Methods of energy healing, such as reiki, are growing in popularity and have been for a number of years now. Despite this, they are also the most criticised by skeptics of anything natural or alternative, and many natural therapists do not involve themselves with them because of it. But is it really true that reiki is only "nonsense" and there is no evidence to support it?
A pilot study conducted in 2004 aimed to see if the effects of reiki were really just placebo. Divided into three groups, 45 people received either reiki, nothing (rest) or a placebo where someone mimicked the healing modality's hand movements. It was found that the reiki group experienced significant reductions in heart rate and blood pressure, although they were relatively small. The placebo group did share some beneficial effects, however, such as improved breathing rate. Additionally, this study mentions an earlier trial where reiki was found to significantly reduce anxiety and high blood pressure, and increase a type of antibody called immunoglobulin A (IgA). IgA antibodies help to protect tissue.
A second study looked at the use of reiki in one of the most tragic chronic illnesses: Alzheimer's disease. Twenty-four participants with scores between 20 and 24 on the annotated Mini-Mental State Examination (AMMSE) were tested for the effects of reiki on AMMSE and the Revised Memory and Behaviour Problems Checklist (RMBPC). The results of the study showed statistically significant improvements in mental functioning (AAMSE) and memory and behavior problems (RMBPC). Eight out of 24 questions on the RMBPC, in the frequency and reaction domains, had significantly different scores between the two groups. Several of these have strong implications for overall quality of life: depression issues; losing or misplacing things; waking at night and remembering recent events. As this study only used four reiki treatments, spread out over four weeks, it is possible that a longer course or ongoing treatment could give even better results.
Stress and related physical ailments are a near-universal experience among university students. Thirty-five psychology students were given tasks that took their full attention, while they were randomised to either true distance reiki or nothing. When self-reported illness symptoms, mood and sleep were analysed, researchers found that the reiki group experienced an almost significant reduction in illness and stress scores. On the other hand, the control group experienced a worsening of their symptoms. These results mean that reiki could prevent the decline in health common over the course of the academic year.
Just as common complaint among those who seek reiki treatments is stress, a common accusation of reiki is that it is only a placebo. For both of these reasons, a 2008 study tested the effect of reiki on rats. Compared to sham reiki, the therapy's true application significantly reduced the rise in heart rate after exposure to loud nose (90 decibels - do not try this at home!). Rats would not be able to tell the difference between healing energy and someone mimicking hand movements, and they do not have belief or skepticism related to any modality.
While energy healing methods are underserved by the research world, there are studies out there showing reiki and other modalities to be effective. If you decide to learn reiki, just remember to stay relaxed and comfortable during sessions as stress or discomfort can affect your healing ability.