How does Reiki work?
We are still trying to understand how energy fields can jump start the healing process in different tissues. Luckily there exist several theories. In the decade of the 90's emerged a phenomenon called amplification, basically implying that a very tiny field or reaction can produce a large effect. It has been discovered that a single hormone molecule or neurotransmitter or a single photon of electromagnetic energy can trigger a cellular response. Then, reiki frequencies could be related to the electromagnetic human field.
Also, the channeling process is intimately related to intake and output of energy. Some cultures call this energy prana, chi, qi or vital energy. And electricity and magnetism might be their highways. Here is where energy medicine and biofield therapies step in. Biofield therapies basically include Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, and Qi Gong.
A very important aspect that energy healing research has provided is that very tiny fields can produce the best effects. This is actually a profound and vital realization that has implications for every branch of medicine. It is now known that the body also emits light, sound, heat, and electromagnetic fields and, like all other matter, it has a gravitational field. Energy medicine involves understanding how the body creates and responds to electric, magnetic, and electromagnetic fields, including light and sound as well as other forms of energy such as heat, pressure, chemical and elastic energy, and gravity. It is interesting to get to know how the body produces these different kinds of energy, and how these energies can be applied to the body for beneficial effects.
ENERGY MEDICINE DEVICES ARE TRENDING, AS IN MAGNET THERAPY
Electromagnetism can be detected for all body functions. Magnetomyograms detect magnetic pulses when muscles contract. The heart generates a signal that can be recorded by an electrocardiograph (EKG) and by magnetocardiography (MCG). Brain function can be monitored on an electroencephalograph (EEG) and the titanic worldwide Human Connectome Project is collecting the magnetic data of the brains of thousands of people.These are all well-established scientific facts and principles.
Despite the fact some magnet therapy techniques are still considered as pseudoscience, elite athletes use these devices in order to shorten their recovery period whenever they suffer an injury or even bone fracture (between many many examples are tennis player Rafa Nadal, in motorbikes Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez, and lots of football players like the ones shown in the image).
Acupressure and shiatsu are types of therapies that use the acupoints and several specific body locations in order to maintain or restore balance through the electric body. It's been explained in previous posts how acupuncture might use the electric body circuits and amplifiers.
Now: Reiki, Polarity Therapy, Therapeutic Touch and basically all hands-on therapies, deal in the magnetic fields that emanate from the healer’s hands and its interaction with the patient’s magnetic body.
SQUIDS DETECT BIOMAGNETIC HUMAN FIELDS
In the early 1980’s, Dr. John Zimmerman began a series of important studies on therapeutic touch. He has been one of the first using a SQUID magnetometer at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver. Click here to know what is a SQUID on Wikipedia. Zimmerman discovered that a huge pulsating biomagnetic field emanated from the hands of a Therapeutic Touch practitioner. The frequency of the pulsations is not steady, but “sweeps” up and down, from 0.3 to 30 Hz (cycles per second), with most of the activity in the range of 7 to 8 Hz.
The biomagnetic pulsations from the hands are in the same frequency range as some brain waves and scientific studies of the frequencies necessary for healing indicate that they naturally sweep back and forth through the full range of therapeutic frequencies, thus being able to stimulate healing in any tissue in the body. This study is pretty much cited by “alternative” scientists, and pretty much criticized by its detractors. As one of his critics mentions: The study was published in 1990 in the journal of the Bio-Electro-Magnetics Institute, whose founder and president just happens to be… John Zimmerman.
But there are much more scientists that have published relevant studies. Akira Seto made a great hallmark in 1992 while testing biomagnetism using two identical coils with 80,000 turns each; not exactly a SQUID and therefore unable to detect normal, or usual human magnetic fields.
What he did was a study with 37 volunteers, from which could not record or measure anything on 34 of them, but the remaining 3 had quite interesting results, curiously, the 3 of them had a relationship with Chi energy:
- The first subject had been interested lately in “Qi emission” as he recently started to feel a flow in his body. He has had no training or meditation whatsoever, but opening the mind to these levels of awareness is the first step to reaching them. His mean frequency ranged from 4 to 6 Hz.
- The second subject, a female Buddhist, had also been serving as a healer, her average magnetic strength was 2 mGauss and 7 Hz, temporary going to 5 Hz, and setting back at 7 Hz after 120 seconds.
- The third subject, an aesthetic salon consultant, which also happens to be a student of Qi Gong, her frequency was 8-10 Hz and a magnetic field amplitude of 3 mGauss.
Seto believes this ability can be naturally given, and sometimes obtained by practice. Most interestingly was the electromagnetic reading of the female Buddhist. Several minutes after Qi emission, the magnetic emission was still being detected, and the corresponding electric current could not be found. Also, the intensity of the magnetic fields found to be 1,000 times stronger than the heart's magnetic field. This is a huge number.
This makes the authors believe that although the will is completely necessary in order to radiate the extraordinary large biomagnetic field, these extraordinary large biomagnetic fields could never be from the internal body current alone. If so, then the term channeling is quite perfect, as it implies that the body is just a vessel for extracorporeal frequencies to flow towards the patient. Actually, Ann Baldwin and colleagues tried to replicate these results by using volunteers inside a hermetic chamber: there were no results, indicating two possibilities: either Seto had a flaw in his model or the subjects need the frequencies from the environment in order to display this ability. Ann Baldwin comments: “a possible explanation for the nonreplication is that our studies were performed in a magnetically shielded room that prevented practitioner contact with the outside environment”.
Dr. James Oschman believes that Extremely Low Frequencies (between 3-300 Hz) can stimulate tissue repair, and it's in this extremely low-frequency range where most of the healing occurs: “the important frequencies for stimulating tissue repair are all in the biologically important ELF range”.
This includes frequencies that are less than 100 Hz, it is a low energy level and extremely low-frequency level. There is evidence to think that the optimal frequency also depends on the type of lesion or illness, 2 Hertz is effective for nerve regeneration, 7 Hz is adequate for bone growth, 10 Hz is used for ligaments, and somewhat higher frequencies work for skin and capillaries.
The therapeutic window seems to be delimited to low frequencies, as some people can be allergic to 50-60 Hz electromagnetic fields, feeling uncomfortable near transformers, fluorescent lights, microwave ovens and other appliances.
RESEARCHING ON REIKI
7 scientific articles whose main subject is Reiki or other type of hands-on therapy, there are some reviews, which are cool for knowing the big picture so far; and also are some interesting, hallmarking and relevant studies.
As Reiki main purpose is a general well-being and knowledge of self, it becomes more difficult to measure its effects by clinical results. In 1999 Ahlam Mansour made a pioneer study whose objective was to create the first study to test standardization procedures for real and placebo Reiki. Though the number of subjects is small, and some details are into discussion, the results are quite surprising: at the 4th stage of the study: 2 out of 4 placebo subjects thought they were receiving Reiki, 3 out of 4 observers at the placebo group thought the practitioner was a real Reiki therapist. In the Reiki group, any of the subjects could tell if they were having Reiki or placebo, and 2 out of 4 observers thought it was placebo. The thing here is that the placebo practitioners were taught during 4 hours about hand positions and some Reiki theory, and it's not detailed in the study, but it would be interesting to know what the placebo practitioners were thinking meanwhile the session, we know intention is very very very important, and if they were thinking of themselves as healers into a healing session, then the results could be biased, maybe it's optimal to just act the healing session but not mentally participate on it.
In 2000, Diane Wardell and colleagues published maybe the most cited Reiki article so far. They were focused on testing the Relaxation Response during Reiki, a smart approach I think. The interesting part here is all the markers they tested, a total of 7, which are:
- state anxiety
- salivary Immunoglobin A
- cortisol (the stress hormone)
- blood pressure
- galvanic skin response
- muscle tension
- skin temperature
Before and after the Reiki session, significative results were taken on:
- reduction of anxiety
- increment of salivary IgA, which implies a relationship between Reiki and a better immunological performance
- drop in systolic pressure
During the Reiki session, significative results were taken on:
- skin temperature increased (remember that semiconductors are modulated by temperature, so the conductance increased as well)
- electromyograph decreases
There are three Review Articles which are really comprehensible, and which analyze the effectiveness of Reiki in several studies; also discussing the pros and cons of each study and the implications. The first one was made by Pamela Miles and Gala True in 2003. It begins with history, some theory, shows several clinics and hospitals who have incorporated Reiki as therapy, reviews other reviews and analyzes 7 randomized controlled trials (RCT), including Mansour’s. In my opinion, they nailed it when suggesting the directions of future research, I quote: future research on Reiki efficacy should identify outcomes measures, such as increased sense of spiritual well-being, self-awareness and centeredness, that are relevant to the patient’s experiences and that may have an impact on clinical outcomes.
Anne Vitale published in 2007 another interesting review, which focuses the effect of Reiki in 4 areas:
1- stress-relaxation, noting that there is a weak state of knowledge about the implications, 3 out of 5 studies had unsatisfactory results but accepts the changes in IgA and anxiety reported earlier.
2- pain, where a trend is suggesting, but not completely demonstrating that Reiki has beneficial effects
3- wound-healing, there was only one study found, in which the complicated treatment design, limited sample size and potential random errors make it suboptimal to take as a reference
4- Reiki-placebo standardization – it is recommended to add placebo standardization testing procedures like these in order to contribute to more rigorous energy work study, also, scientists analyze the conflict that the interaction of placebo truly has, and question if sham Reiki is truly inert, something already stated before.
One year later, 2008, Nassim Assefi publishes an article in which there are no positive results as Reiki being effective, the thing is that it's already difficult to study the probable differences between Reiki and placebo, and this study adds distant healing to the method, so mixing local and distant healing in the same study might not be the best of ideas.
The quest for an understanding of the nature of Reiki will inevitably lead to a better study of it; meanwhile, studies will not be accepted as valid by the scientific community, but we must acknowledge the difficulty of pioneering in science, and also the difficulty to interpret something we yet don't understand completely.
In 2008 Myeong Soo Lee made a complete review, in which he retrieved 205 potentially relevant studies. From all of those, only 9 met the criteria specified, and only 2 suggested positive effects: one in the area of pain and anxiety and the other involving stress and hopelessness. Not only is important to know how to study this phenomenon, also how to interpret it, because we might not get the best answers if the questions imply strict specific medical outcomes, and this approach is not liked by modern science.
Finally, Sondra van der Vaart in 2009 made another review, obtaining a poor ranking in 11 out of 12 studies, determining more or less what we already know, that high-quality RCTs are needed.
Sondra van der Vaart's review about Reiki
So far, it is evident that studying Reiki might give very diffuse results when the variable tested is a specific clinical condition, it seems to be working more on an overall situation, so it might be better to study it first in reference to the relaxation system, or if it can fasten the recovery time from any illness, or not cross mixed therapies in the same study.
THE FUNDAMENTAL FREQUENCY
After all this information, it is possible to infer which are the mechanisms that give Reiki it's effectiveness. We know from the Electromagnetic Human Field post that a normal Chakra physiology means having a uniform, round, centered and rhythmic spin, so a basic mechanism might be the change of frequency or rotation through biofield interaction. Also, it seems that the healer does a general scan of the body with a broad set of frequencies, but ends up setting at the range between 7 and 8 Hertz, as some sort of fundamental frequency within the whole spectrum. Maybe that one is precisely the standard best frequency, or maybe this frequency is optimal for other energies to reach the patient.
It is also important to consider that some emissions were so big that we need external forces in order to understand the phenomenon, therefore the term channeling is very precise, as healers become channeling biofields, so the chi, prana or vital energy can go through. The quality of channeling can be natural given, but also anyone can develop it with experience, meditation and self care.
The power of acceptance and intention are key in Reiki, as in any other discipline. So, if the patient is not convinced that the treatment will be helpful then effectiveness decreases. And finally, in my experience so far, the knowledge and purity of the healer itself are also critical in order to get positive outcomes. Please note that when I refer to the knowledge of the healer, it does not have to do with anything of this post, I think that as a healer there is no need to know scientific mechanisms of action, it has to do with their own inner knowledge of the human fields given by constant work of self and to others. All that being said, so far it is safe to assume that the patient has significative effects on the relaxation system, and increased skin conductance which may mean better body communication and development. These might be the first of many consensual benefits of Reiki.
THE SCHUMANN RESONANCES
Before Benjamin Franklin, we were uncertain about the real nature of lightning, but Mr. Franklin and his famous kite experiment established the fact that lightning is an electric phenomenon. Lightning strikes are a wonderful continuous spectacle. Think about it, there are about 40 to 100 lightning strikes happening every minute all around the planet. This neverending electric parade is the origin of the Schumann Resonances.
Several great minds like Ampère, Faraday, Gauss, Maxwell, and Hertz collaborated into the understanding of this phenomenon, and their respective discoveries could finally demonstrate that lightning strikes produce electromagnetic waves, which transmit energy and information at the speed of light.
A lightning strike produces a big set of electromagnetic waves, from which only a few are bounced back because the ionosphere acts as a reflector.
The Schumann resonances are those selected waves that are bounced back.
These selected waves travel around the resonant cavity formed between the Earth’s surface and the ionosphere. This is important: the ionosphere acts as a low-frequency waves reflector, so the waves bounce back and forth and they also superimpose between them.
NASA AND THE RECORDING OF LOW-FREQUENCY WAVES
The NASA has a very interesting website where are recordings of these waves, by the aid of a Very Low-Frequency (VLF) radio receiver. They detected 3 different types of them, called sferics, tweeks, and whistlers. You can go to this link, and also this one and listen to them, they are really bizarre and cool.
The most popular Schumann resonance is known as the fundamental frequency, and fluctuates between 7 to 8.5 Hz.
THE IONOSPHERE IS A DYNAMIC LAYER
The Sun is the one responsible for the properties of the ionosphere, enhancing it during the day by the ionizing effect of the solar rays. At night, it has fewer layers and is therefore thinner. This is why you can't listen to some AM radio stations at night, because those specific frequencies do not bounce back towards the Earth.
The ionosphere shifts through various cycles, like the already mentioned day and night cycle, but also other periods, like the 4 seasons, the 11 year Sun cycle, or even any solar storm that directly hits the Earth's magnetic field.
Solar magnetic storms can halt any Schumann frequency, because, they can excite too much the molecules that act as a reflective shield, thus letting all waves pass through the ionosphere and leaving no electromagnetic activity in the atmosphere.
The first scientist who developed a practical advantage on the reflecting properties of the ionosphere was Marconi, by developing a radio transmitter, which, by the way, around 17 patents that were used to create that transmitter were invented by Nicola Tesla. This radio transmitter creates information that can travel through the biggest waves of the electromagnetic spectrum, the radio waves.
As a matter of fact, the battle for the patents of the radio was ferocious, with many scientists struggling for the acknowledgment, and of course, the fame and money that followed. Among all those great minds, there was one exception, Nicola Tesla, who lacked any entrepreneurial and business inclination, couldn't care less about it. An aftermath of that intense patent war happened in 1943, when the Supreme Court of the USA removed Marconi's patent and instead was given to Oliver Joseph Lodge, John Stone Stone, and Nikola Tesla.
There are two main websites in which you can observe the lightning happening at the planet. The first one is Lightning Maps, and it displays how many strikes are hitting per second, with a delay of just a few seconds, it's almost a real-time demonstration. The second one is WMLLN, but unfortunately this page has been removed. When I first wrote this post it was my favourite. Some years ago I created a GIF image of it, and now its a relic GIF.
The Earth has always storms and electric activity. Our beloved planet is a perpetual electromagnetic wave generator, combined with a wall of very active ions at the Ionosphere level, which serves as a Resonator for a certain type of frequencies (ELF). Therefore, a bunch of electromagnetic frequencies rebound at the Ionosphere, and they travel back to Earth, but forward at the same time. Exactly like a sinusoidal wave, up to the Ionosphere, and down to the Earth's surface.
I was so amazed the first time I realized this phenomenon: a never ending frequency-creator pulse that is a product of the lightning strikes. Frequencies that rebound and interfere between them, providing an electromagnetic global matrix. A sea of frequencies that surrounds us and travels at the speed of light. This speed can do 7.5 orbits to the Earth in just one second.
This being said, I would like to focus on the fact that the lowest-frequency Schumann resonance occurs at approximately 7.83 Hz. It is the same frequency that was detected being emitted by hands-on therapists on some studies mentioned before, and here is where the electromagnetic human fields and Earth’s resonances might entangle.
This might be the access door where channeling occurs, this might be the extracorporeal energy Akira Seto was talking about when saying that the extremely big biomagnetic fields cannot be sustained just with human bioelectricity.
The scientific study of Energy Healing therapies like Reiki is still difficult because of 2 main points: (1) so far current technology can only measure (and painstakingly) the magnetic component of some biofield emissions and energy channellings, and (2) there is not a single consensual and trustworthy scientific protocol that allows the proper study of energy healing techniques.
Some scientists prefer studying Reiki by the mental and physical effects that it produce, and there are many findings that strongly suggest the benefits of Reiki when dealing with anxiety and pain modulation, as well as promoting the general well-being and the immune system.
When talking about the electromagnetic findings that scientists have obtained so far, it is very interesting that the 7.8 Hz frequency has been recorded in more than one study. This frequency is the same than the Fundamental Frequency of the Schumann Resonances, which are the electric generated waves that bounce back and forth in the resonant cavity formed between Earth's surface and the ionosphere. The Fundamental frequency is a very serious candidate to consider when thinking about channeling and Earth-human frequency interaction.