Monday, March 3, 2008

Energy Healing and Western Medicine

The "life force," often called "energy" in Western culture, is the substance that permeates and bonds all. It is sometimes referred to as the "vital force." In China, it is called Qi; in India it is called prana. It is believed the "life force" extends throughout the universe and that the individual is part of an indivisible whole. The belief is that because the "life force" permeates everything, an individual is unavoidably affected by external events and energies. Thus, treatment of the individual should consider the mind/body/spirit interaction as well as an overall connection to the universe.

Energy healing is based on the belief that our "life force" creates energy fields that are unbalanced during emotional or physical disease. Because our energy fields are part of an interconnected whole, the use of focused intention by one individual can aid in the health and well being of another. Many individuals use their own individual means of directing their intention to heal.

An interesting feature of energy healing is that it may be performed over distances of thousands of miles. The "life force" claimed to be transmitted by energy healers does not have the properties of any known form of energy., comparable practice to energy healing that is used frequently in the West is prayer. A 1996 survey showed that 82 percent of Americans believed in the healing power of prayer. A survey of patients in American Cancer Society support groups for breast cancer found that 88 percent experienced beneficial effects of spiritual and religious practice.

In an effort to incorporate Western sciences' need for physical proof, studies have been performed on the impact of energy healing on living, isolated cells as opposed to human subjects. According to the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in the U.S., many of the studies on isolated cells are inadequately controlled, are published as incomplete reports, or are published in non-reviewed journals. Of 23 clinical trials involving energy healing that did meet a rigorous criteria requiring adequate design, control and review procedures, 57 percent have shown a beneficial effect. This caused authors reviewing the studies to conclude that the "evidence thus far merits further study."

Indeed there is growing interest and evidence for alternative health exploration based on a "life force," wholeness, and interconnections. The National Institutes of Health has established a Center that is devoted to research in the area of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The budget is growing rapidly and research into areas such as energy healing and prayer is being encouraged. Several large clinical trials, especially on the effects of prayer, are now underway in major academic institutions across the U.S. Through science, researchers eventually hope to better understand how energy healing practices may be incorporated into Western medical practices. What do YOU think?


Anonymous said...
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Jim said...

My wife has just recently completed her studies as an Integrative Kinesiologist. Kinesiology is based on this "life force" and the flow of energies through the body, and it is not a new science. It has been developed over the past 20 to 30 years by Western practitioners who have learned from ancient Chinese medicine.

If you have heard of the muscle test, this is the prime tool in kinesiology, and this alone proves that energies flow or are blocked in the body. The blockages are emotional baggage from years before, or from childhood, or even from before birth or inherited. Kinesiology uses various muscles to test various organs and parts of the body, and so determines which part of the body is weak or sick.

As treatment they use specific massage of muscle points and energy points, also known as Acu-points. The meridians are also very important as these are the lines of energy flow. These can be strengthened or weakened by simply moving the hand along the lines in one direction or the other.

So people can be treated without medicine, and this is probably the main reason why such methods are still frowned upon - less medicine used means less money made. In "The Field" which I may have mentioned here before, describes in detail some of these experiments proving again that such forces exist.

Our ancestors knew more about this than we even acknowledge in our modern intelligent world. But thanks to science and the growing number of various therapists energy healing is becoming more and more acceptable. The medical world will just have to adapt with this positive healthy trend.

Travis said...


Molly Brogan said...

I was skeptical once myself before I saw some real results accomplished by these modalities. I do think that being open to them is what allows their effectiveness. On the other hand, a focus on the problem instead of the solution can bring about unexpected events. The story of Elisabeth Targ, who researched energy healing on brain tumors, and then died of one herself is a good illustration of the power and mystery of the mind.

ornamentalmind said...

I think that most such research results can be predicted by knowing the funding source. I also know that there exist successful healing modalities that combine the analytical scientific method with that which is not currently accepted as being such.

A quick overview of one can be found at:
and at:

Neil said...

Strange Molly that the 'real results' never quite make the light of day, peer review and the rest.

Chris said...

I believe they have. The research you are looking for is filed under "Placebo Effect".

Francis said...

There was a study done recently (I saw some medical talking-head on German TV expounding about it) where someone asserted that the placebo- effect makes up around 37% of the positive results in clinical tests of different treatment methods. In this sense, one speaks of "context" rather than placebo. This realisation is potentially very important for conventional medicine. Many, if not most, illnesses have a strong psychosomatic component (which is something different than saying that they are completely psychosomatic or can be cured "mentally" alone). The mind IS very powerful and humans are psychsomatic unities.

Conventional medicine often screws up very badly in this area. Much of the context of conventional medicine is very negative and so it is no wonder that people have trouble being cured. On of the great strengths of Chinese (indeed many eastern traditions of) medicine is the amount of time taken for a proper anamnesis. Doctors need to practice really looking and, above all, really listening to their patients. In the crazy disorganisation of western medicine this doesn't happen, rather it is discouraged on supposed cost-effectiveness grounds. This is, of course, patent rubbish, since the real value should be healing people, but, in many situations, I'm not even sure if this is the desired result for many medical care providers. People are complex, holistic entities, but conventional medicine frequently emasculates itself by dividing and looking at pathological symptoms and causes in isolation of the bigger picture, failing to see the importance of positive or negative feedback and interaction.

This is one explanation why people become disillusioned with conventional medicine (thus providing a negative context - thereby even poorer results) and turn instead with great hope and expectation to alternative methods. The context is therefore positive from the start - thereby immediately providing more than a third of what is necessary for healing. This is something that charlatans or people with a deluded sense of their own abilities seem to instinctively sense and use to their own advantage. However, when it comes to the crunch, most of them fail dismally when confronted with the harsh light of basic scientific method, as Neil points out.

People who think that metastazising tumours can be cured by the laying on of hands (or swinging crytals or other such mumbo-jumbo) are to be pitied, people who persuade them that they have such powers need to be stopped - hard. But conventional physicians who see a tumour as something isolated are also missing out on a lot of important things (life-style, mental stress, disfunctional relationships etc.). In the rush to accept alternative forms of meicines as panacea, people should look at the mortality rates in traditional societies with their traditional methods of treatment before the advent of "western", scientific medicine. (And the rhinos and tigers will be eternally grateful!)

In the Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde observes, "The truth is rarely pure and never simple". In terms of illness and healing we
should never forget this.

Molly Brogan said...

I know that the placebo phenom is real enough, but is it a catch all category that we throw everything into that we don't understand? My very real experience with alternative therapies was watching my beloved brother Micheal, after a diagnosis of stage 4 lymphoma, liver, lung and spleen cancer. Everyone was sure he was a goner, but the doctors prescribed a rigorous regime of chemo nonetheless. With each of the eight treatments administered every two weeks, he looked like he was aging twenty years. He could barely put one foot in front of another and looked like a skeleton after the first three. Before the second, I asked someone to work with him that uses several "energy therapy" modalities. Mike's response was "I didn't really understand what he did, but could appreciate the effort. I don't think he really knew me though." The therapist worked with Mike's energy systems, and talked to him about the importance of his self image and viewpoint, telling him that his thoughts create his reality, and advising him to imagine himself as healthy and vital.

I understood how much of an impression that made on Micheal, only after a phone call from him the day of what should have been his fifth chemo treatment. He called me while I was at a conference in San Diego, getting ready to leave my hotel room for the morning sessions. He said, "Listen, I have to tell you something." From the sound of his voice, I knew it was important, and that moment become one of those where time seems to stop and stretch out to encompass your whole life. I pulled up a chair and nestled into my view of the San Diego harbor and began to listen with everything I had.

He told me that on the way to the hospital, he knew that he would not survive another treatment. He asked himself whether he wanted to live or die. His answer was, he wanted to live, but could not imagine how it would happen, all medical reports were indicating no hope. He said, "what I did was imagine myself walking into the doctors office. I imagined every detail of the office, her desk, chairs, lamps etc. I sat down and waited for her arrival. She entered the office, said hello, asked how I was feeling, sat down at her desk, opened my file in front of her, silently looked at the test results for a while, folded her hands over the file and looked up at me. After a moment of looking directly into my eyes, she told me the results of each test, and then said, 'and can't explain this, but from all results, you appear to be cancer free.' I imagined the feeling of overwhelming relief that the treatments were over. I imagined the incredible joy I felt to regain my life. And I imagined telling you, and having you listen like you are now, and cry softly, like you are now. I imagined this same scene, detail for detail four more times on my way to the doctor's office. And Molly, I am telling you, that it happened exactly as I imagined it."

At this point, of course, I had to jump out of my chair and begin cheering and crying loudly. After Mike was able to quiet me down, he said, "Listen, what I am telling you is that it happened EXACTLY as I imagined it. Every test result that the doctor read to me, every word she said, every gesture she made. It is very creepy. And I want you to tell me it is OK." At that, of course, I burst into laughter and said "Hell, YES, it's OK. It is so much more than just OK."

I've had many different responses to this story in the past couple of years since it happened. The doctors, of course, tested and retested and retested Micheal, but the cancer did not reappear. He slowly regained his strength and his life and the way he lives it will never be the same. Mine probably won't either.

All I can say is that I think if you are open to miraculous healing, it will find you. I don't think you even have to understand the process or method. But you do have to imagine and believe.

Neil said...

I don't believe in believing quite like this Molly - but I do believe in believing and in rejoicing for you and your brother. All the best as warm as it gets.

ornamentalmind said...

RE: Placebo Effect

and numerous other sites. Use google.

ornamentalmind said...

On Tibetan Medicine and results, I have seen hundreds of patients in clinic with clear and verifiable results. Since I studied with Dr. Yeshi Dhonden, I suggest his books for further information. Two of which are found a few entries down at:

"A Science of Consciousness: Buddhism (1), the Modern West (0)"

"Materialism of the Gaps"

Neil said...

Acupuncture could help relieve the crippling fatigue associated with chemotherapy treatment in cancer patients. This is work at the University of Manchester.Crippling and long-lasting fatigue is one the most common side-effects of chemotherapy. The new work indicates that acupuncture can boost energy levels and radically improve a patient's quality of life. Numerous trials have shown that acupuncture appears to work for a variety of conditions. Last year, two studies demonstrated that acupuncture may help boost fertility after IVF, although a third study failed to demonstrate an effect. The US National Institutes of Health says that acupuncture is an effective treatment for nausea caused by anaesthesia and cancer chemotherapy, as well as dental pain following surgery.

In the latest study, 47 patients suffering from moderate to severe fatigue were enrolled in a randomised placebo-controlled trial at Manchester's Christie Hospital. The patients were randomly assigned to one of three groups to receive either acupuncture or acupressure - placing physical pressure on acupuncture points with hands or objects - or sham acupressure. My partner, Sue had her treatment there.

"Patients had the energy to walk to the shops and to socialise, so their quality of life improved significantly," he says.

The acupuncture group received six 20-minute sessions spread over three weeks. During these sessions the characteristic thin needles were inserted about 2 centimetres into the patients' body at three points. The points were selected for their supposed propensity to boost energy levels and reduce fatigue.

Patients in the acupressure group were taught to massage the same acupuncture points for one minute a day for two weeks. The sham acupressure group was taught the same technique, but told to massage different points on the body not associated with energy and fatigue.

Patients in the acupuncture group reported a 36% improvement in fatigue levels, whilst those in the acupressure group improved by 19%. Those in the sham acupressure group reported a 0.6% improvement. The lead researcher says that the improvements were not down to the placebo effect, which was taken into account. But a bigger trial is needed to properly characterise the effect and is planning one in the near future.

Nobody is sure how acupuncture actually works, but researchers have previously suggested that it might reduce fatigue by stimulating the body to release endorphins - morphine-like chemicals that block pain signals and induce a feeling of well-being. This was a very small study and bigger randomised controlled trials are needed before we know for sure if acupuncture or acupressure is effective at relieving some of the side effects of cancer therapy.
Journal reference: Complementary Therapies in Medicine (DOI: 10.1016/ j.ctim.2006.09.009)

These claims seem reasonable. My Mum was helped in pain terms through aroma therapy before her death. Unfortunately we need to guard against the conpeople. These are small effects. Most miracle cures are just miracles - that is, bollox, more unverifiable stories from near the burning bush.

Molly Brogan said...

I agree about guarding against unethical people in any profession. Several medical doctors spring to mind, that ordered test after test and prescribed a cabinet full of medicine with no results. AND I know many medical doctors who are well respected, kind and caring, and do their best for their patients. I think the big thing to watch out for is this - is this practitioner teaching us how to take care of ourselves, or is he suggesting a regime that contributes a great deal of time and financial resource to their practice? Do they consider themselves to be the reason for your progress, or are they empowering you to maintain your own health and vitality?

Neil said...

Much has been written on what Molly is saying - Foucault's 'regimes of truth' lends considerable support. Academe is now a good example of a business that is in business for its own interests, rather than helping people to develop in their own terms. None of us can stand apart from this, but we can try and tell the truth, complex as this may be in motivational terms.

ornamentalmind said...

My experience with treatment is that different practitioners, let alone different schools/methods of acupuncture differ greatly in results. This could suggest the subjective nature of this ancient art dealing with chi.

Neil said...

It must be pretty difficult to study Orn. I know of a few other trials like the one above and I've seen some that fall short on method so badly we couldn't rely on them. Given body differences there must be real skills involved.

ornamentalmind said...

Neil, yes, I found it much that I only lasted about a year then gave it up. At least I had the opportunity to have been 'treated' by some great people over the years. Oh, as to body differences, this was addressed somewhat in my first quarter of study. Different practitioners in the school I studied with reported different things...feeling, seeing the meridians etc. I wasn't beyond feeling stuff. I did know when others hit a point though.

When it comes to 'art', after only a few years of study of Tibetan Medicine, I was able to come up with the same diagnosis on a few friends as had been arrived at by a 5 element acupuncturist friend of mine. (blind exercise, I didn't ask/know until after I had arrived at a diagnosis) By the way, one finger on both hands was 'inverted' in the two systems as to element and organs. I had wanted to check this out.

Further, even though I would consider myself to be a charlatan IF I chose to practice it with so little training, I still was able to do things like tell a person that I felt very little energy in one kidney and none in the other one. I said I didn't know why and was not suggesting anything to them. They said the one w/no energy had been removed and the other one was not functioning well at all. This blew my mind about as much as seeing my teacher tell people (accurately) what injuries they had 6, 7, 12 years ago and where in/on the body.

All of the above was by pulse diagnosis alone!
Well, enough for now.

Wehireu said...

When you say energy healing it brings up people in new age outfits chanting with crystals. The idea that all alternative health methods are hoaxes is nonsense. Certain types of medicine seem to work that are not based on western medicine. Acupuncture and chinese herbalism seem to do quite well with certain ailments so do some forms of Ayurveda. Calling them energy healing is a little odd. The idea of complementary medicine will keep you a lot healthier in many ways than only following western medicine.

I have some serious doubts about some of the claims of kinesiology, reflexology, and other types of alternative medicines. They are new and often make wild claims about healing people. I have less doubts about people deeply trained in things like acupuncture, some forms of natural medicine, and ayruveda. However, to throw out western medicine is a mistake.

Jim said...

Molly, I just got back from a trip so I only just saw your story about your brother. Wow! That's fantastic. That's amazing. And yet its exactly what we tell people to do - but still its great to hear that it works. I'm so glad you shared that story.

Wehireu, This is called energy healing because it works with energies and specifically energy blocks. You say you less doubts about those trained in acupunture. The other therapies you mention you have serious doubts about are both based on the same acupoints and merdians which Aupunture uses. The all three work with energy flows. I was like you when I first heard about these therapies, but I soon realized that my doubts were based on ignorance and not knowledge. So I got educated and gained enough understanding to see the science behind it.

You just can't deny such a miraculous healing like with Molly's brother. The amazing thing is that his imagination, also a flow of energy, actually helped heal his body, another form of energy, from cancer, which again is simply a form of energy. Everything is energy.

Morgan said...

The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease. - Voltaire

Kathleen said...

It all comes from the same source - its' a belief process. There are too many common threads - you seek acupuncture with high hopes - it helps; you passionately believe in nature's intelligence, as Voltaire did, and nature heals you; you use biofeedback and it works, because YOU allowed it to. I think there are many many paths to healing.

There are even those who say that if you "tell" a disease to go away it will - and I'm certain you will find stories of that nature. We are all very powerful healers in our own right, and I really think we're in control

It's good to have others that can introduce us to alternative forms of healing. I think it awakens our true self-healing nature, and points us to hope.

Finally...(really) - we are finite beings. You can't group everyone together - no matter how much we know about physiology, chemistry, genetics, etc. We still know very little about the human brain.

Evita said...

I believe in alternative medicine namely energy healing and it works because I believe in it. If you believe a pill will help then it will too, if you don't then it won't.
Many of us really do not realize just how powerful we are in what we can do with our own energies. Nevermind, many of us do not even realize we are made of energy.