MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

Reiki is one of the most popular types of ‘energy healing’. Reiki healers believe to be able to channel ‘healing energy’ into patients’ body thus enabling them to get healthy. If Reiki were not such a popular treatment, one could brush such claims aside and think “let the lunatic fringe believe what they want”. But as Reiki so effectively undermines consumers’ sense of reality and rationality, I feel I should continue informing the public about this subject – despite the fact that I have already reported about it several times before, for instance here, here, here, here, here and here.

A new RCT, published in a respected journal looks interesting enough for a further blog-post on the subject. The main aim of the study was to investigate the effectiveness of two psychotherapeutic approaches, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and a complementary medicine method Reiki, in reducing depression scores in adolescents. The researchers from Canada, Malaysia and Australia recruited 188 adolescent depressed adolescents. They were randomly assigned to CBT, Reiki or wait-list. Depression scores were assessed before and after 12 weeks of treatments/wait list. CBT showed a significantly greater decrease in Child Depression Inventory (CDI) scores across treatment than both Reiki (p<.001) and the wait-list control (p<.001). Reiki also showed greater decreases in CDI scores across treatment relative to the wait-list control condition (p=.031).  Male participants showed a smaller treatment effects for Reiki than did female participants. The authors concluded that both CBT and Reiki were effective in reducing the symptoms of depression over the treatment period, with effect for CBT greater than Reiki.

I find it most disappointing that these days even respected journals publish such RCTs without the necessary critical input. This study may appear to be rigorous but, in fact, it is hardly worth the paper it was printed on.

The results show that Reiki produced worse results than CBT. That I can well believe!

However, the findings also suggest that Reiki was nevertheless “effective in reducing the symptoms of depression”, as the authors put it in their conclusions. This statement is misleading!

It is based on the comparison of Reiki with doing nothing. As Reiki involves lots of attention, it can be assumed to generate a sizable placebo effect. As a proportion of the patients in the wait list group are probably disappointed for not getting such attention, they can be assumed to experience the adverse effects of their disappointment. The two phenomena combined can easily explain the result without any “effectiveness” of Reiki per se.

If such considerations are not fully discussed and made amply clear even in the conclusions of the abstract, it seems reasonable to accuse the journal of being less than responsible and the authors of being outright misleading.

As with so many papers in this area, one has to ask: WHERE DOES SLOPPY RESEARCH END AND WHERE DOES SCIENTIFIC MISCONDUCT BEGIN?

48 Responses to Reiki healing: SLOPPY RESEARCH OR SCIENTIFIC MISCONDUCT?

  • More importantly, did the researchers have ethical approval to subject their subjects to the powerful energies reiki practitioners claim to be able to generate?
    What side effects might there be if the practitioners hands were just a little misplaced?
    Were the risks of this explained to the patients?
    Did they give properly informed consent to be exposed to these energies?
    Were health and safety procedures at the institutions where patients were treated followed?

    Was any energy used at all?
    If not, and it was all imagination, have not the practitioners defrauded those who funded the programme?
    (By claiming to supply energy when they did nothing of the sort).

    Just asking.

  • The inevitable response: why not both?

  • I am more inclined to look at what Nikola Tesla said in the early Forties, “To work Universally think Energy, Frequency & Vibration. Einstein convinced us that everything is Energy. The question should be how to create Energy or better still do we hold Energy within us. There will never be any answers to the questions until we stop using words that are devised to confuse. Placebo, if Tesla and Einstein are correct, and I believe that they are, then how is a placebo in any examination correct when people do not know what if Energy they hold within. Those who claim Spiritual Connections suggest that they have to have verbal permission to proceed, maybe there is something else. The word Reiki is claimed to connect to the Universe, I don’t think that it does and no-body in the scientific world really wants to clearly examine any connections and can 4,000,000 people who claim to have Reiki be wrong. Yes I believe that they all are. I work with Energy.

    • That word “energy” . You keep using it, but I don’t think it means what you think it means.

      Hint: how much (in Joules) of what form, and how is it supposedly manipulated, show the equations relevant to the interaction?

      • you don’t understand Guy!
        energy is whatever you want it to be.
        I once heard a ‘senior lecturer’ at Exeter uni explain to his students [BSc in ‘complementary health’] that one can feel the energy they were talking about best when making love; apparently, it is being transferred during this process from one body to the next.
        nothing to do with your blinkered concept of joules etc.!

    • Are you using a random word generator, Len?

    • @ len on Sunday 08 May 2016 at 02:13

      “can 4,000,000 people who claim to have Reiki be wrong”

      Yes, they can. It is a logical fallacy; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argumentum_ad_populum.

      You really need to read this page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies) to see how many you use and regularly.

      • I suppose when a person has at least 93 patents/designs credited to his name and he makes statements about his experiences, referring to Energy, Frequency and Vibration and it is ignored, you would wonder how he developed the energy that to-day lights the World

        • @ len on Tuesday 10 May 2016 at 01:59

          Tesla had far more than 93 patents (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Nikola_Tesla_patents), however, that is beside the point. He also had some weird ideas.

          “you would wonder how he developed the energy that to-day lights the World”

          He didn’t.

          The reason I posted a link to logical fallacies was the (vain) hope you would read it. Apparently not, because you have just used another; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_authority, based on your usual, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherry_picking.

          If there is an Olympic event for this, you are a certain gold medalist.

          • Tesla invented AC Electric Power which to-day lights the World, not Eddison.
            In who’s opinion did he have weird and wacky Ideas, anybody who was in competition to him and members of the Flat Earth Society.

          • Len, you need to look up the difference between inventing and developing. My degree is in electrical engineering, I am very familiar with Tesla’s contributions. They are striking, but in no way validate any if the bullshit claims made in his name – especially the free energy devices.

            The fallacy of appeal to authority has already been pointed out to you. You also need to understand the fallacy of begging the question.

          • @len on Wednesday 11 May 2016 at 00:42

            “Tesla invented AC Electric Power which to-day lights the World, not Eddison.”

            Tesla did not invent AC power; it had already been invented, he refined it to be practically useful.
            http://www.edisontechcenter.org/AC-PowerHistory.html

            “In who’s opinion did he have weird and wacky Ideas, anybody who was in competition to him and members of the Flat Earth Society.”

            You may not think they are wacky ideas;
            He thought that memories and thoughts were recorded on the brain and could be watched, like a movie, through the retina.
            He thought he could control the weather, and attempted to develop this technology. Eventually he was able to produce spectacular artificial lightning bolts.
            He had plans to illuminate the world’s oceans and build a massive ring around the Earth that would allow people to travel around the world in a single day.
            He believed that women would become the dominant sex in the future, and that they would rule over mankind like “Queen Bees.”

            Actually, he wasn’t far wrong with the last one.

            Fancy you rewriting history according to your fantastic beliefs, len? You only believe the bits of science you think re-inforce your distorted view of it. Are you going to post anything else to make the transformation from silly to stupid?

          • From silly to stupid to falt earth and bound at the feet

          • @len: You appear to be labouring under the misapprehension that your quasi-religious belief has some kind of parity with empirically established reality. Let’s not forget that the claims of “energy healers” are easy to test, so much so that a nine-year-old could (and did) devise and publish an objective test.

            You are making extraordinary claims. The burden of proof lies with you. Accusing the reality-based community of being flat-earthers because we don’t accept your quasi-religious belief forms no part of carrying that burden.

          • Len, for all to see;

            http://www.thehouseofcalm.com/118765192

            http://www.thehouseofcalm.com/118765166

            http://www.thehouseofcalm.com/118765177

            Sadly, reiki doesn’t seem to be able to fix his big, fat belly.

          • The vibrations of the Spiritual Chakras,Heart,Throat, Third Eye, Crown & Kings Crown are increased.

            Ah, all is explained: I thought the third eye was involved in len’s posts somehow.

            Always be able to understand what it is you do.

            Words len should take to heart.

            The pharmaceutical industry does not create cures, they create customers

            This slogan clumsily photoshopped onto a sheet held up by three people in Anonymous masks is really the crowning irony of SCAM. They genuinely do believe this about “big pharma” and seem not to understand that it perfectly encapsulates their own business model.

            Pharmaceutical companies are in it for money, as are the manufacturers of SCAM products, but the world of medical research is very diverse and includes many truly independent academics – whereas the “research” into SCAM is almost always conducted by people who have a vested interest in it being true. There are only ever two outcomes: a positive result, or “more research needed”. No quack has ever accepted a result which shows quackery not to work – whereas drug companies do this all the time. In fact most drugs that start development, never make it to market. Corrupt as big pharma may be, it is at least that honest.

          • There are many scams created within the Healing Industry. Non more so than the majority who claim to be Reiki/ Master/ Teachers or Grand Masters. Regardless as to how many skeptics ridicule or heap scorn indiscriminately in all directions there are some who can achieve results. I have met many from both sides.

          • @len: You readily dismiss some of the more obvious nonsense as a scam (note: that’s distinct from SCAM, which is an acronym meaning Supplements, Complementary and Alternative Medicine). However, you fail to provide any objective mechanism for distinguishing what you sell from what you dismiss as nonsense.

            As far as any of us can tell, there is no objective difference. All of reiki, reflexology etc. are equally unsupported by evidence and objective fact. No “energy therapy” community has shown any evidence of the existence, form or effect of its purported energy.

          • “As far as any of us can tell, there is no objective difference.
            All of reiki, reflexology etc. are equally unsupported by evidence and objective fact.
            No “energy therapy” community has shown any evidence of the existence, form or effect of its purported energy”.

            Guy, who is ” Us” and i wonder who as an energy therapy community has shown no form or effect of its purported energy. I would agree that most trials completely misjudge any publish results as there is no proof provided as to the validity of the participants other than they may have a certificate, and that proves nothing.

          • Frank Collins,

            Thank you for providing the links. The essence of them, and the core purpose of Reiki, is exemplified by the very title of the subsection: On the Corporate Level.

            Reiki is indeed nothing other than a multilevel marketing scheme aimed at the vulnerable members of society.

          • Try to find a free introduction to Reiki, who would do that.

          • I’m sure you can get free introductions to most cults, why would this be different?

          • Many of the claims are not true, that’s the difference.

          • @ len on Saturday 14 May 2016 at 02:42

            “Try to find a free introduction to Reiki, who would do that.”

            Maybe someone who isn’t an exploititive … trying to rip-off the gullible with total nonsense? Are you such a person or do you want your pound of flesh in the mega pyramid scheme that is Reiki ™?

            Do you sell scAmway too?

          • Len asked: “Try to find a free introduction to Reiki, who would do that.”

            I have previously addressed your incessant ‘pissing into the wind’:
            http://edzardernst.com/2015/07/a-new-study-of-reiki-healing-with-a-false-positive-result/#comment-68429
            http://edzardernst.com/2015/02/reiki-nonsense-on-stilts/#comment-64528

            It seems that you have not yet learnt that those who persist in the practise of pissing into the wind end up making an unsightly mess of themselves.

          • another us, ah well thats the way it goes

        • Having patents (or even a Nobel prize) does not render one immune from holding batshit crazy beliefs.

          • And “closer to home”, not having patents or a Nobel prize does not render one any less immune to batshit crazy ideas, does it len?

          • Linus Pauling has two Nobels and they are in separate categories. But his beliefs about Vitamin C were absolute rubbish.

          • And Luc Montagnier has a Nobel but still promotes the batshit crazy claims of Benveniste, via self-published papers of staggeringly poor quality.

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