Table of Contents > Alternative Modalities > Reiki Print



Also listed as: Tara Reiki

  • Reiki practitioners believe that therapeutic effects of this technique are obtained from a "universal life energy" that provides strength, harmony, and balance to the body and mind. Life energy is thought to be transferred to patients when practitioners place their hands on or directly above treatment areas. This life energy is thought to vitalize organs and cells and to release trapped negative energy. Practitioners do not view themselves as the sources of life energy.
  • Reiki practitioners believe that human energy flows through meridians (or pathways) in the body that can be sensed by trained individuals. A disturbance in the flow of this energy may be caused by physical illnesses or negative emotions. Reiki practitioners aim to channel life energy to problem areas where the patient's energy flow is sensed as being disrupted.
  • Practitioners believe that Reiki can treat symptoms and enable patients to feel enlightened with improved mental clarity, well-being, and spirituality. Reiki is sometimes administered to patients who are dying with the goal of instilling a sense of peace.
  • It has been proposed that Reiki can lower heart rate and blood pressure, boost the immune system and endocrine (hormonal) systems, stimulate endorphins, or affect skin temperature and blood hemoglobin levels. However, these properties have not been well-studied or clearly demonstrated in scientific studies.
  • Reiki has been used or suggested for the management of many conditions. However, Reiki is not well studied scientifically. There are several challenges to conducting high quality research on techniques such as Reiki: there are different styles of practice with variation from practitioner to practitioner; it is challenging to design studies with "placebo" Reiki; and there is no widespread agreement on how best to measure outcomes. Better research is needed before a recommendation can be made either for or against the effectiveness of Reiki for any specific condition.

Evidence Table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *

One randomized trial suggested that Reiki may have an effect on autonomic nervous system functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, or breathing activity. Large, well-designed studies are needed before conclusions can be drawn.


Reiki may contribute to reduced perception of pain, improved quality of life, and reduced fatigue in cancer patients. More studies are needed.


Early research suggests that Reiki therapy may improve behavioral and memory problems in patients with mild cognitive impairment or mild Alzheimer's disease. However, additional studies are needed to confirm these findings.


There is evidence that Reiki can reduce symptoms of distress when compared to placebo. More information is needed before a conclusion can be drawn.


Reiki instruction may help HIV/AIDS patients reduce pain or anxiety, but results are unclear.


Patients in a preliminary ("phase II") trial of Reiki in combination with standard pain medications (with opioids) were reported to experience improved pain control. Further research is needed to confirm these findings.


In a randomized controlled trial, Reiki did not have any clinically useful effect on stroke recovery in patients receiving appropriate rehabilitation therapy. Selective positive effects on mood and energy were noted.

* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)

Tradition / Theory

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

  • Addiction, adjunct in surgery, alcoholism, allergies, anemia, anger, anxiety, arthritis, asthma, bone marrow transplant support, breast cancer, brain damage, broken bones, burn pain, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular risk reduction, carpal tunnel syndrome, cellulitis, cervical dysplasia, chemical burns, chronic pain, connective tissue disorders, convulsions, dementia, dental procedures, diabetes, diabetic neuropathy, diabetic wound healing, emotional problems, emphysema, epilepsy, fatigue, fibromyalgia, fractures (wrist), gallstones, grief, guilt, Guillain-Barre syndrome, headache, heart attack, hemophilia, hemorrhoids, hernia, herpes zoster, hiccough, high blood pressure, hysterectomy, impotence, labor, mental problems, migraine headache, multiple sclerosis, muscle spasms, neonatal disorders, nervous system function, neuropathy, nosebleeds, post-operative pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, pregnancy, promoting healing, prostate problems, psoriasis, radiation sickness, rash, recovering from anesthesia, reduction of adverse effects of chemotherapy and radiation, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, relaxation, rheumatoid arthritis, sickle cell anemia, sinus congestion, spinal cord injury, suicide prevention, systemic lupus erythematosus, trauma, tremor, ulcers, varicose veins, venereal diseases, warts, wound healing.


Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.

  • Reiki is not recommended as the sole treatment approach for potentially serious medical conditions and should not delay the time it takes to consult with a healthcare professional or receive established therapies. Serious adverse effects have not been reported in association with Reiki. Some practitioners believe that Reiki should be used cautiously in individuals with psychiatric illnesses due to a risk of bringing out underlying psychopathology, although this risk has not been formally reported in the published literature. People receiving Reiki treatment may need dosing adjustments of pain or anxiety medication.

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (

  1. Abdi S, Zhou Y. Management of pain after burn injury. Curr Opin Anaesthesiol 2002 Oct;15(5):563-7.
  2. Astin JA, Harkness E, Ernst E. The efficacy of "distant healing": a systematic review of randomized trials. Ann Intern Med 6-6-2000;132(11):903-910.
  3. Brewitt B, Vittetoe T, Hartwell B. The efficacy of Reiki hands-on healing: improvements in spleen and nervous system function as quantified by electrodermal screening [abstract]. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 1997;3:89.
  4. Crawford SE, Leaver VW, Mahoney SD. Using Reiki to decrease memory and behavior problems in mild cognitive impairment and mild Alzheimer's disease. J Altern Complement Med 2006 Nov;12(9):911-3.
  5. Kennedy P. Working with survivors of torture in Sarajevo with Reiki. Complement Ther Nurs.Midwifery 2001;7(1):4-7.
  6. Krucoff MW, Crater SW, Gallup D, et al. Music, imagery, touch, and prayer as adjuncts to interventional cardiac care: the Monitoring and Actualisation of Noetic Trainings (MANTRA) II randomised study. Lancet 7-16-2005;366(9481):211-217.
  7. Mackay N, Hansen S, McFarlane O. Autonomic nervous system changes during Reiki treatment: a preliminary study. J Altern Complement Med 2004;10(6):1077-1081.
  8. Mansour AA, Beuche M, Laing G, et al. A study to test the effectiveness of placebo Reiki standardization procedures developed for a planned Reiki efficacy study. J Altern Complement Med. 1999;5(2):153-164.
  9. Olson K, Hanson J. Using Reiki to manage pain: a preliminary report. Cancer Prev Control 1997;1(2):108-113.
  10. Olson K, Hanson J, Michaud M. A phase II trial of Reiki for the management of pain in advanced cancer patients. J Pain Symptom Manage 2003;26(5):990-997.
  11. Schlitz MJ, Braud WG. Reiki-plus natural healing: an ethnographic/experimental study. PSI Research 1985;4:100-123.
  12. Shore AG. Long-term effects of energetic healing on symptoms of psychological depression and self-perceived stress. Altern Ther Health Med. 2004;10(3):42-48.
  13. Tsang KL, Carlson LE, Olson K. Pilot crossover trial of Reiki versus rest for treating cancer-related fatigue. Integr Cancer Ther 2007 Mar;6(1):25-35.
  14. Vitale AT, O'Connor PC. The effect of Reiki on pain and anxiety in women with abdominal hysterectomies: a quasi-experimental pilot study. Holist Nurs Pract 2006 Nov-Dec;20(6):263-72; quiz 273-4.
  15. Wardell DW, Engebretson J. Biological correlates of Reiki Touch(sm) healing. J Adv Nurs 2001;33(4):439-445.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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