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How Reiki Heals

How Reiki Heals: 

The Science Behind Energy Medicine


In our increasingly stressful modern culture, disease is becoming ever more prevalent. Opioid abuse has become an epidemic, as many people suffer from chronic pain and stress related illnesses. In response to our dire health dilemma, we are witnessing the return of classical and holistic healthcare modalities. Now more than ever, people are turning to holistic treatments to naturally improve their health and wellbeing.

Reiki is one such modality with promising results. Reiki is now being used regularly in emergency rooms, nursing homes, psychiatric clinics, operating rooms, pediatrics units, and rehabilitation centers. It’s being used to treat a variety of illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, autism, infertility, neurodegenerative disorders, fatigue disorders, and more. Recent studies of Reiki and energy medicine therapies have been shown to produce clinically significant effects, such as wound repair, regeneration, pain reduction, and decreased inflammation. 1

What is Reiki?

The word ‘Reiki’ is composed of the Japanese word ‘Rei’ which means universal or highest, and ‘ki’ which means subtle energy. Reiki is not a religious belief, rather, it is a hands-on technique to reduce stress and enhance healing. Founded by Buddhist monk Master Mikau Usui in the early 20th century, his method was further expanded upon for therapeutic use in modern healthcare by his student Chujiro Hayashi. Although there are many schools of Reiki today, the traditions maintain that we all have an ability to tap into an unseen healing force, often called Ki, Qi, Chi, Prana, or simply ‘life force energy’. Practitioners of Reiki study and practice these techniques, gently channeling ki to their subjects.

How Does Reiki Work?

The premise behind how Reiki works is that we are energetic beings. Therefore, Reiki has been categorized as ‘energy medicine’. We not only have meridians of energy that correspond with the main glands and organs of our body, but these are innervated by and connected to a surrounding etheric energy field. The emotions are also inextricably linked to this field, and have been described as the ‘emotional body’. These ancient concepts were known and recorded by Asian, Indo Tibetan and Vedic teachings. Modern science confirms that we are electro-magnetic beings, and there are now advanced science based methods of studying these fields such as EKG’s and MRI’s. However, Western medicine has been slow to catch on and has failed to embrace the evidence of the human energy centers, meridians and etheric field, clinging to the age-old belief that if it can’t be seen it doesn’t exist.

Biofield Science

Surprisingly, there is extensive scientific literature on the human biofield. The existence of the human biofield has been recognized by the National Institutes of Health since 2004. In an article published by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Abraham R. Liboff, Ph.D. states “this electrogenomic field may provide the basis for a new paradigm in biology and medicine that is radically different from the present emphasis on molecular biology and biochemistry…furthermore… this strongly suggests the reason for the efficacy of various electromagnetic therapies, namely as the most direct means of restoring the body’s impacted electromagnetic field to its normal state.”2

The biofield has been described as a field of energy and information surrounding the body of all living organisms. It regulates homeodynamic functions, and according to an article titled: Indo-Tibetan Philosophical and Medical Systems: Perspectives on the Biofield understanding the biofield “may play an important role in understanding basic biopsychosocial functions, especially those directing health, healing, and wellbeing.”3 

In an article published by Global Advances in Health and Medicine in 2018, the authors recognize that several fields of medicine are finally acknowledging the role the biofield plays in cellular and sub atomic functions, stating “Advances in biophysics, biology, functional genomics, neuroscience, psychology, psychoneuroimmunology, and other fields suggest the existence of a subtle system of “biofield” interactions that organize biological processes from the subatomic, atomic, molecular, cellular, and organismic to the interpersonal and cosmic levels.”4

The biofield may be best understood through modern physics and quantum physics, which take into consideration electromagnetism and unified field theory. The article goes on to state “Biofield interactions may bring about regulation of biochemical, cellular, and neurological processes through means related to electromagnetism, quantum fields, and perhaps other means of modulating biological activity and information flow.”4

Modern scientists have theorized and expounded upon the link between this field, our intention and the energy systems of the body, stating “…scientists have historically proposed that a biological field exists in a holistic or global organizing form. The details are different, but in general, such propositions involve coherence in electromagnetic waves, biophotons, or going beyond electromagnetism, human intention. In some suppositions, an “electromagnetic body” or “subtle body” is invoked, as related to acupuncture meridians in traditional Chinese medicine and chakras, the subtle energy centers in the Indian esoteric tradition.”5 Thus it seems that our scientific understanding of energy within the body is finally beginning to prove what our ancestors knew- energy is real and our connection to unseen forces is stronger than we know.



Comprehending how Reiki works can be further understood by tapping into what has been called heart-brain coherence. The HeartMath Institute (H.M.I.) has published a plethora of research and related articles in the field of heart-brain communication and coherence, detailing how this can be used for managing stress, how to increase coherence, how to use this information to deepen our connection to ourselves and others, and exploring the electrophysiology of intuition.

H.M.I. explains the effect and importance of heart brain coherence as follows: “When coherence is increased in a single system that is coupled to other systems, it can pull the other systems into coherence or entrainment, resulting in increased cross-coherence in the activity of the other systems, even across different time scales of activity. An example of this is in the increased heart-brain synchronization that occurs in a heart coherent mode.”6

When the Reiki practitioner holds a space of coherence and transfers this energetically and intentionally to the subject, the coherent field entrains the biofield of the subject, which allows the flow of energy to radiate into the body and subsequently the emotional body, energy meridians, chakras, which then trickle down to the physical aspects of the body through the central nervous system and endocrine system. This encourages homeostasis (the body’s natural state of balance) by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn lowers blood pressure and stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine. The body then begins to release endorphins and neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin. This relaxed state lowers blood sugar levels, increases feelings of pleasure and happiness, improves immune response and reduces pain and stress. Therefore, with regards to Reiki, the intentional direction of Ki (or electromagnetic energy) coupled with heart-brain coherence (quantum field) of the practitioner treats the whole body of the recipient.



Through programs like the Touchstone Process, a peer reviewed method of analyzing research on Reiki programs in hospitals and clinics in the US, we now have actual case studies showing the benefits of Reiki. In an article published by UCLA Health in 2014, it was reported that “The Touchstone Process has evaluated 25 test studies that appeared in peer-review journals evaluating the merits of Reiki Treatments. Taking into consideration only the most rigorously controlled studies, the team reported that 83% showed moderate to strong evidence in support of Reiki as a viable, therapeutic healing modality.”7 The studies further found that Reiki reduced stress, reduced pain levels, reduced anxiety and depression by encouraging the body’s natural state of homeostasis, and improved immune system functioning and healing ability.

An article on research, history and practice of Reiki written in the Journal of Alternative Therapies explains why Reiki is such a viable complementary medicine. Pamela Miles and Gala True, PhD write “Reiki appears to be an effective stress reduction technique that easily integrates into conventional medicine because it involves neither the use of substances nor manipulative touch that might be contraindicated or carry unknown risks, and because the protocol for Reiki treatment is flexible, adapting to both the need of the patient and of the medical circumstances. Reiki can be used to support conventional medical interventions. In addition, when used on a conscious patient, the experience is relaxing and pleasant, increasing patient comfort, enhancing relationships with caregivers, and possibly reducing side effects of procedures and medications.”8

Reiki is now being used to specifically treat emotional trauma, PTSD and anxiety. According to one study on the effectiveness of energy medicine approaches, “Reiki and Healing Touch treatments were seen to be effective in participants’ lives in a holistic way. Participants’ overall quality of life was bettered with energy therapy: physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationships with family and friends, and within their personal and professional lives.”9


There is clearly a need within our Western healthcare system to expand our healthcare model to embrace holistic practices and address people as a whole organism, not just a disease. Reiki aims to address this by approaching the subject as a whole person with emotions and an energy field.

With so much scientific evidence now backing what ancient wisdom has taught us, it is time for us to take our healing into our own hands, (literally and figuratively) and those of Reiki practitioners. Because Reiki is relatively affordable, gentle, non invasive, and complementary to other therapies, it should be considered as a viable option for pain and stress reduction for those seeking holistic alternatives to traditional Western medicine.

About the Author

Crystle Castlee is a Board Certified Licensed Massage Therapist, Reiki Master Teacher, meditation coach and writer living and practicing in Boise, Idaho. After her out of body experience in a near fatal car accident at age 18, she became fascinated with spirituality and healing. She became a Licensed Massage Therapist and Reiki Master in 2006. She received a Bachelor of Health Science from Boise State University in 2015, and became Board Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork in 2017. She became certified in Thai Yoga Massage and Yoga Nidra guided meditation in 2019.

Her mission is to empower those who have suffered from trauma, anxiety, depression and PTSD to heal and reclaim personal power in their lives with the help of massage therapy, energy therapy, breathwork and guided visualization. 

Instagram @prismbodywork


  1. Reiki and Healing Touch: Implications for Trauma
    Healing, SIT Graduate Institute/SIT Study Abroad
    SIT Digital Collections, Cynthia Ford SIT Graduate Institute 2017
  2. Toward an Electromagnetic Paradigm for Biology and Medicine. Abraham R. Liboff.The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.Feb 2004.ahead of print Published in Volume: 10 Issue 1: June 30, 2004
  3. Indo-Tibetan Philosophical and Medical Systems: Perspectives on the Biofield. Jain S, Daubenmier J, Muehsam D, Rapgay L, Chopra D Global Adv Health Med. 2015 Nov; 4(Suppl):16–24.
  4. An Overview of Biofield Devices. Muehsam D, Chevalier G, Barsotti T, Gurfein BT Glob Adv Health Med. 2015 Nov; 4(Suppl):42–51.
  5. Biofield Science: Current Physics Perspectives. Global Advances in Health and Medicine. Menas C. Kafatos, PhD,corresponding author Gaétan Chevalier, PhD, Deepak Chopra, MD, John Hubacher, MA, Subhash Kak, PhD, and Neil D. Theise, MD Glob Adv Health Med. 2015 Nov; 4(Suppl): 25–34. Published online 2015 Nov 1. doi: 10.7453/gahmj.2015.011.suppl
  6. The Coherent Heart Heart–Brain Interactions, Psychophysiological Coherence, and the Emergence of System-Wide Order. Rollin McCraty, Ph.D., Mike Atkinson, Dana Tomasino, B.A., and Raymond Trevor Bradley, Ph.D.1 2009
  7. Reiki Really Works: A Groundbreaking Scientific Study. Green Lotus. UCLA Green Lotus Hub 2011
  8. Reiki — Review of a Biofield Therapy, History, Theory, Practice, and Research. Pamela Miles and Gala True, PhD Alternative Therapies, Mar/Apr 2003 Vol. 9, No 2
  9. Biofield Science and Healing: History, Terminology, and Concepts. Beverly Rubik, PhD,corresponding author David Muehsam, PhD, Richard Hammerschlag, PhD, and Shamini Jain, PhD. 2015 Glob Adv Health Med. 2015 Nov; 4(Suppl): 8–14. Published online 2015 Nov 1. doi: 10.7453/gahmj.2015.038.suppl


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