Reiki is a Japanese form of energy healing used predominantly for stress reduction and relaxation. It is based on the notion that a mystical “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive.

This study was conducted by researchers from the Department of Elderly Care, Vocational School of Health Services, Mardin Artuklu University, Mardin, Turkey, and the Internal Medicine Nursing Department, Mersin University Faculty of Nursing, Mersin, Turkey. Its aim was to determine the effect of Reiki when applied before upper gastrointestinal endoscopy on levels of anxiety, stress, and comfort. It was designed as a single-blind, randomized, sham-controlled study and conducted between February and July 2021.

Patients who were scheduled for gastrointestinal endoscopy and who met the inclusion criteria were randomized into three groups:

  1. Reiki,
  2. sham Reiki,
  3. control (no intervention).

A total of 159 patients participated in the study. In groups 1 and 2, Reiki and sham Reiki was applied once for approximately 20 to 25 minutes before gastrointestinal endoscopy.

When the Reiki group was compared to the sham Reiki and control groups following the intervention, the decrease in the levels of patient stress (P < .001) and anxiety (P < .001) and the increase in patient comfort (P < .001) were found to be statistically significant.

The authors concluded that Reiki applied to patients before upper gastrointestinal endoscopy was effective in reducing stress and anxiety and in increasing comfort.

As this paper is behind a paywall, I wrote to the authors and asked for a reprint. Unfortunately, I received no reply at all. Thus, I find it difficult to comment. Yet, the study might be important, particularly because there are not many sham-controlled trials of Reiki.

The abstract merely informs us that Reiki was better than sham Reiki. It does not tell us what constituted the sham intervention. Crucially, we also cannot know whether the patients were adequately blinded or whether they were able to tell the sham from the verum.

In the absence of this information, I am merely able to state that Reiki lacks plausibility and is most unlikely, in my view, to have any specific therapeutic effects. This means that the most likely explanation for the extraordinary results of this study is the de-blinding of some of the patients in group 2 or some other source of bias that cannot be identified from just studying the abstract.




If someone can send me the full paper, I’d be more than happy to clarify the apparent mystery.

10 Responses to Reiki: effective in reducing stress and anxiety?

  • It’d likewise be interesting to compare (for example) petting an animal, listening to nice music, or being told jokes.

    I’d also be highly interested in knowing what the sham was, and how it was described to the participants, as well as the length of time between “treatment” and procedure, as well as how a people were selected, whether the gastroenterologist was blinded, and differences in the procedure itself.

    So many questions, and the lack of availability of the paper is highly suspect. Since it’s likely to be junk, I would also be extremely loathe to actually pay for it.

    It’s logical that people may find Reiki relaxing, but temporarily only and not for the kooky reasons given. I say that as an ex Reiki “master”. LOL.

  • So first they place their hands out and have you stand still. Then in the deafening silence (much like the response you received from you requests Edzard Ernst) they circumvent the perimeter of your body and feel/explore mysterious waves, which apparently provide hidden and vital information that will enable them to discover a multitude of hidden health issues lurking within. All this while never actually touching you or coming in direct contact. Amazing.

    Following this scientific discovery process and “free” personal health evaluation, you will then be shown every high-priced “treatment” concoction available to man. Fortunately, they have all these natural remedies on hand in the back room….but hurry, you best buy today as stock is dwindling fast.

    Truly we are so lucky to be living in the days of modern science.

  • ‘Reiki’ is Japanese for ‘Hypnosis’ (IMHO.)

    All the necessary ‘energy’ is between the ears.

    Now’t wrong with that, but integrity requires therapist to be honest aabout what they are doing – and obtain informed consent on that basis.

  • I had now the opportunity to study the full article [thanks Dan for sending me the paper]. It is clear to me that de-blinding of patients is a realistic explanation. Reiki was conducted by 1 reiki practitioner; sham was done by a non-Reiki nurse. Thus the former might have used verbal or non-verbal influences on the patients. There was no check on the success of blinding.
    The solution to this problem would have been simple: blindfold patients + check the success of blinding.

    • LOL. I wonder exactly how the sham was performed, what was said, how the person looked and acted, etc. And who took the various measures. And I still wonder how it even got past ethics, let alone got funding – it was evidently a completely incompetent design, as suspected. I’d bet a bunch of high school kids could design a better test than that.

    • Mr Ernst, the solution for an objective reiki study is very, very simple:
      Since distant healing works equally well, we can have the reiki practitioner in a different room than the patients. The patients will receive either Reiki or nothing, not knowing where they belong. If the Reiki group feels any difference, then distant reiki (and generally reiki) works.

  • Very well! Also in pranic healing: they say they can heal wounds, stop hair loss, smooth wrinkles even cure eyesight problems. It’d be very easy to prove pranic healing if there was a study conducted for one of the above parameters. Pranic healing studies so far were done in order to see if the patient relaxes. But that’s difficult to prove for sure, whereas a blinded study for eyesight problem would be awesome if it brings positive results. I wonder id there is any such study yet…

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