BACKGROUND: This article explores the evidence base of efficacy and effectiveness of 'energy healing' for cancer patients. The term 'energy healing' refers to a wide variety of therapies which are based on the premise that the healer transfers energy to the patient. Among the most researched forms of energy healing are reiki, therapeutic touch and healing touch. MATERIAL AND METHODS: PubMed, AMED, JStor, Social Science Citation Index and PsycInfo databases were searched, and articles were rated according to the SIGN (Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network) quality scale. Six quantitative and two qualitative studies on the efficacy and effectiveness of energy healing for cancer patients met the inclusion criteria. RESULTS: None of the studies are of a size or quality that allows to draw reliable conclusions. The results of the studies are, however, interesting and should be considered when developing new studies and hypotheses on working mechanisms. CONCLUSION: The existing research does not allow conclusions regarding the efficacy or effectiveness of energy healing. Future studies should adhere to existing standards of research on the efficacy and effectiveness of a treatment, and given the complex character of potential outcomes, cross-disciplinary methodologies may be relevant. To extend the scope of clinical trials, psychosocial processes should be taken into account and explored, rather than dismissed as placebo.
Forsch Komplementmed. 2011;18(3):146-54. Agdal R, v B Hjelmborg J, Johannessen H. Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, J.B. Winslows Vej 9B st.th., Odense, Denmark. firstname.lastname@example.org