Scientific Research about Reiki

As Reiki becomes a more common healing modality in our society, many people wonder exactly what it is, how it works, and what evidence exists to show its effectiveness. For an introduction to Reiki, take a look at this short film that includes testimonials from practitioners and clients.

Reiki works by tapping into the human body’s electrical and magnetic fields. Our heartbeat is regulated by an electrical field that can be measured by an ECG or EKG, our brain produces a lower-level electrical field, and every cell in our body creates small amounts of electricity which contribute to a magnetic field, due to the positive and negative charges of the outer and inner cell walls. When you go to get an MRI scan, the internal mechanism producing the images of soft tissue is your body’s magnetic field (Thrane & Cohen, 2014). 

The job of a Reiki practitioner is to harness the client’s energy field and help move energy throughout the body to alleviate stuck points or energy blockages. Practitioners don’t cause the healing, they simply serve as a channel for the energy to move in the client. Many clients report feeling great relaxation and a release of tension through Reiki.  

McManus (2017) synthesized the findings of various studies on the effectiveness of Reiki compared to placebo treatment, and came to a few conclusions:

  • Reiki is a complementary therapy that is safe and gentle enough for fragile clients, illustrating its benefits in hospitals and hospice settings. 

  • 5 studies showed evidence that Reiki is better than placebo for inducing a physically relaxed state. Physiologically, Reiki reduces resting heart rate, increases heart rate variability, and lowers blood pressure. 

  • 3 studies provided evidence that Reiki can help people manage chronic conditions, as weekly Reiki sessions for up to 8 weeks resulted in reduced anxiety/depression and increased self-esteem and quality of life. 

Charkhandeh, Talib, and Hunt (2016) conducted a study on Iranian adolescents to assess the effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) versus Reiki on mental health outcomes, and concluded that both treatments effectively improved depression scores. While CBT had a significantly larger treatment effect than Reiki, the authors urge practitioners to value the way Reiki enhances treatment outcomes, and highlights that Reiki could serve as an effective intervention for individuals who may not seek out CBT or other mental health therapies. 

If you’re curious about Reiki, consider reaching out to our Reiki practitioner, Jessica Franzen, at 


Charkhandeh, M., Talib, M. A., & Hunt, C. J. (2016). The clinical effectiveness of cognitive behavior therapy and an alternative medicine approach in reducing symptoms of depression in adolescents. Psychiatry Research, 239, 325-330. 

McManus, D. E. (2017). Reiki Is Better Than Placebo and Has Broad Potential as a Complementary Health Therapy. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 22(4), 1051-1057. 

Thrane, S., & Cohen, S. M. (2014). Effect of Reiki Therapy on Pain and Anxiety in Adults: An In-Depth Literature Review of Randomized Trials with Effect Size Calculations. Pain Management Nursing, 15(4), 897-908.