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Energy Healing? C’mon…It’s Just a Placebo

Honestly, after being a practitioner for 12 years, I don’t care if people want to be dismissive or skeptical about the benefits of energy healing. Many scoff, “It’s just the placebo effect,” which is the idea that the result is due to the person’s belief in the treatment rather than any actual mechanism happening in the process. I usually respond in one of two ways:

  1. Wow, there’s really something to be said about the power of our thoughts and beliefs! (That’s a great topic for a future article.) Or,
  2. Maybe we can’t explain what’s happening but it is clear something is happening.

Now I have a third way of responding: There is scientific evidence indicating that something more than the placebo effect is at work in energy healing.

Studies show greater improvements with people receiving real energy healing rather than sham healing. Sham healing involves untrained people who mimic the work of trained healers by simply being present and holding their hands in a certain position, but with no intention for healing. There are also studies that involve bacteria, plants and animals. Does a bacterium, plant, or animal benefit because of its belief in the treatment? I don’t think so.

Here’s a case in point: A noisy environment can create stress in rats, resulting in abdominal microvascular leaks. These leaks are examined in two ways, by the number of leaks and the total area of leakage.

Experiments were conducted in which the rats were divided into four groups:

  1. no noise
  2. noisy environment
  3. noisy environment plus energy healing
  4. noisy environment plus sham energy healing

The rats in Group 1 showed minimal leakage. In Group 2, there was a dramatic increase in leakage. In Group 4, there was a slight decrease in leakage but it was not statistically significant.

In Group 3, the group that received energy healing, there was more than a 50% reduction in the number of leaks, and the area of leaks was virtually identical to Group 1. This tells us that the effect of energy healing was more than just the physical presence or hand positions provided in the sham group, and certainly not the result of the placebo effect. Statistically speaking, the benefit was huge.

Over the years I have seen my own evidence that Healing Touch works. I hear again and again from my clients that they feel better, have less pain and more energy, and are more connected to their life purpose. Clearly, something IS happening and I don’t need any other proof. Nonetheless, it is exciting when scientific studies support my observations.

I always welcome healthy skepticism, but I also appreciate an open mind, one that is willing to explore the possibilities of what could be.

(This study was conducted by Ann Baldwin and Gary Schwartz and published in an article in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2006: Personal Interaction with a Reiki Practitioner Decreases Noise-Induced Microvascular Damage in an Animal Model.)

Katie Oberlin

A Healing Touch Certified Practitioner, Katie received advanced training in shamanic healing at The Power Path School of Shamanism in 2014. Her travels have taken her to power spots in the southwestern United States, as well as Mexico and Peru, where she has worked with shamans from the Q’ero and Shipibo indigenous healing traditions.

2 thoughts on “Energy Healing? C’mon…It’s Just a Placebo

  1. Thanks, Katie, for cracking the door open on this important topic. I have no doubt about the effectiveness of various healing modalities, but there is always a question of HOW they work (rather than IF, or IF moreso than a placebo).

    These days I’m wondering if the energy is healing or if it isn’t the intention or something encoded in the energy that is doing the healing. Having a healing intention seems very important to me and separate from questions of energy transmission.

    I’ll be curious to see what others post!


    1. Hi Bill,
      Thanks for your comments. I believe both intention and energy transmission are important components, but there is also much we don’t know. I am currently listening to a series of lectures, The Science of Energy Healing, and look forward to writing more about what I am learning. Hope to see you soon!
      Take care,

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