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September 21, 2010

For the general entry on Alternative Medicine, click here

The Claims:

Reiki is an alternative medicine healing practice which originated in its modern form in 1922 as the brainchild of Japanese Buddhist Mikao Usui.  After a revelation he had while on the last day of a three-week retreat of meditation and fasting he founded the Usui System of Natural Healing, more commonly known as reiki, from the Japanese rei-ki, meaning “universal life-force energy.” A reiki session consists of the reiki master placing hands palm down on or just above the patient’s clothed body in a series of positions, holding each for a few minutes.

Reiki is most commonly used as a complementary treatment to assist patients by relaxing them, reducing stress, depression, anxiety, and pain, and speed healing from surgery, not as an alternative to medicine for treating specific physical conditions or curing organic diseases.  Because of reiki’s claim to channel a universal life-force energy, however, some proponents make extravagant (and dangerous) claims that reiki can heal anything.

The Evidence:

First, reiki has a strong religious basis.  Reiki’s origin story is not that of a scientific technique, but of a spiritual revelation.  Mikao Usui didn’t develop reiki by conducting experiments or treating patients.  Rather, after fasting and meditating, “he began hallucinating and hearing voices” that revealed reiki techniques to him. The Catholic Church has noted the spiritual basis of reiki, and described it as being incompatible with Christianity.

Secondly, and most importantly, there is no scientific basis for reiki to work.  Reiki depends upon the existence of a “universal life force energy.”  There is no evidence that any such energy exists. Science has never detected it, even though we now have instruments capable of detecting infinitesimal energies and subatomic particles. Its existence would violate several known physical laws.  For instance, the claim that reiki masters can channel this energy at a distance contradicts the inverse-square law, which holds that the strength of a force inexorably weakens as distance increases.

Finally, while it is always possible that a therapeutic technique may work even though we don’t yet understand how, there is no cogent evidence that reiki does work.  Scientific clinical studies of reiki fail to show its effectiveness for any condition. There is no evidence that reiki’s effect is anything other than a manifestation of the placebo effect and/or a consequence of flaws or deficiencies in the clinical studies.


Reiki may make people feel better for the sole reason that that is what the placebo effect does. Any greater or more specific claim for reiki’s efficacy is extraordinary and requires extraordinary proof, of which there is none.


Canadian Reiki Association Website

U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Website

The Reiki Page Website

The Skeptic’s Dictionary Entry on Reiki

“Catholic bishops in US ban Japanese Reiki” on (March 31, 2009)

“New Age Energy” on

“The Physics of ‘Alternative Medicine’ Bioenergetic Fields” Stenger, Victor J., 1999.

“Reiki and Therapeutic Touch” QuackCast 29.

Wikipedia Page on Inverse Square Law

“Effects of Reiki in clinical practice: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials” Lee, MS; Pittler, MH; Ernst, E, 2008.

“A Systematic Review of the Therapeutic Effects of Reiki” Sondra vanderVaart, Violette M.G.J. Gijsen, Saskia N. de Wildt, Gideon Koren, 2009.



6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2013 8:30 AM

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  2. June 15, 2012 7:06 PM

    The only proof that is needed is to go get someone to do Reiki and judge for yourself. I was a skeptic too but you can feel the heat from the hands. That doesn’t mean it heals you or that it’s supernatural, but there is no doubt that you can feel A LOT more heat from the hands of someone doing Reiki than someone who isn’t. Shouldn’t your research contain actually getting up and seeing for yourself on things that the experiencing of is possible?

  3. anti-reptilianos permalink
    March 17, 2011 12:00 AM

    always have to be a placebo?

    all is energy

  4. RandomCapitalizations permalink
    December 10, 2010 6:07 PM

    I think it’s a safe bet that there are not too many “bible thumpers” (or thumbers, as you put it) in this crowd, Mary.

    I would think you, as a concerned citizen, would want evidence for things. How else do you expect doctors to make decisions on your health care? How do you expect public policy makers to set direction for you city, region or country? By guessing? By doing what feels right? No — they do studies, and they get evidence.

    There are many areas where a thing is either demonstrably true or not. Shouldn’t you expect the people who are selling you solutions to problems to show: a) there really is a problem and b) their solution actually works? Otherwise you’re buying the proverbial snake oil.

  5. bwkeller permalink
    December 7, 2010 4:28 PM

    Mary, It appears that the line of reasoning that allows you to believe without evidence in Reiki also implies you believe in dictionaries, as you clearly have not seen evidence for one of those either.

  6. Mary permalink
    December 6, 2010 11:43 AM

    everything you have said in all of the high lights means nothing. I think you are just another bible thumber. Who are you to tell people all of this needs evidance. There is evidance out there. And I as a person has a voice oh I guess we need evidance but i can phone are city and demand that the do not entertiane this garbage and not on are buses we have enough on are buses already. Get a life

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