Last night I ran a webinar for The Reiki Guild, a Reiki organisation here in the UK. The topic this month was ‘Scientific Evidence for Reiki’ which is always of interest to our members. In order for complementary therapies to be accepted by the mainstream of public opinion, case studies and anecdotal evidence of benefits are not enough; there must be ‘scientific evidence’.
In many parts of the world complementary therapies are offered to patients in healthcare settings such as hospitals and hospices. The distribution is patchy and often seems to depend on the views of one person or a small circle of individuals in the organisation involved. According to the American Hospital Association, in 2007, 15% or over 800 American hospitals offered Reiki as part of hospital services.
In 2005 the website www.internethealthlibrary.com reported that:
• 75% of the public want alternative therapies made available on the NHS
• 45% of registered medical practitioners refer patients to complementary medical treatments
• 85% of medical students, 76 % of GPs and 69% of hospital doctors now feel that complementary therapies should be made available on the NHS
• 58% of nurses incorporate or use alternative therapies in their work and 89% recommend alternative therapies to patients
Several hospitals in the UK do have complementary therapists working in some capacity, predominately on a volunteer basis and with therapies such as reflexology and aromatherapy being more common.
At University College Hospital, London, the cancer division complementary therapy service provides a range of therapies supporting conventional NHS treatment. The therapies offered are aromatherapy, massage, reflexology, and Reiki and although the team is employed by the NHS much of the funding is through charitable donation. The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester also supports cancer patients, their families and hospital staff with complementary therapies. The Royal Marsden Hospital currently offers acupuncture and aromatherapy massage.
One of the main reasons for not using Reiki treatment or practice (as well as other therapies) is the apparent lack of scientific evidence to support these treatments, some of which may have been used successfully for thousands of years and by millions of people. Another reason is the way that many Reiki practitioners describe and talk about the system of Reiki and how it works. It is essential that practitioners use descriptions and language that adds credibility and it is important to be able to refer to meaningful studies.
My guest on the webinar was Dr Ann Baldwin, Research Professor of Physiology at the University of Arizona and a Reiki Master. In 2006 she published a study that showed a reduction in inflammation, caused by stress, in rats when they were given Reiki treatments. (Baldwin AL and Schwartz GE. Personal interaction with a Reiki practitioner decreases noise-induced micro-vascular damage in an animal model. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, (2006), 12(1): 15-22.) Much of the disdain that is heaped on complementary therapy research is due to the widespread suspicion that any positive results are due to the placebo effect rather than the therapy, but of course animals should be immune to that effect.
Dr Baldwin is part of a team of researchers who aim to seek out well- designed, evidence based studies of Reiki and they are compiling a list with abstracts which can be found at www.centerforreikiresearch.org. There are few studies being undertaken as funding is a huge issue; meaningful studies with a large sample size are costly to run.
Do you have any experience of Reiki treatment being used in conventional medical or veterinary settings? Or have you been involved in a research project?