The best-documented benefits of Reiki revolve around the relaxation response, which practitioners say stimulates the body’s natural healing process.
Dr. Rachel Lampert, MD, professor of medicine at the Yale School of Medicine, and her colleagues examined 37 patients after a heart attack. Patients were randomized into three groups: patients who simply rested, those who received a single Reiki treatment from a Reiki-trained nurse, and those who listened to relaxing music. The researchers measured the activity of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which regulates heart rate, breathing, blood pressure and digestion.
Lampert’s team took a closer look at heart rate variability (HRV), a measure of the heartbeat pattern controlled by the ANS. The higher the HRV after a heart attack, the better the patient’s outlook, explains Lampert.
In the Yale study, patients who received Reiki had higher HRV and improved emotional states. “Our study was very nice proof that things that are relaxing are beneficial,” says Lampert. “We showed an increased activity of the healthy arm of the nervous system.”
Boosts mood and sleep
Harvard Medical School researchers tracked 99 patients in multiple locations to determine the effects of a single Reiki session. The study – a one-armed efficacy study published in the 2019 Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine—found statistically significant improvements in symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as pain and nausea.
Further research suggests that Reiki helps with depression and insomnia. A 2012 study in the Indian Journal of Positive Psychology studied 40 women suffering from depression and anxiety. Half of the group received Reiki treatment twice a week for 10 weeks and the other half received no treatment. The women who received Reiki saw significant improvements in both their symptoms of depression and their sleep quality.
Relieves physical pain and improves quality of life
A number of studies have looked at the role of Reiki in relieving pain after knee surgery, restoring range of motion in injured shoulders, recovering from a cesarean section, treating high blood pressure, and improving the quality of life for rheumatoid arthritis patients or those who are undergo various cancer treatments.
The Portuguese researcher Zilda Alarcao and her colleagues examined the effects of Reiki treatment compared to sham or fake Reiki in two groups of patients with blood cancer. Each group consisted of 58 patients who received a one-hour treatment once a week for four weeks – either someone with Reiki training was working on them or someone who pretended to be doing Reiki (bogus Reiki) spent an hour with them.
The researchers found that the patients who received real Reiki showed significantly more improvements in the general, physical, environmental, and social dimensions of quality of life than the other group, using the Portuguese version of the World Health Organization’s (WHOQoL- Bref) has been a well-respected research tool that measures pain and other quality of life issues after an intervention. They published their results in 2016 in European Journal of Integrative Medicine.