When faced with traditional healing systems outside the Western tradition, science looks askance. That was true when traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture, and Ayurveda from India began to be known a generation ago. Popular acceptance doesn’t budge these prejudices, but if there’s a crossover with accepted Western concepts, the chances improve.
This is currently happening with energy healing, because it has a crossover with a proven phenomenon, the human body’s faint electrical field, known as the biofield. This field is composed of the emission of electricity and biophotons, which are the light naturally emitted by all living things, and yet no one has scientifically established the use of the biofield. Into this gap steps energy healing, which looks to the body’s subtle energy field as something both crucial and vital for balanced health and wellbeing. At its most basic, the notion behind energy healing is that the biofield of a sick person is out of balance, and balance can be restored by directly treating the biofield.
Energy healing has ancient roots. Today it is most commonly recognized through modalities such as Healing Hands (from Native American traditions) and Therapeutic Touch. Their aim is something like removing the static from a radio signal; the practitioner is removing dissonance and restoring resonance in the biofield. Needless to say, energy healing and the biofield remain highly controversial when considering Western ideas of the body and the practice of medicine.
But before decrying another outbreak of pseudoscience, there is serious, well-controlled research to consider. Despite not yet having scientific instruments to measure how the biofield might respond to a particular energy healing practice, studies have proceeded to examine their potential use under real-world conditions, such as in a clinic setting, and typically going head-to head with a standard therapy.
One of the first methodologically sound placebo-controlled trials of an energy healing modality examined the effects of an energy chelation therapy (as taught by Rev. Rosalyn L. Bruyere) on chronic fatigue in breast cancer survivors. In the journal Cancer, the official journal of the American Cancer Society, findings showed that study participants who received energy healing over a four-week period had statistically significant and clinically relevant reductions in their chronic fatigue. (The study also found that the placebo control, which was called “mock healing”, also led to a reduction in fatigue, although not as significantly as the real energy healing technique.)