MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd

Reiki has been on my mind repeatedly (see for instance here, here, here and here). It is one of those treatments that are too crazy for words and too implausible to mention. Yet a new paper firmly claims that it is more than a placebo.

This review evaluated clinical studies of Reiki to determine whether there is evidence for Reiki providing more than just a placebo effect. The available English-language literature of Reiki was reviewed, specifically for

  • peer-reviewed clinical studies,
  • studies with more than 20 participants in the Reiki treatment arm,
  • studies controlling for a placebo effect.

Of the 13 suitable studies,

  • 8 demonstrated Reiki being more effective than placebo,
  • 4 found no difference but had questionable statistical resolving power,
  • one provided clear evidence for not providing benefit.

The author concluded that these studies provide reasonably strong support for Reiki being more effective than placebo. From the information currently available, Reiki is a safe and gentle “complementary” therapy that activates the parasympathetic nervous system to heal body and mind. It has potential for broader use in management of chronic health conditions, and possibly in postoperative recovery. Research is needed to optimize the delivery of Reiki.

These are truly fantastic findings! Reiki is more than a placebo – would have thought so? Who would have predicted that something as implausible as Reiki would one day be shown to work?

Now let’s start re-writing the textbooks of physics and therapeutics and research how we can optimize the delivery of Reiki.

Hold on – not so quick! Here are a few reasons why we might be sceptical about the validity of this review:

  • It was published in one of the worst journals of alternative medicine.
  • The author claimed to include just clinical trials but ended up including non-clinical studies and animal studies.
  • Four trials were not double-blind.
  • There was no critical assessment of the studies methodological quality.
  • The many flaws of the primary studies were not mentioned in this review.
  • Papers not published in English were omitted.
  • The author who declared no conflict of interest has this affiliation: “Australasian Usui Reiki Association, Oakleigh, Victoria, Australia”.

I think we can postpone the re-writing of textbooks for a little while yet.

13 Responses to Reiki gets ‘strong support’ from a new review – is it time to re-write a few textbooks?

  • Reiki has its origin in the tradition of magnetic healing which was practised by the German physician Anton Mesmer. Magnetic healing also spread very fast to Asia in the European colonies and was adopted in the early 20th Century from somebody who in Reiki literaure is named Mikao Usui in Japan. Reiki is an artificial combination of the words rei for room or space and ki which means a natural phenomenon like breath smoke fog. It´s quite similar to the European tradition of magnetic healing or to “Jin Shin Jyutsu” ( see http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/jin+shin+jyutsu ) or to “Cranio Sacral Therapy” in the soft touch version or to “Biodynamic Osteopathy” ( see http://jamesjealous.com/mission-statement/ ).

    The explanation for all of this is based on the theory of vitalism which was part of the so called romantic phase of European medicine in the age of enlightenment.

    Even the founder of the osteopathic profession A.T. Still a rural country practitioner (please see http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199911043411910 ) who advertised himself as Magnetic Healer in 1874 came from this “profession” and with the decline of magnetic healing in the States he changed and advertised himself as a “Lightning Bone-Setter” for a while until he translated “bone” into Latin “osteo” and “setting” into the crude misleading Englisch-Latin “pathy” .
    So that´s the real origin of old fashioned osteopathic “philosophy” too or of the social movement nowadays of the European Osteopathic Manipulators. A higher German court followed the opinion that such an “osteopathy” is essentially unscientific and partially esoteric https://openjur.de/u/897943.html

  • I read so much rubbish in the name of Reiki and it took me a while to separate myself from the stupid claims.
    So before I comment as to what Reiki really is and its simplicity; I will say what it is not.
    It is not Spiritual or Natural.
    To explain that we have to go back to where we came from.
    We are all Souls who have incarnated into the 3D, to travel within a physical Body to learn and enjoy.
    We are here to be aware of vibrations, as it is with the vibrations that we acquire within our permanent personalty that we evolve to become aware of enlightenment and evolve.
    Those vibrations are acquired by our temporary personality within the 3D journey and are evaluated or rejected after we leave the 3D World.
    Some describe that as judgment.
    We start our 3D journey at the moment of conception, which some describe as a flash of light, and the start of development with a NeoSpiritual and then to the Psychic/ Mental/ Emotional and then the Physical and sometime within that development we as a Soul enter with its own Spiritual connection.
    With that development time line we are given Gifts which because of our free-will we can use or deny.
    Those Gifts are explained in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians’s (1 Corinthians’s 12) but that is ignored generally by Reiki Teachers.
    So there we all are. Born and developing, some aware and others not, and a mixture of claims and denial.

    So then we come to the system of Reiki!
    What really is it?
    To keep it simple; We are not born with it it and it does not just appear.
    It is a creation of Energy/ Frequency and Vibration which are developed from Language and Symbols and when written as sentences and applied to selected Chakras (energy centers) and then another action within the Attunement is used to retain the vibrations of selected Chakras (Energy centers).
    This action retains those vibrations within this lifetime.
    So is Reiki ‘Real’.

    Yes that is the basis of the system of Reiki but not in the way that many so called experts claim.It is simple but as you travel further into the system it does become more complicated but that is part of the journey.
    The energy produced is used to remove the dis-ease from the Psyche/ Mental/ Emotional/ Body and then the physical body can self-heal.

    http://www.thehouseofcalm.com

    • @MrT: An excellent commentary! Helpful to those of us interested in further exploring how mental illness manifests itself in believers in alternative ‘medicine’.
      Key words: 3D, vibrations, gifts, incarnated, awareness, so-called experts, dis-ease, attainment.
      You neglected to mention how we hire you for parties, weddings and comedy shows?

      • “3D” indeed! MrT appears to be trapped in a totally different 3D universe. Whereas, of course, our universe consists of the 4D spacetime [aka: 3D+1 space-time] continuum.

        • I have to admit that this concoction is a figment beyond imagination. The circus is wild on that one. If you people did not bother paying a visit (maybe you have done so in the past), I strongly suggest doing so. This level of hilarity might even be proof of another dimension (of waste products).

          A global extremum of hilarity is found with large letters in the top-right banner:

          Hi! Make your own website like I did. It’s easy, and absolutely free.

          Kind of makes me think… making a website shouldn’t be so easy after all.

    • Thank you for sharing this colourful description of your faith system.
      The similarities with Scientology as depicted in “South Park” are striking.

      I now understand that reiki is not just fake medicine, it is also a mish-mash of religious writings from all over the world.

    • Welcome back, Len. It’s always good to get insights into your world of utter fantasy. This post expands on your previous messages to the blog, which I now realize were relatively restrained. And you haven’t given us any of your previous stuff about how only you (and just a very few others) are truly knowledgeable enough to be reiki masters, which is very modest of you.

      I like the very last six words of your comment: “the physical body can self-heal”. Indeed it can — and it’s that very property that leads to so much posthoc confusion in peoples’ minds about something that might have contributed positively to healing (or, on careful reflection, it just might not have done a thing).

      • Do nothing and get paid for such an audacity here the vitalistic circle closes around the world calling it energy vibration breath of life or whatever.

        That’s the reason why the US Government in the 1930ties considered Osteopathy Homeopathy and Christian Science together as Medical Sects. Osteopathic Physicians in the USA changed in 1938 and are fully licensed physicians in all fields of modern medicine. But this doesn’t mean that all of them do so.

        Some again started to make business with magnetic healing quite similar to Reiki and renamed it as “Biodynamics in Osteopahy”. A lot of osteoathic manual practitioners around the world like this coffee ground
        http://jamesjealous.com/mission-statement/

  • Dr. Ernst, as is common on your blog, you choose the most spurious report or evidence about an alternative treatment so as to condemn it joyously while ignoring the strong evidence that the treatment works. Using the same approach, why don’t you condemn chemotherapy drugs because people die from this treatment?

  • Peter- meet Thomas.
    Thomas- this is Peter.

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