was a need to improve the lives of people, both in a physical and emotional sense and in a spiritual sense. Reiki can work for anyone, it is up to us in the Reiki community to share Reiki in a practical way.


1. Seto A, Kusaka C, Nakazato S et al 1992 Detection of extraordinary large biomagnetic field strength from human hands. Acupuncture and Electro-Therapeutics Research International Journal 17:75-94

2. Schwartz S A, DeMattei R J, Brame K G, Spottiswoode S J P 1990 Infrared spectra alteration in water proximate to the palms of therapeutic practitioners. Subtle Energies 1:43-72

3. Chien C-H, Tsuei J.J, Lee S C Huang Y-C, Wei Y-H 1991 Effect of emmited bioenergy on biomechanical functions of cells. American Journal of Chinese Medicine 19:285-293

4. Choi C., Hoo W.M., Lee M.B., Yang J.S., Soh K.-S., Yang J.S., Yoon G., Kim M., Zaslawsky C. and Chang J.J. 2002 Biophoton Emission from the Hands. Journal of the Korean Physical Society, August 2002 Vol. 41, No. 2, pp. 275_278

5. Liboff AR. 1994, The electromagnetic field as a biological variable. In: Frey AH (ed.) On the Nature of Electromagnetic Field Interactions. Austin: R.G. Landis.

6. Nordenstron BEW. 1983 Biologically Closed Electric Circuits. Stockholm: Nordic Medical Publications.

7. Chou CK. 1997 Electrochemical treatment of tumor. Bioelectromagnetics 18:1.

8. Xin Y-L, Xue F-Z, Ge B-S, Zhao F-R, Shi B, Zhang W. 1997 Electrochemical treatment of lung cancer. Bioelectromagnetics 18:8-13.

© Copyright Andy Chrysostomou 2009.

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