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Reiki (Benefits, History, and Research)

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Benefits, History, and Research reiki benefits


Mikao Usui was a Japanese spiritual seeker. He practiced Kiko, which is similar to Qi Gong or Chi Kung, consisting of breathing exercises, meditation, and movement. It could be described as a ‘moving meditation’.

He studied medicine, psychology, religion, and spiritual development. He was a member of a metaphysical group called Rei Jyutu Ka.

In 1914, at the age of 49, he decided to become a Buddhist Monk. In 1922, he went on a 21-day retreat of meditation, prayers, chanting and fasting at Mount Kurama in Kyoto, Japan. While standing under a waterfall, he did a meditation designed to open and purify the Crown Chakra.

This caused him to have a spiritual awakening on the final day of his retreat. A powerful light entered the top of his head. His awareness was expanded and he realized a great power had entered him. He intuitively knew he could now heal others without depleting his own energy.

People receiving Reiki often express a sense of connection to their own innate spirituality, or inner source of meaning. There is, however, no religious belief system attached to Reiki.

Life-Force Energy

Working as a support mechanism to the body, Reiki re-establishes a normal flow of ki (life-force energy) throughout the various layers of a person’s being, which in turn can enhance and accelerate the body’s innate healing ability.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) in the United States, describes Reiki as a complementary and alternative medicine practice that uses putative (yet to be measured) energy fields, or biofields, to affect health.

Some Reiki practitioners find that Reiki resembles meditation as Reiki energy in the practitioner’s hands arises spontaneously in response to the individual recipient’s need for balance at that particular time.


The number of medical publications mentioning Reiki along with other energy therapies continues to increase, with 1632 such articles published between 1994 and 2010 according to a pubmed search. Sixty-nine of these papers are dedicated specifically to the effects of Reiki.

The majority of published research confirms the positive effects of Reiki on stress [Cuneo 2010, Bowden 2010, Vitale 2009], and on pain and anxiety [Richeson 2010, Meland 2009, Pocotte 2008, Potter 2007, Vitale 2006, Olson 2003, Miles 2003(b), Wardell 2001, Olson 1997].

Biochemical and Physiological Changes

The biochemical and physiological changes in Reiki recipients, such as decrease in heart rate, decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, decrease in EMG activity and increase in skin temperature are typical of relaxation [Wardell 2001, Mackay 2004]. Effects of Reiki on heart function have been positive (such as improved heart rate variability) and are possibly related to stress-reduction [Friedman 2010, Sharma 2000]. Long-lasting reduction of psychological stress has been noticed [Shore 2004], in average recipients, and Reiki was successfully used for rehabilitation of torture survivors in Sarajevo [Kennedy 2001].

Reiki has been administered in both emergency rooms and operating rooms [Miles 2005, Alandydy 1999, Sawyer 1998], as well as during childbirth [Rakestraw 2009-2010]. Positive effects of Reiki on the immune system are deemed possible through salivary IgA increase [Wardell 2001]. Cancer patients, including terminal patients, tend to benefit from Reiki, reporting better quality of life and less fatigue [Bossi 2008, Miles 2007, Tsang 2007], and the use of Reiki in palliative care is increasing [Burden 2005, Miles 2004].

Reiki has been recommended for integrative care [Schiller 2003, Eliopoulos 2003]. It is becoming a popular supportive therapy in the nursing practice [Lipinkski 2006, Gallob 2003, Nield-Anderson 2001].

Influence of Reiki on Brain Biochemistry

The studies of use of Reiki in psychotherapy [LaTorre 2005] are well justified since Reiki has been associated with changes in awareness from dissonance and turbulence to harmony and well-being [Ring 2009]. It has also been found beneficial for Alzheimer’s patients, improving memory and mental functioning [Crawford 2006]. The influence of Reiki on brain biochemistry at the molecular level has been studied on patients with seizure disorder and was beneficial [A & Kurup 2003].

Furthermore, the state of Reiki recipients has been captured in the following description: “Participants described a liminal state of awareness in which sensate and symbolic phenomena were experienced in a paradoxical way. Liminal states and paradoxical experiences… are related to the holistic nature and individual variation of the healing experience. These findings suggest that many linear models used in researching subtle energy therapies are not complex enough to capture the experience of participants [Engebretson 2002].

Complimentary Therapy

As Reiki is gaining popularity among patients (according to a Canadian national survey published in 2007, 1.2 million adults and 161,000 children received one or more sessions of an energy therapy such as Reiki in the previous year), the research of Reiki as a complementary therapy is also gaining speed. The increased number of publications on Reiki helps its wider acceptance in the medical community.