July 29, 2022

12 Studies that Show How Effective Energy Healing Can Be…

Although many dismiss energy healing as “woo,” qualitative studies on energy healing as a therapeutic practice have actually steadily increased since the 1970s.

Many studies have been conducted and published on different energy healing practices. Contrary to popular belief, energy healing practices, from Reiki to Therapeutic Touch to many others, have actually been explored en masse. That being said, the studies published on energy healing – some qualitative and well-constructed and others not so much – make it fairly easy to see how doubters find ways to fuel their skepticism.

Poorly constructed studies that overgeneralize results bring a bad name to the world of energy healing. Luckily, these are far from the only studies that exist. Before we dive into the studies that have produced findings that suggest that energy healing a) has real, tangible effects, and b) that those effects aren’t just placebo, let’s briefly explore how to identify quality and reliable studies from the rest.

Want to skip the background on studies and get straight to the good stuff?

Click here to jump down to the 12 studies that suggest energy healing isn’t just placebo…

How to Tell High Quality Studies from the Rest…

If you love research like me, you’ve likely found yourself confronted with endless links to hundreds of studies. But with so many studies out there, it can be challenging to identify the well-structured studies from the rest. And if there’s one thing energy healing doesn’t need, it’s poorly designed studies dissuading people from further exploring energy healing’s potential.

There are four main study structures: case studies, observational studies, intervention/experimental studies, and systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Each type has its value, but experimental studies – specifically double-blind randomized controlled studies (RCTs) – are considered the gold standard.

The Gold Standard: Double-Blind Randomized Controlled Studies

The reason RCTs are considered the gold standard is in their design. Compared to other study types, the goal of RCTs are to remove as many potential sources of bias and confounding variables as possible, so researchers can create a specific link between cause (experimental intervention) and effect. 

Double-blind RCTs involve two (or more) groups of participants. One group is selected for the experimental intervention and receives the “new treatment”, while the other group (the control group) receives a placebo in the form of standard care or a sham treatment. You may be wondering, “why give the control group anything at all?”

The Deal with Placebo

The answer: placebo. Our minds are incredibly powerful, and when we believe something’s going to affect us our minds can make those expected effects a reality. The tendency for our minds to predict and enact a response regardless of treatment is called “the placebo effect.” In studies, “a placebo” generally refers to an intervention that’s meant to have no effect, like a sugar pill, and helps counteract the impact our beliefs could have on results across experimental groups.

So, if you give one group a pill that serves as a potential new treatment but don’t give the control group anything, your results may not show the impact of the new treatment. Instead, you may be measuring the experimental group’s hopes and expectations of a new treatment compared to the control’s neutral mindset. But, if you give the control group a placebo technique, any differences between groups can’t be chalked up to expectations.

Eliminating Bias in Studies

To prevent bias, participants are assigned to control or experimental groups at random (called a blind study). To further prevent bias, researchers aren’t told which group is which (called a double blind study).

Double-blind randomized controlled studies are considered the gold standard because of how they eliminate other variables and sources of bias that could lessen the degree of confidence in cause and effect of the new treatment.

Now, without further ado – 12 qualitative studies that find results that indicate potential for energy healing as a therapeutic technique and suggest it isn’t just placebo!

12 Studies that Suggest Energy Healing Isn’t Just Placebo!

The twelve studies below were all selected because they offer a high degree of reliability and account for the placebo effect (meaning energy healing worked not because of a patient’s beliefs, but because of the therapeutic technique itself).

In Vitro Studies on Energy Healing

In vitro studies involve the exploration of energy healing practices on bacteria and cells. By experimenting at this level, the possibility of placebo is canceled out. (Water, plants, and animal studies also preclude the possibility of placebo, as seen below.)

#1 Therapeutic touch affects DNA synthesis and mineralization of human osteoblasts in culture

Conducted in 2008 and published by The Orthopaedic Research Society, this study sought to examine the impact of therapeutic touch on osteoblast proliferation, differentiation, and mineralization in vitro. 

Keywords to know:

  • Osteoblasts: bone cells that manage calcium and mineral deposits and help build new bone.

  • Osteosarcoma-derived cell line (SaOs-2): osteosarcoma is a type of bone cancer that begins in bone cells. A cell-line refers to cell cultures collected from a primary culture that reflects the properties of the larger organism. In this case, this refers to osteosarcoma cells.

  • Therapeutic Touch (TT): a structured five-step process developed as an energy healing practice for use by nurses and medical professionals that typically involves placing hands on a subject.

Therapeutic touch was provided to in vitro osteoblasts twice a week for 10-minute intervals over two weeks. No differences in DNA synthesis were found after the first week (two sessions completed). 

However, after the second week (four sessions completed), human osteoblast DNA synthesis for therapeutic touch increased significantly compared to controls. Additionally, TT significantly increased mineralization in human osteoblasts and decreased mineralization in osteosarcoma cell lines compared to controls.

Conclusion: Therapeutic Touch administered twice per week for at least two weeks led to increased activity and growth of human cells and decreased activity for osteosarcoma cells compared to the control group.

#2 Therapeutic touch stimulates the proliferation of human cells in culture

This 2008 study also sought to assess the impact of therapeutic touch on the multiplication of normal human cells (fibroblasts, tenocytes, and osteoblasts) compared to a sham treatment and no treatment. 

Keywords to know:

  • Osteoblasts: (see above.)

  • Fibroblasts: cells whose purpose is to maintain the integrity and strength of connective tissues.

  • Tenocytes: specialized fibroblasts responsible for the characteristics of tendons and ligaments.

However, after the second week (four sessions completed), human osteoblast DNA synthesis for therapeutic touch increased significantly compared to controls. Additionally, TT significantly increased mineralization in human osteoblasts and decreased mineralization in osteosarcoma cell lines compared to controls.

Therapeutic touch, an alternative treatment, and no treatment was administered twice a week for two weeks to cultures of fibroblasts, tenocytes, and osteoblasts. Treatments came in the form of 10-minute sessions, which different amounts of sessions provided to different cultures over the two weeks to see if there was a dose-dependent relationship.

The study found that TT administered at a baseline of twice per week for two weeks prompted significant growth of fibroblasts, osteoblasts, and tenocytes compared to the control group with no intervention. Sham treatment results were not notably different from untreated control results, showing much less cell multiplication in tenocyte and fibroblast cultures. Increasing the amount of 10-minute treatments to four per week seemed to further increase osteoblast multiplication.

Conclusion: Therapeutic Touch administered at least twice per week over the course of two weeks led to increased activity and growth of different cells compared to a sham treatment and to the control group.

#3 Effects of biofield therapy on calcium release in mouse keratinocyte cells

This study, published in Public Health Frontier in 2015, sought to explore the impact of biofield therapy on calcium release into keratinocyte HaCaT mouse cells.

Keywords to know:

  • Keratinocytes: a skin cell found on the top layer of skin.

Biofield energy was applied for 15 minutes to the experimental group using a pranic healing technique, while the control group received no intervention. Cells were then loaded with five micrometers of calcium and monitored for changes in intracellular calcium concentration.

Conclusion: Compared to untreated control cells, the cells treated with biofield energy showed significant increases in calcium absorption and intracellular concentration.

Plant Studies on Energy Healing

#4 Measuring effects of music, noise, and healing energy with seed germination

Conducted in 2004 and published in The Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine, this study was designed to test the effects of healing energy, pink noise, music, and no treatment on seed germination.

Keywords to know

  • Germination: refers to the sprouting of a seed.

  • Pink noise: pink noise is a mixture of all frequencies humans can hear, similar to white noise. But where white noise plays all frequencies equally, pink noise’s sound is said to be less harsh because it lessens the intensity of higher frequencies.

The study conducted a series of five experiments on okra and zucchini seeds. The results were to be determined by how many out of 25 seeds per group sprouted over 72 hours. Healing energy was provided for 15-20 minutes every 12 hours for the energy healing group. Altogether, a total of 14 trials were run, resulting in the testing of 4600 seeds.

Musical sound had the most statistically significant effect on seeds sprouted compared to untreated control and compared to the pink noise group. Healing energy also had a significant impact similar to that of musical sound compared to the untreated control group.

Conclusion: Musical sound (vibrations, noise, music) and biofield energy practices directly affected living biologic systems like those involved in seed germination.

Water Studies on Energy Healing

#5 Water held by therapeutic practitioners underwent infrared spectra alteration

Conducted in 2014, this study sought to explore the impact of therapeutic touch on sealed vials of sterile water samples, measured via infrared spectrophotometry.

Keywords to know:

  • Infrared Spectrophotometry: a technique used to measure absorption peaks or how much light a substance absorbs by measuring the intensity of a beam of light passing through a solution.

The study included 14 trials. Each trial employed a different TT practitioner who used a personal variation of TT or the laying-on-of-hands practice. The study included several layers of controls alongside randomization and study blindness. Researchers found that the carefully sealed vials of sterile water samples showed distinct changes after being held by therapeutic technique practitioners.

Conclusion: Although how and why this happened needs further exploration, this study suggests therapeutic touch can impact the consistency and nature of water.

Animal Studies on Energy Healing

#6 Therapeutic touch leads to reductions in mouse breast cancer metastasis and immune responses

This 2015 study was designed to explore the impact of therapeutic touch breast cancer tumors in mice. The mice received either TT or mock treatments for 10 minutes, twice per week over the course of 26 days. Therapeutic touch was administered by two experienced practitioners who alternated treatments.

Keywords to know:

  • Metastasis: the development of secondary malignant growths separated by distance from the primary site of cancer.

While no significant differences in the primary tumor were found between the untreated control and TT group, the TT group showed significant reduction in metastasis by comparison. And while cancer growth typically elevates eleven types of cytokines, mice who received therapeutic touch showed significantly reduced levels of four of the eleven cytokines compared to controls.

Conclusion: While the study found that biofield therapy had no effect on the primary tumor, the practice of therapeutic touch contributed to significant positive effects on metastasis and immune responses in mice.

Human Studies

#7 Qigong for hypertension: a systematic review

This specific study was presented at the 11th International Congress of Behavioral Medicine in 2010, alongside several other studies exploring the health effects of Qigong, available here. Researchers of this study sought to determine the clinical evidence of qigong for hypertension. They systematically analyzed all randomized clinical trials (RCTS) up through 2009 that tested the impact of qigong in hypertensive patients. In total, 12 RCTS met the necessary degree of scientific rigor to be included in the review.

Seven of these RCTs explored the effects of qigong in combination with hypertensive drugs compared to hypertensive drugs alone. A meta-analysis of four of these seven trials came back with sufficient data to suggest that qigong had a favorable effect on patients’ systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Two RCTs compared qigong alone compared to a control group on the waitlist for treatment and found that qigong significantly lessened systolic blood pressure.

The final three RCTs explored qigong as an isolated treatment vs. exercise and/or antihypertensive drugs, and qigong combined with antihypertensive drugs vs. muscle relaxation with antihypertensive drugs. In all three studies, qigong led to favorable results compared to the control.

Conclusion: Qigong may be an effective technique for lowering systolic blood pressure (but more research is required to further explore and define this interaction.)

#8 Effects of qi therapy on PMS symptoms: an RCT

Published in The Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine in 2004, this study sought to explore the impact of qi therapy on premenstrual symptoms in women. This study was relatively small, comprising just 36 college women with PMS symptoms, but is significant in its structure as a randomized placebo-controlled trial. 

Subjects were divided into two groups: those who received a placebo treatment, and those who received qi therapy. The interventions were performed a total of eight times during the second and third cycles as subjects completed PMS.

Conclusion: Researchers found patients who received qi therapy saw significant improvements in symptoms of pain, water retention, and negative feeling compared to the placebo control group.

#9 The effect of therapeutic touch on pain and anxiety in burn patients

This single-blinded randomized control study published in The Journal of Advanced Nursing was designed to test the impact of therapeutic touch vs. sham therapeutic touch on 1) pain (as a supplement to narcotic analgesia), 2) anxiety, and 3) alterations in plasma T-lymphocyte concentrations in burn patients.

Keywords to know:

  • Plasma T-lymphocytes: t-lymphocytes are involved in the immune system and with the inflammation response.

Data was collected from a burn center located in the south-eastern United States, and included information from 99 men and women between 15 and 68 years old who had been hospitalized for severe burns. Each patient received either shame or real therapeutic touch once daily for five days. Researchers collected baseline data on day 1, post-treatment data on day 3 and post-intervention data on day 6, including drawing blood on day 1 and 6 to measure lymphocyte levels.

Analyses found that patients who received TT experienced significantly greater reduction in pain and greater reductions in anxiety than those who received the sham treatment. Lymphocyte concentrations in the blood also dropped significantly for patients who received TT vs. sham treatment.

Conclusion: Therapeutic touch contributed to a significant reduction in pain, anxiety, and markers of immune and inflammatory activity in severe burn patients.

#10 The effects of therapeutic touch on patients with knee osteoarthritis

This relatively small study published in the Journal of Family Practice sought to determine the effectiveness of therapeutic touch for treating knee osteoarthritis. It was structured as a single-blinded RCT conducted through a community hospital family practice residency program based in Pennsylvania.

The study included 25 patients between 40-80 years old who had received a diagnosis of osteoarthritis for at least one knee, had no other connective tissue diseases, and hadn’t had a knee replacement. The patients were separated into three groups and received either TT, sham TT, or standard care. The study found that patients who received TT experienced significantly improved function and reduced pain compared to the sham TT and standard care group.

Conclusion: Therapeutic Touch contributed to significant improvements in pain and function for patients with knee osteoarthritis compared to control groups.

#11 Effects of healing touch on pain and mobility of people with osteoarthritis

This 2013 RCT study was designed to study the effects of Healing Touch (HT) (another name for Therapeutic Touch) on mobility, joint function, pain, and depression for people with osteoarthritis of the knee. Patients with a diagnosis of knee osteoarthritis received either weekly friendly visits (placebo-control) or HT sessions three times per week for six weeks. HT sessions were delivered by two HT certified nurses. All participants continued their current course of treatment for reducing joint pain.

Across the board, the participants that received Healing Touch sessions experienced significant improvements in 9 out of 12 variables, including improvements in joint function and decreases in joint pain.

Conclusion: Healing Touch intervention contributed to statistically significant improvements in joint function and pain, some of which had sustained effects that lasted up to three weeks post-treatment.

#12 Clinical Studies of Biofield Therapies: Summary, Methodological Challenges, and Recommendations 

The final study we’ll be touching on is actually a review of the research on quality biofield studies up through 2015, particularly in the arenas of pain and cancer management.

Across the board, the participants that received Healing Touch sessions experienced significant improvements in 9 out of 12 variables, including improvements in joint function and decreases in joint pain.

Conclusion: Healing Touch intervention contributed to statistically significant improvements in joint function and pain, some of which had sustained effects that lasted up to three weeks post-treatment.

So, What Does this Mean for the Science of Energy Healing?

To me, it means there’s a lot of potential. And the more research we pour into investigating energy healing, the greater we can expand its availability and impact for people worldwide. For all the research we explored today, there are many more studies out there that are currently exploring the nature and practice of energy healing. It’s just important to be aware as you’re going through new studies, that not all are as substantive as they seem.

I hope this blog will have given you a solid start on understanding the science behind energy healing.

If you’re struggling with osteoarthritis pain and want to explore the potential of energy healing with Healing Lab, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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