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What is Reiki?

Image showing Reiki being practisedReiki is a system of spiritual healing or ‘energy’ medicine which is similar to the laying on of hands. Reiki healers believe in the exist- ence of a universal energy which they can access in order to generate healing effects in humans, animals and plants. This universal energy flows through a reiki healer’s hands when he or she places the palms upon or close to the recipient. This allegedly enhances the recipient’s own healing potential. However, the concepts of reiki are contrary to our understanding of the laws of nature. The approach therefore lacks biological plausibility.

Reiki is popular far beyond Japan, where it was developed in the early part of the twentieth century by Mikao Usui during a period of fasting and meditation on Mount Kurama. It is used for treating all medical conditions, for improving quality of life or for preventing disease.

A treatment session would normally involve the fully clothed patient lying down on a massage table. Then the healer may or may not touch the client while transmitting healing energy. A session may last for about an hour and most patients would experience it as intensely relaxing.

What is the Evidence?

There are several clinical trials of reiki and some of their results seem to suggest that this approach is beneficial for a range of conditions. However, most of this research is seriously flawed. For instance, many of these unreliable studies compare patients who elected to receive reiki with others who had no treatment at all. Any positive outcome in such a trial is likely to be due to a placebo effect, or to the attention those patients receive, and not necessarily to the reiki intervention itself. A critical analysis of the existing evidence therefore fails to demonstrate that reiki is effective.

There is, of course, a danger that reiki is used in serious conditions as a replacement for effective treatments, particularly as reiki practitioners claim to help any type of patient. There are, however, no direct risks associated with this approach.

Reiki is a popular form of spiritual healing, but it has no basis in science. The trial evidence fails to show its effectiveness for any condition.

For More Information:

This extract is taken from “Trick or Treatment?” (Transworld), a book that contains a series of 1-page summaries looking at the evidence for and against a range of alternative therapies. The authors of the book are Simon Singh (founder of the Good Thinking Society) and Edzard Ernst (the world’s first professor of complementary medicine