is a form of alternative medicine developed in 1922 by Japanese Buddhist Mikao Usui. Since originating in Japan, Reiki has been adapted into varying cultural traditions across the world. Reiki practitioners use a technique they call palm healing or hands-on healing by which a “universal energy” is allegedly transferred through the palms of the practitioner to a patient in order to encourage healing.
Reiki is considered pseudoscience. Clinical research has not shown Reiki to be effective as a medical treatment for any medical condition. The American Cancer Society, state that Reiki should not be a replacement for conventional treatment.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the English alternative medicine word reiki or Reiki is etymologically from Japanese reiki “mysterious atmosphere, miraculous sign”, combining rei “soul, spirit” and ki “vital energy”—the Sino-Japanese reading of Chinese língqì “numinous atmosphere”. The earliest recorded English usage dates to 1975.
The Japanese reiki is commonly written as レイキ in katakana syllabary or as 霊気 in shinjitai “new character form” kanji. It compounds the words rei and ki . Ki is additionally defined as “… spirits; one’s feelings, mood, frame of mind; temperament, temper, disposition, one’s nature, character; mind to do something, intention, will; care, attention, precaution”. Some reiki translation equivalents from Japanese-English dictionaries are: “feeling of mystery”, “an atmosphere of mystery”, and “an ethereal atmosphere ; a spiritual presence.” Besides the usual Sino-Japanese pronunciation reiki, these kanji 霊気 have an alternate Japanese reading, namely ryōge, meaning “demon; ghost” .
Chinese língqì 靈氣 was first recorded in the Neiye “Inward Training” section of the Guanzi, describing early Daoist meditation techniques. “That mysterious vital energy within the mind: One moment it arrives, the next it departs. So fine, there is nothing within it; so vast, there is nothing outside it. We lose it because of the harm caused by mental agitation.” Modern Standard Chinese língqì is translated by Chinese-English dictionaries as: ” spiritual influence or atmosphere”; “1. intelligence; power of understanding; 2. supernatural power or force in fairy tales; miraculous power or force”; and “1. spiritual influence ; 2. ingeniousness; cleverness”.
According to the inscription on his memorial stone, Usui taught his system of Reiki to more than 2,000 people during his lifetime. While teaching Reiki in Fukuyama, Usui suffered a stroke and died on 9 March 1926.
Research, critical evaluation, and controversy
Basis and effectiveness
Reiki’s teachings and adherents claim that qi is physiological and can be manipulated to treat a disease or condition. The existence of qi has not been established by medical research. Most research on Reiki is poorly designed and prone to bias. There is no reliable empirical evidence that Reiki is helpful for treating any medical condition, although some physicians have said it might help promote general well-being.
Reiki is used as an illustrative example of pseudoscience in scholarly texts and academic journal articles. Emily Rosa became the youngest person to publish in the medical literature at 11 years old when her school science project was published by the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrating that Reiki pracitioners could not detect the alleged “life force” under experimental conditions.
Rhonda McClenton states, “The reality is that Reiki, under the auspices of pseudo-science, has begun the process of becoming institutionalized in settings where people are already very vulnerable.” Ferraresi et al. state, “In spite of its diffusion, the baseline mechanism of action has not been demonstrated…” Wendy Reiboldt states about Reiki, “Neither the forces involved nor the alleged therapeutic benefits have been demonstrated by scientific testing.” Several authors have pointed to the vitalistic energy which Reiki is claimed to treat. Larry Sarner states, “Ironically, the only thing that distinguishes Reiki from Therapeutic Touch is that it involves actual touch.”
A guideline published by the American Academy of Neurology, the American Association of Neuromuscular & Electrodiagnostic Medicine, and the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation states, “Reiki therapy should probably not be considered for the treatment of PDN .” Canadian sociologist Susan J. Palmer has listed Reiki as among the pseudoscientific healing methods used by cults in France to attract members.
In April 2016 Reiki treatments were being made available at St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City. Utah. “We have two reiki masters if this is something patients are interested in,” said Rachel King, the hospital’s marketing coordinator.
Issues in the literature
One systematic review of 9 randomized clinical trials conducted by Lee, Pittler, and Ernst found several issues in the literature on Reiki. First, several of these studies are actually funded by the US National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Second, depending on the tools used to measure depression and anxiety, the results varied and didn’t appear to have much reliability or validity. Furthermore, the scientific community has had issues in replicating the findings of studies that support Reiki. The authors of the review also found issues in reporting methodology in some of the literature, in that often there were parts left out completely or not clearly described. Frequently in these studies, sample sizes are not calculated and adequate allocation and conceal procedures were also not followed. In their review, Lee, Pittler, and Ernst found that studies without double-blind procedures tended to exaggerate treatment effects as well. Additionally, there was no control for differences in experience of the Reiki administers and they found that even the same healer could produce different outcomes in different studies. None of the studies in the review provided rationale for the treatment duration in such that there is a need for an optimal dosage of Reiki to be established for further research. Another questionable issue with the Reiki research included in this systematic review was that no study reported any adverse effects. It is clear that this area of research requires further studies to be conducted that follow proper scientific method, especially since the main theory on which the therapy is based has never been scientifically proven.
Safety concerns for Reiki sessions are very low and are akin to those of many complementary and alternative medicine practices. Some physicians and health care providers however believe that patients may unadvisedly substitute proven treatments for life-threatening conditions with unproven alternative modalities including Reiki, thus endangering their health.
Catholic Church concerns
In March 2009, the Committee on Doctrine of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued the document Guidelines for Evaluating Reiki as an Alternative Therapy, in which they declared that the practice of Reiki was superstition, being neither truly faith healing nor science-based medicine. Since this announcement, some Catholic lay people have continued to practice reiki, but it has been removed from many Catholic hospitals and other institutions.
Glossary of alternative medicine
Laying on of hands
List of ineffective cancer treatments