Can Energy Therapies Affect the Physical Body?

By Sandy Priester.

We know that Reiki and Healing Touch can impact mental/emotional well-being. There are dozens of studies that indicate that they can lower stress and depression, and promote relaxation. However, can these therapies create change in the physical body independent of the mental/emotional state?

A recent publication by CHI (The Consciousness and Healing Initiative) highlighted studies that use biomarkers (physical evidence) that demonstrate that this may, in fact, be happening.  Here is information from their recent Subtle Energy and Biofield Healing: Evidence, Practice, and Future Directions publication.

“Several studies indicate that biofield healing approaches affect physical systems, including downstream immune and hormone regulation in humans, as well as tumor growth and cytokine function in animal models. With respect to the effects of biofield therapies on biological outcomes and processes, we highlight a few recent studies that have been published in relatively high-impact peer-review scientific journals:

  • Results from a randomized, placebo-controlled trial on a biofield therapy (Hands on Healing) for cancer related fatigue, conducted at UC San Diego and published in the journal Cancer, reported that biofield healing markedly reduced fatigue and improved cortisol variability in breast cancer survivors. The change in cortisol variability was unique for the healing group and not explained by measured placebo variables, including treatment expectation, sense of connection with practitioner, or belief that the therapy was helping. (1)
  • Results from a randomized, controlled trial comparing a biofield therapy (Healing Touch) with relaxation in cervical cancer patients found that the biofield therapy not only significantly reduced depression in these patients, but also uniquely affected the preservation of natural killer cell cytotoxicity, compared to both relaxation and wait list control groups. The study was conducted at the University of Iowa and published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. (2)
  • Results from a randomized, controlled study conducted at the University of Arizona found that a biofield therapy (Reiki) significantly reduced noise-induced microvascular leakage in mice compared to sham Reiki and noise alone. It was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. (3)
  • Results from a randomized, controlled study conducted at the University of Connecticut found that a biofield therapy (Therapeutic Touch) significantly reduced tumor metastasis, cancer related cytokines and lymphocyte splenic cell subsets, as compared to mock therapeutic touch, but did not affect tumor size, in a mouse model of cancer. It was published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (4)
  • Results from a recent controlled study conducted at MD Anderson Cancer Center found that biofield therapy exposure (to an individual healer) resulted in suppressed tumor growth and reductions in cancer related cytokines, in a mouse model of cancer. It was published in Integrative Cancer Therapies. (5)

These studies suggest that biofield therapies can affect clinical and biological outcomes, with studies on animals and cells showing that these therapies do not function only through placebo effects.”

Citations and Links:

  1. Jain, S., Pavlik, D., Distefan, J., Bruyere, R. R. L., Acer, J., Garcia, R., Coulter, I., Ives, J., Roesch, S. C., Jonas, W., & Mills, P. J. (2012). Complementary medicine for fatigue and cortisol variability in breast cancer survivors. Cancer, 118(3), 777–787.
  2. Lutgendorf, S. K., Mullen-Houser, E., Russell, D., Degeest, K., Jacobson, G., Hart, L., Bender, D., Anderson, B., Buekers, T. E., Goodheart, M. J., Antoni, M. H., Sood, A. K., & Lubaroff, D. M. (2010). Preservation of Immune Function in Cervical Cancer Patients during Chemoradiation using a Novel Integrative Approach. Brain Behav Immun, 24(8), 1231–1240.
  3. Baldwin, A. L., & Schwartz, G. E. (2006). Personal interaction with a Reiki practitioner decreases noise induced microvascular damage in an animal model. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 12(1), 15–22.
  4. Gronowicz, G., Secor, E. R., Flynn, J. R., Jellison, E. R., & Kuhn, L. T. (2015). Therapeutic Touch Has Significant Effects on Mouse Breast Cancer Metastasis and Immune Responses but Not Primary Tumor Size. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 1-10.
  5. Yang, P., Jiang, Y., Rhea, P. R., Coway, T., Chen, D., Gagea, M., Harribance, S. L., & Cohen, L. (2019). Human Biofield Therapy and the Growth of Mouse Lung Carcinoma. Integrative Cancer Therapies, 18.
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