The science of energy healing

  • Art Of Healing
  • Sunday, 03 Aug 2008

Trying to uncover the scientific basis of energy healing.

I WAS presently surprised when I discovered that at least one local insurance company pays for treatments from a traditional health practitioner. It means that the insurance industry, with advice from their actuaries, has studied the matter and decided that it is reasonable to include traditional therapies because these therapies may help in the recovery of their clients (the insured). The insurer would not otherwise compensate for what is totally useless.

But the only way for more insurance companies to come forward and include traditional/complementary therapies is when these therapies are subjected to scientific evaluation and are proven to be effective as claimed. There is no reason why the industry should not accept evidence-based traditional/complementary medicine, just as it embraces evidence-based conventional medicine.

So the challenge is to prove that all these therapies really work. Unfortunately, scientific studies done on some of these therapies have so far been unconvincing.

For example, scientific experiments on homeopathy have failed to show its effectiveness. Nevertheless, the method is still popular even though it has failed to be evidence-based.

Is it possible that the continued popularity is due to the high gullibility of people, and a high “placebo-effect” success rate? I do not know the answer, but I am using homeopathy as an example of a method that did not pass the scientific test, but remains popular. And I am eager to prove that the same is not true for qigong.

It would have been interesting if scientific tests proved its effectiveness because homeopathy goes against scientific principles. In homeopathy, the more dilute the remedy, the stronger it is, whereas science tells us it should be weaker.

Although many tests have been done on traditional herbs (especially traditional Chinese medicinal herbs), very few tests have been done on traditional/complementary energy-healing methods.

Science has no problems recognising that plants and herbs can have medicinal value because they may contain nutrients and natural chemicals that may heal the body.

Many medicines used in modern medicine actually come from plants (eg. salicylic acid for pain and fever, vincristine for cancer chemotherapy), and many beneficial nutrients have been extracted from plants (eg. vitamins, antioxidants, phytoestrogens ).

However, when it comes to recognising that the human hands can emit energy that heals, science has a problem accepting this, as nothing in science thus far indicates that it can or should happen. Or is it so?

Actually there have been many experiments done.

However, unlike drugs tests where there are big budgets in anticipation of big profits, tests done on energy healing have all been small-scale, and very few were peer-reviewed or published in the top scientific journals, as they were also of little interest to the drug, surgery and machine-based doctors.

While there have been many reports and records of healing, these scientific experiments were mostly aimed at detecting the “healing energy” allegedly transmitted by the healers, and detecting the effects this energy has on cells.

I will report on some of the studies that have been done (reference available on request).

Healing hands

Tests have shown that during qigong practice and treatment, the electrical conductivity of acupuncture points changes dramatically. When tested within a copper-shielded test room, a qigong master’s electrical body potential was found to have frequent surges ranging from four volts to 221 volts, which is 10,000 times larger than ECG voltages produced by a human heart.

A study in Japan confirmed that a large biomagnetic field emanates from the hands of practitioners of a variety of healing and martial arts techniques, including qigong. The fields were measured with a magnetometer and found to be about 1,000 times stronger than the strongest human biomagnetic fields (from the heart) and about 1,000,000 times stronger than the fields produced by the brain. The biomagnetic field detected pulsed with a wide variable frequency centred around 8-10 Hz.

Scientists had earlier determined that different tissues heal best under different frequencies of pulsed magnetic field (eg. 2 Hz for nerve regeneration, 7 Hz for bone growth, 10 Hz for ligament healing, 15, 20, and 72 Hz for stimulation of capillary formation, and 25 and 50 Hz for nerve growth factor). Thus it is not surprising that all sorts of health problems have been helped by these healing techniques.

In energy medicine, Oschman concluded that “the evidence shows that practitioners can emit powerful pulsing biomagnetic fields in the same frequency range that biomedical researchers have identified for jump starting healing of soft and hard tissue injuries. This implies that biomagnetism is one form of the elusive Qi...”

Qi is indeed elusive. It is biomagnetism, plus infrared, plus infrasound, plus much more!

A study done at National Yang-Ming Medical College, Taipei, Taiwan, showed that a 3-5 microns infrared spectra of energy was generated by a qigong master from his palm.

It was found that certain qigong masters can emit two opposite kinds of “qi”: the “facilitating” (beneficial) and “inhibiting” (destroying) “qi”. During the facilitating “qi” emission, a large amount of infrared waves were detected by a temperature rise of the air in the vicinity. When the inhibiting “qi” was emitted, the infrared wave was absorbed from the environment, resulting in a cooling of the air.

The biochemical effects of emitted “qi” from the same qigong master on the human fibroblast FS-4 were investigated. The facilitating “qi” caused 1.8% increase of the cell growth in 24 hrs; a 10-15% increase of DNA synthesis; and 3-5% increase of protein synthesis of the cell in a two-hour period; while inhibiting “qi” caused a 6% decrease of cell growth in a 24 hr period; 20-23% decrease of DNA synthesis and 35-48% of protein synthesis in a two-hour period.

In addition, it was found that the metabolic respiration rate of boar sperm increased 12.5-13.0% after receiving five minutes exposure to facilitating “q”, and a decrease to 45-48% by exposure to two minutes of inhibiting “qi”.

The researchers concluded that the results could be attributed to the effects of emitted “qi” or energy containing infrared light (wave) and possibly some other types of energy.

A study at Queen Mary Hospital in Hong Kong in 2001 showed that qigong lowered the blood levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol and also caused a favourable change in the numbers of cytokine-secreting cells and levels of cytokines. Cytokines are important immune modulators. Cortisol is a known inhibitor of cytokine production.

Healing walk

Since 1982, the Guolin Qigong walk (which I have modified and teach as the Amazing Qigong Walk) was adopted as an adjuvant cancer therapy by the oncology department of Shangdon Provincial TCM hospital, China.

Of the first 1,500 patients who practised the Guolin qigong walk, 900 patients with advanced cancer were studied. There were 684 males and 216 females, age ranging from 16 to 68, with an average age of 56. The types of cancer were: lung cancer 191, stomach cancer 168, oesophageal cancer 124, breast cancer 95, nasopharyngeal cancer 69, lymphoma 54, colorectal cancer 49, liver cancer 45, thyroid cancer 8, osteosarcoma 4, and other types. A total of 598 had chemotherapy and 302 had radiotherapy. Side-effects such as loss of appetite, general fatigue, weight loss, and insomnia occurred in 707 cases. All had white cell counts below 4000/mm3.

After practising the qigong walk, 536 out of 707 ( 75.8% ) cases experienced disappearance of above side-effects of medical cancer therapy. At two months, blood tests were done and 603 cases (66%) had white cell counts improved by 1,000-2,000/mm3.

Although a control group was not available, the hospital interpreted the results in favour of the qigong walk, compared with their previous experience.

The hospital continues to incorporate qigong as adjuvant cancer therapy and reports satisfactory results in the combined cancer treatment compared to those who do not do qigong.

The pragmatic approach to healing

While it will take a long while yet, if ever, for there to be enough big, peer-reviewed scientific studies in support of the healing power of qigong for it to be accepted as evidence-based complementary medicine, the volume of validated cases of healing and recovery from cancers, stroke and other diseases is piling up, such that it cannot be ignored.

While the above scientific studies are miniscule compared to that available for approved drugs, and other forms of accepted conventional medical therapies, qigong and other energy healing methods should be further investigated because if proven effective, they are cheap and safe – which is not necessarily true for drugs, surgery and radiotherapy.

In the meantime, it does make sense to practise an exercise that promises good health and healing, without any serious side-effects.

Dr Amir Farid Isahak is a medical specialist who practises holistic, aesthetic and anti-ageing medicine. He is a qigong master and founder of SuperQigong. For further information, e-mail

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