Bioenergy therapies are among the popular so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) treatments. They are used for many diseases, including cancer. Many studies deal with the advantages and disadvantages of bioenergy therapies as an addition to established treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation in the treatment of cancer. However, a systematic overview of this evidence is thus far lacking. For this reason, the available evidence was reviewed and critically examined in this paper.
A systematic search was conducted searching five electronic databases (Embase, Cochrane, PsychInfo, CINAHL and Medline) to find randomized clinical trials concerning the use, effectiveness and potential harm of bioenergy therapies including Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, Healing Touch and Polarity Therapy on cancer patients.
From all 2477 search results, 21 publications with 1375 patients were included in this systematic review. The patients treated with bioenergy therapies were mainly diagnosed with breast cancer. The main outcomes measured were anxiety, depression, mood, fatigue, quality of life (QoL), comfort, well-being, neurotoxicity, pain, and nausea. The studies were predominantly of moderate quality and for the most part found no effect. In terms of QoL, pain and nausea, there were improved short-term effects of the interventions, but no long-term differences were detectable. The risk of side effects from bioenergy therapies appears to be relatively small. Most studies only had a passive control group. Accordingly, in contrast to the active bioenergy therapies groups, attention effects may strongly affect the results. In the comparisons with an active control group, for example a sham group, no effects were detectable.
The authors concluded that, considering the methodical limitations of the included studies, studies with high study quality could not find any difference between bioenergy therapies and active (placebo, massage, RRT, yoga, meditation, relaxation training, companionship, friendly visit) and passive control groups (usual care, resting, education). Only studies with a low study quality were able to show significant effects.
This conclusion will not surprise anyone who is capable of rational thinking. Energy healing methods are implausible; further research into this area is a pure wast of money and arguably unethical.