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This article is about the energy therapy. For the Japanese era name, see Reiki (era).
Energy medicine - edit
NCCAM classifications
  1. Alternative Medical Systems
  2. Mind-Body Intervention
  3. Biologically Based Therapy
  4. Energy Therapy
See also
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese alphabet linh khí
Korean name
Hangul 영기
Hanja 靈氣
Japanese name
Hiragana れいき
Kyūjitai 靈氣

Reiki (霊気?, /ˈrk/) is a form of pseudoscientific alternative medicine.[1][2] It was developed in 1922 by Japanese Buddhist Mikao Usui. Since its beginning in Japan, Reiki has been adapted across varying cultural traditions. It uses a technique commonly called palm healing or hands-on-healing as a form of alternative medicine. Through the use of this technique, practitioners believe that they are transferring "universal energy" through the palms of the practitioner, which they believe encourages healing.

Reiki is a form of pseudoscience.[1] It is based on qi, which practitioners say is a universal life force, though there is no evidence that such a life force exists.[3] There is no good evidence that reiki is effective as a medical treatment.[3] The American Cancer Society,[4] Cancer Research UK,[5] and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health[6] state that reiki should not be a replacement for conventional treatment of diseases like cancer, but that it may be used as a supplement to standard medical treatment.


Mikao Usui 臼井甕男 (1865–1926)
Chujiro Hayashi 林 忠次郎 (1880 - 1940)

The English reiki or Reiki is a Japanese loanword reiki (霊気, usually meaning "mysterious atmosphere; miraculous sign"), which in turn, is a Chinese loanword língqì (靈氣, "numinous atmosphere").[7] The earliest recorded English usage dates to 1975.[8]

The Japanese reiki is commonly written as レイキ in katakana syllabary or as 霊気 in shinjitai "new character form" kanji. It compounds the words rei (: "spirit, miraculous, divine") and ki (; qi: "gas, vital energy, breath of life, consciousness").[9] Some reiki translation equivalents from Japanese-English dictionaries are: "feeling of mystery",[10] "an atmosphere (feeling) of mystery",[11] and "an ethereal atmosphere (that prevails in the sacred precincts of a shrine); (feel, sense) a spiritual (divine) presence."[12] Besides the usual Sino-Japanese pronunciation reiki, these kanji 霊気 have an alternate Japanese reading, namely ryōge, meaning "demon; ghost" (especially in spirit possession).[13]

Chinese língqì 靈氣 was first recorded in the (ca. 320 BCE) Neiye "Inward Training" section of the Guanzi, describing early Daoist meditation techniques. "That mysterious vital energy within the mind: One moment it arrives, the next it departs. So fine, there is nothing within it; so vast, there is nothing outside it. We lose it because of the harm caused by mental agitation."[14] Modern Standard Chinese língqì is translated by Chinese-English dictionaries as: "(of beautiful mountains) spiritual influence or atmosphere";[15] "1. intelligence; power of understanding; 2. supernatural power or force in fairy tales; miraculous power or force";[16] and "1. spiritual influence (of mountains/etc.); 2. ingeniousness; cleverness".[17]


According to the inscription on his memorial stone, Usui taught his system of reiki to over 2000 people during his lifetime.[18][better source needed] While teaching reiki in Fukuyama (福山市, Fukuyama-shi), Usui suffered a stroke and died on 9 March 1926.[18][better source needed]

Research, critical evaluation, and controversy[edit]

Basis and effectiveness[edit]

Main article: Vitalism

The existence of the proposed mechanism for reiki – qi or "life force" energy – has not been established.[3] Most research on Reiki is poorly designed and prone to bias and there is no good evidence that Reiki is helpful for treating any medical condition,[3][4][5] although some physicians have said it might help promote general wellbeing.[5] In 2011, William T. Jarvis of The National Council Against Health Fraud stated that there "is no evidence that clinical reiki's effects are due to anything other than suggestion" or the placebo effect.[19]

Reiki's teachings and adherents claim that qi is physiological and can be manipulated to treat a disease or condition. The existence of qi has not been established by medical research.[3] As a result, some consider Reiki to be a pseudoscientific theory based on metaphysical concepts.[1]


Concerns about safety in reiki are similar to those of other unproven alternative medicines. Some physicians and allied health care workers believe that patients might avoid clinically proven treatments for serious conditions in favour of unproven alternative medicines.[20]

Catholic Church concerns[edit]

In March 2009, the Committee on Doctrine of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a decree (Guidelines for Evaluating Reiki as an Alternative Therapy)[21] halting the practice of Reiki by Catholics used in some Catholic retreat centers and hospitals. The conclusion of the decree stated that "since Reiki therapy is not compatible with either Christian teaching or scientific evidence, it would be inappropriate for Catholic institutions, such as Catholic health care facilities and retreat centers, or persons representing the Church, such as Catholic chaplains, to promote or to provide support for Reiki therapy."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Semple D, Smyth R (2013). Chaper 1: Psychomythology. Oxford Handbook of Psychiatry (3rd ed.) (Oxford University Press). p. 20. ISBN 978-0-19-969388-7. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d e Lee MS, Pittler MH, Ernst E (2008). "Effects of reiki in clinical practice: a systematic review of randomised clinical trials". Int. J. Clin. Pract. (Systematic Review) 62 (6): 947–54. doi:10.1111/j.1742-1241.2008.01729.x. PMID 18410352. In conclusion, the evidence is insufficient to suggest that reiki is an effective treatment for any condition. Therefore the value of reiki remains unproven. 
  4. ^ a b "Reiki". American Cancer Society. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c "Reiki". Cancer Research UK. Retrieved August 2013. 
  6. ^ "Reiki: What You Need To Know". National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  7. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, s.v., reiki, 2009.
  8. ^ The OED cites The San Mateo Times, 2 May 1975, 32/1.
  9. ^ Jack Halpern, New Japanese-English Character Dictionary (新漢英字典), Kenkyūsha, 1990, NTC reprint, 1993. Ki is additionally defined as "... spirits; one's feelings, mood, frame of mind; temperament, temper, disposition, one's nature, character; mind to do something, intention, will; care, attention, precaution".
  10. ^ M. Spahn and W. Hadamidtzy (1989), Japanese Character Dictionary With Compound Lookup via Any Kanji, Nichigai.
  11. ^ J. H. Haig (1997 edition), The New Nelson Japanese-English Character Dictionary, Tuttle.
  12. ^ T. Watanabe, E., R. Skrzypczak, and P. Snowden (2003). Kenkyūsha's New Japanese-English Dictionary.
  13. ^ Morohashi Tetsuji, 1960, Dai Kan-Wa jiten 大漢和辞典, Taishukan; Todo Akiyasu, 1978, Kan-Wa Daijiten 漢和大字典, Gakken. Both dictionaries define ryōge as a mononoke もののけ, meaning "ghost; demon; evil spirit" that possesses people. Ryō 霊 means "evil spirit who possesses a human", J. H. Haig 1997.
  14. ^ Roth, Harold D. 2004. Original Tao: Inward Training (Nei-yeh) and the Foundations of Taoist Mysticism, Columbia University Press, p. 97. Compare translating 靈氣在心 as "The magical qi within the heart"; R. Eno, 2005, Guanzi: "The Inner Enterprise" (Section 18: Moderation)
  15. ^ Lin Yutang, 1972, Lin Yutang's Chinese-English Dictionary of Modern Usage, Chinese University of Hong Kong Press.
  16. ^ Ling Yuan, 2002, The Contemporary Chinese Dictionary, Chinese-English Edition, Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press.
  17. ^ DeFrancis, John, 2003, ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive Dictionary, University of Hawaii Press.
  18. ^ a b Inscription on Usui's memorial
  19. ^ Jarvis WT. "National Council Against Health Fraud: Reiki". Retrieved 2011-03-31. 
  20. ^ Lilienfeld, Scott O. (2002). "Our Raison d'Être". The Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice 1 (1). Retrieved 2008-01-28. 
  21. ^ Committee on Doctrine United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (25 March 2010). "Guidelines for Evaluating Reiki as an Alternative Therapy" (PDF). Retrieved 30 December 2011. 


  • Usui, Mikao et al. (2000). The Original Reiki Handbook of Dr. Mikao Usui: The Traditional Usui Reiki Ryoho Treatment Positions and Numerous Reiki Techniques for Health and Well-being. Lotus Press. ISBN 0-914955-57-8. 

External links[edit]

  • National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (4 May 2010). "Reiki: An Introduction (NCCAM Backgrounder)". Retrieved 5 May 2010. Government agency dedicated to exploring complementary and alternative healing practices in the context of rigorous science, training complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals 
  • Stephen Barrett (4 August 2009). "Reiki Is Nonsense". Retrieved 5 May 2010. Quackwatch article by Stephen Barrett