Reiki has been a regular topic on this blog (see for instance here, here and here). In my recent book (Alternative medicine, a critical assessment of 150 modalities), I evaluated it as follows:

Reiki is a form of paranormal or energy healing popularised by Japanese Mikao Usui (1865-1926). Rei means universal spirit (sometimes thought of as a supreme being) and ki is the assumed universal life energy.

  1. Reiki is based on the assumptions of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the existence of ‘chi’, the life-force that determines our health.
  2. Reiki practitioners believe that, with their hands-on healing method, they can transfer ‘healing energy’ to a patient which, in turn, stimulates the self-healing properties of the body. They assume that the therapeutic effects of this technique are obtained from a ‘universal life energy’ that provides strength, harmony, and balance to the body and mind.
  3. There is no scientific basis for such notions, and reiki is therefore not plausible.
  4. Reiki is used for a number of conditions, including the relief of stress, tension and pain.
  5. There have been several clinical trials testing the effectiveness of reiki. Unfortunately, their methodological quality is usually poor.
  6. A systematic review summarising this evidence concluded that the evidence is insufficient to suggest that reiki is an effective treatment for any condition. Therefore, the value of reiki remains unproven.[1] And a Cochrane review found that there is insufficient evidence to say whether or not Reiki is useful for people over 16 years of age with anxiety or depression or both.[2]
  7. Reiki appears to be generally safe, and serious adverse effects have not been reported. Some practitioners advise caution about using reiki in people with psychiatric illnesses because of the risk of bringing out underlying psychopathology.



SAFETY Positive
COST Positive





Now a new study has been published. Will it overturn my assessment?

This within-subject design experiment was conducted to test the feasibility and efficacy of Reiki to provide pain relief among paediatric patients undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT).

Paediatric patients undergoing HSCT during the inpatient phase in the Stem Cell Transplantation Unit were eligible to participate to the study. Short and medium effects were assessed investigating the increase or decrease of patient’s pain during three specific time periods of the day: morning of the Reiki session versus assessment before Reiki session (within subjects control period), assessment before Reiki session versus assessment after Reiki session (within subjects experimental period) and assessment after Reiki session versus morning the day after Reiki session (within subject follow-up period). The long-term effects were verified comparing the pain evolution in the day of the Reiki session with the following rest day.

The effect of 88 Reiki therapy sessions in nine patients was analysed following a short, medium, and long-term perspective. Repeated-measures analysis of variance revealed a significant difference among the three periods. A decrease of the pain occurred in the experimental period in short and medium term, while in the follow-up period, the pain level remained stable.

The authors concluded that this study demonstrates the feasibility of using Reiki therapy in pediatric cancer patients undergoing HSCT. Furthermore, these findings evidence that trained paediatric oncology nurses can insert Reiki into their clinical practice as a valid instrument for diminishing suffering from cancer in childhood.

This is basically an observational study without a control group. Therefore it cannot possibly test the efficacy of Reiki. The conclusion that Reiki is a valid instrument for diminishing suffering from cancer in childhood is therefore simply incorrect. The only rational verdict therefore remains this: REIKI FAILS TO GENERATE MORE GOOD THAN HARM.

The sooner we stop misleading the public about it, the better for us all.

26 Responses to Does this new test of Reiki’s ‘efficacy’ overturn my previous assessment?

  • The authors’ inherent bias is revealed by the title of the paper.

  • Reiki is taught in many university programs nowadays, at least in the USA. One of them is the ‘Doctor of Nursing Practice’ program at the University of Minneapolis. A DNP graduate is explaining her skills and their application here.

    One wonders if everyone is forgetting that you can provide the most essential medicine of all, TLC – Tender Loving Care, without maing a lengthy ridiculous religious ritual of it and waffling about non-existent magic? Most rational people dislike such nonsense and many have told me they rather make an excuse to dismiss services of that kind than being subject to ridiculous rituals.
    I think you could reach a much bigger target group with telling the truth and providing magic-free meditation and relaxation. I learned simple, effective and easily applied techniques for this and used them very frequently throughout my carreer as a surgeon. They always work. An example is a rapid relaxation esercise I always used before inserting a tube through the nose into the stomach. Always helped.
    My first and best teacher in this respect was actually our phys-ed teacher in high-school. The marketing buzz-word “yoga” hadn’t become popular then and much less “reiki”. It was simply called relaxation.

    • I think most good physicians do something similar without giving it fancy names; it used to be called ‘good bedside manners’.

    • Björn- TLC is not Reiki and where does a lengthy ridiculous religious ritual and waffling about non-existent magic come into it?

      I have been teaching and practising Reiki for around 20 years and not come across it. Maybe that’s because it’s not included in Mainstream Reiki practice. Repeating myself I know, but should anyone be serious in increasing their knowledge, do what most do, contact an appropriate organisation (it will be explained fully) or see a practitioner. First hand experience must be superior to assumed knowledge.

      Yes I could very easily be one of the many who have told you they would not want to be subjected to ridiculous rituals. Good decision. But it doesn’t apply to Reiki.

      Who is wanting to reach a much larger target group? (Whatever it means) it cant be the Reiki teachers. It seems Reiki gains in popularity daily and I promise I don’t stand in my high street waving a Reiki Banner.

      Reiki is not hypnotherapy which doesn’t work for me. My mind remains non suggestive. But during Reiki I am very relaxed, guess it’s that alpha state, sometimes I sleep and feel energised, relaxed afterwards and …..well it is amazing. Maybe that’s why it’s so popular.

      ‘The marketing buzz word yoga hadn’t become popular…,. ‘ How can yoga be a buzz word? Yoga is yoga – been around for centuries. I benefit enormously from yoga but it isn’t Reiki.

      There is much conflation here, in the hammer to crack a nut sceptics’ way of denigrating all CAM. I think critical discussion is good, but loses any credibility with unsound critique. Just my opinion – from past experiences there is no value in getting engaged again. But hope this helps

  • Can you tell me more—or point to an online reference—about the rapid relaxation technique? I have a couple of my own (that are stunningly helpful) but am always eager to learn more. Thanks, in advance.

    • Bjorn might be able to do that

    • Ron, do you have any evidence that it’s stunningly helpful? Or are you just fooling yourself? (Remember, Bjorn’s “They always work.” and “Always helped.” isn’t evidence.)

      • They work stunningly—and always—*for me.* (I think that’s allowed, isn’t it?)

        I never claimed it was “evidence” nor am I promoting is as some so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). Of course, it’s anecdotal—unlike some people on this list, I know the difference.

        I am not fooling myself. They are not crazy wacko ideas like drinking energized water, sticking needles in my face or having my spinal column adjusted.

        I have simply found a couple of strategies that seem to bring me—me!—the relaxation I seek. Mind over matter? Power of suggestion? Placebo? Newton’s 14th Law of Shut-Up-Sit-Down-Close-Your-Eyes-and-Breath-Slowly? I don’t know. But they work. For me. And I don’t care why.

        I am not claiming to cure cancer or solve poverty. They are relaxation techniques. Simple.

        Given that they do no harm, do not prevent me from getting real treatment for some medical problem and are not being promoted to pry money from the wallets of unsuspecting people, I’d say I’m pretty safe in my own little hypo-boring chamber/bubble.

        And I am interested in learning other techniques.

        Bjorn, please feel free to share. Thanks, in advance.

        • “They work stunningly—and always—*for me.* (I think that’s allowed, isn’t it?)”

          Not according to the little red banner up there ↑.

          “I am not fooling myself.”

          And exactly how do you know that?

      • @”jm”

        Don´t force us to dislike you.

        • I would never do that Bjorn.

          But just to be safe…close your eyes…take a deep breath…visualize bunnies…

          • Oh bless… Your contributions to the dialog here are always so valuable and wellcome. Let us hope you will have good doctors attending to you when you really need. Now go out and play and let the grownups discuss in peace.

            Note to self: I really, really need to stop feeding the trolls.

          • Looks like your relaxation techniques don’t work every time, Bjorn. You seem kind of…stressed. Did you visualize the bunnies?

            As far as your grownup discussion goes, what you’re describing to Ron isn’t a lot different than reiki. Just different rituals, models, etc. Same same but different.

    • Well Ron, the techniques are not from any book or articles just application of common sense, simple techniques and bedside manners I have learn’t along the way from others and assembled for my own application. Let me try to describe some points in a semi-organised way, using the NG-tube insertion as example:

      Relaxed atmosphere – sitting down yourself while you talk to the patient. It is very effective if you at least seem relaxed, even if it is just for a short moment.
      Honesty – telling the patient up front what is happening, why it is important to do the procedure and what will happen and what will not feel good. Usually better to let the surprises be positive.
      Compassion – telling him you have tried it yourself and/or this is something that you know how will feel and that you will use a technique that is well tried and tested.
      Soothing, informative vocal reassurance – Telling the patient you will not let anything happen unexpectedly and you will guide him through it. Informing how he can use breathing to relax and then you tell him you are going to coach and control his breathing.
      Human contact – Very important factor. You hold the patient by the hand from the beginning, take the pulse to initiate the contact (very effective trick to get a chance to provide this essential factor) and then hold on to the hand while you do the preparative talk. I use hand-holding in this way very often when working bed-side. Many things can be learn’t by examinig the hands, whuch gives opportunity for contact. Then when you do the NG-procedure you hold the patients head instructing him that he has to keep his chin towards the chest and must not raise the head and that you will help by holding his head, which I do with my left hand/arm. Explain that holding this position will make sure the tube goes the right way (it does).
      Controlled breathing – You soothingly tell the patient that you are going to control his breathing for him because if he starts to breathe too fast he will get tense and it will feel much worse (truth).
      I won’t go into details here with the local anesthetic gel and how you prepare the tube and such. This is just an overview to give the idea of the relaxation technique.

      If you don’t feel that the patient is goingenough to relax while you prepare as above, I use the techniques learned in high-school, which can also help immensely when you are e.g. helping a patient in acute pain while you wait for the drugs to work etc.
      I explain why it is important to get relaxed, that pain is very much worse if you are tense etc.
      I tell the patient we will do a session to help with this. I use a soothing voice make the atmosphere relaxed, sit down myself and let others around sit down if possible. Then I go through a series of concentration exercises starting with the breathing and let the pat. close their eyes concentrate alternatively on various body parts, e.g. the left arm then right leg etc. and tell them that it is getting heavier and heavier. I usually don’t have to spend much time with this before the patient is feeling much better. I often think of this as a sort of “hypnosis-light”? It is also easy to use for youself.
      I hope this hasty description gives you an idea of what I am talking about.

      • Thank you, Bjorn, for the play-by-play. It was very informative.

        I am not surprised that you put such a heavy emphasis on touch. I’ve come to believe that this is central to the human experience. We were built to connect and never is it more important than when we are frightened.

        (Also, I agree with you about feeding the trolls. I am guilty of it myself, on occasion. Best to walk by and ignore. I suppose it’s a subject for a different blog but I often wonder what makes some people get pleasure out of doing that. Are they that lonely that ANY attention is good attention? Are they just trying to make a mess of other people’s lives so the mess their own life is in doesn’t look so bad? Curious, isn’t it?)

        Thanks, again.

        • I might add Ron, that touch (in provider-patient interaction) is not only good for your patient, it is not any less good for the provider of health care. But it has to be used with care. Some people may find it strange so I use the pulse-taking and examination of the hand very effective to introduce the touch and sense how the patient reacts to holding the hand. As I said before, you will also find a lot of information about the person and its state of health by studying the hand 🙂

      • Bjorn: “I use a soothing voice make the atmosphere relaxed, sit down myself and let others around sit down if possible.”

        I just reread your response and, for some reason, skipped right over this the first time.

        A friend—who happens to be a psychotherapist—told me that to connect, it’s much easier when you are at the same level as the person with whom you are trying to connect. Sensible, of course, but important, nevertheless. When you are all sitting, you are all at the same height. I’ve heard this from counsellors and, even my partner, who runs a large, not-for-profit, daycare. Getting down to their level is critical to getting children to connect.

        Of course, with some people, it’s almost impossible to get low enough to connect with them.

        Oh, there I go again, feeding the trolls. I have to stop doing that! 🙂

      • Björn- ‘oh bless …..’ I have just re read your post in case I missed something. But no – ‘let us hope you have good doctors attending to you when you really need’ (yes I do thank you – very good). ‘now go out and play and let the grownups discuss in peace’ Well I have beautiful grandchildren to play with, so that’s not a difficult compliance.

        If what you are really conveying is you don’t want any response that is different to your opinion, say so: maybe Professor Ernst could weed out those posters with a different view to yours ( though it’s going to be a pretty boring read for those who check in)

        I remember reading a while ago you weren’t going to feed the trolls in response to a comment, and I also remember thinking but you are the troll.

        I kept on point with my previous post on Reiki – having been involved for many years I felt I could address the inaccuracies, pointing out valid contacts if you were serious in your quest for knowledge. ( and you link a fellow poster ??)

        Out of curiosity I researched a definition of troll : it is defined as creating discord on the internet by starting quarrels or upsetting people by posting inflammatory or off topic messages in an online community etc etc.

        Respectfully, I have been respectful, did not start (as I responded respectfully) a quarrel , and was very much on topic. You in the other hand ….. are posting about doctors and playing. Reiki was the cogent point.

        • Angela writes about Bjorn: “You in the other hand ….. are posting about doctors and playing. Reiki was the cogent point.”

          First of all, I would describe an argument for Reiki as anything but cogent. Instead, I would describe such arguments using words such as groundless, unconvincing and even bizarre or, my favourite, wacko.

          Nevertheless, he was not “posting about doctors and playing.” He was responding to my very specific request for more information about the techniques he uses to relax patients. And, I might add, he did a very good job of answering. Funny how that happens when you stick with the program. May I suggest you do the same.

          WARNING: Troll-feeding ends here. Say what you want (trolls always want the last word) but you will not get another response from me. I responded here only because I felt it my responsibility to TRY to explain to you that his response was intended for me. Not you. Yes, there is a world outside of Angela Land.

          • Ron – whoever Björn’s post was addressed to – and if you claim it that’s fine, it didn’t add to the discussion; sadly, gone are the days when you knew who was being responded to. As an aside Frank Odds always made it clear and we all knew our position within the debate or whatever it’s called on this forum.

            And as for your :WARNING : Trolll-feeding ends here: that can only enhance this blog.

            Respectfully, can I borrow your words? ‘Say what you want (trolls always want the last word) but you will not get another response from me’

  • I will put it this way. During an Attunement to the system and if there is another Affirmation used during the last stage of the Progression, Retention is applied then everything changes by the elimination of the Hypotheticals and Assumption to be able to prove its existence.
    You are told that you now have reiki for life, really!, do you know that a test exists for Reiki, well there is.
    You are testing for the retention of the Affirmations used during the Attunements.
    How is that done, by simply placing hands of a person over their Crown or on a proxy, with the proxy you have to use a persons name.
    What do you expect to happen? If there is retention of the Affirmations then there will be a feeling of Warmth/ Heat/ Cold or just not being able to enter the body. If however there is a feeling of going down into the body then there is no retention, in other words “NO REIKI”, I go to different psychic and alternative displays and when I see advertisements about Reiki I will ask as to what is it and the General answer is always “It is Universal Life Force Energy” in other words Hypotheticals and Assumptions. I then ask them to place their hands over may Crown and what they feel a variety of feelings but never able to enter my Crown, sometimes they will let me put my hands over their Crown but there is always the one who will not so I just ask their name and do a distant. I have yet to find anybody that retains the Affirmations.
    Yes the Sceptcs will all jump and so it does not happen but have they ever had any experience with Reiki, others may say that it is being taught all over so it must work again unless there is retention there is “NO REIKI”.
    So what really is it? It is working with the Frequency of Energy and Vibration. Words, Symbols, Numbers are used as sentences (Affirmations) these are used and placed into selected Chakras (Affirmations) and at the completion of the Progression (Level) another Affirmation is used for the retention.
    The retention can and should be tested for retention. It is the retention that changes the direction of Reiki from the Hypothetical and Assumptions to the reality with the Emotional and Physical. It will be there for your life.
    If the recognised symbols are used, there are 4, they can be written for the Affirmations in 6 different ways and used in 3 blocks for each Progression.
    Is Reiki real YES but only if there is retention.

  • Next time such Reiki is tried for relaxation, just raise your hand and turn it over your back and pat your back and say “Well Done” 😀

    Does it really work ?

  • Thanks for providing a template of metrics we can apply to level the playing field !!!

    CG DVM

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