The Science of Biofields

This could be a very short post, because when it comes to the science of biofields, there isn’t any. That’s why the NIH has used the word “putative.”*

That’s not to say there isn’t a talented scientist or two engaged in cutting edge investigation of these mysterious realities. The scientific community has fringe elements like any other community. But fringe scientists doing frontier science don’t get a lot of respect until their data — and cause — are taken up by the mainstream.

Science is a group conversation, and in any group, what matters is what most people are saying. That’s called consensus, and that’s what carries weight. Consensus can be wrong, but it’s foolish to buck it, especially when trying to establish credibility.

Unless done skillfully, reaching for science to bolster your presentation of Reiki will likely backfire. Only people who don’t need “proof” will be impressed; scientists are skeptical by nature and training, and readily find the holes in an argument.

So until such time as doctors are ordering kirilian photographs instead of CT scans and MRIs, don’t risk running your argument aground by confusing frontier science and conventional science.

If you want to lean on science, be humble. Deflect attention away from biofields, and focus instead on the research into how Reiki treatment can benefit people. Acknowledge first that the investigation is just beginning, then state that preliminary data suggest Reiki can help improve heart rate, blood pressure, and immunity, and reduce pain, anxiety, and depression.

We do not yet have enough research evidence to say more than that, and if you try to, you run the risk of discrediting yourself, and Reiki.

If you are communicating with physicians or other health care professionals who want more information, you needn’t do the heavy lifting yourself; just hand them the top three articles in the medical papers section.

The section of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that studies the safety and efficacy of complementary therapies such as Reiki is the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). [Update: In recognition that the American public uses traditional healing practices to support rather than replace conventional medicine, NCCAM was renamed the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health NCCIH in 2014.]

NCCAM continually updates its website, but here is what NCCAM has said about biofields: “Some CAM practices involve manipulation of various energy fields to affect health. Such fields may be characterized as veritable (measurable) or putative (yet to be measured). Practices based on veritable forms of energy include those involving electromagnetic fields (e.g., magnet therapy and light therapy). Practices based on putative energy fields (also called biofields) generally reflect the concept that human beings are infused with subtle forms of energy; qi gong, Reiki, and healing touch are examples of such practices.”

I was the principal reviewer for the NIH/NCCAM Reiki Backgrounder posted on the NCCAM website. It has since been updated, but Reiki practitioners have asked me to keep the document available.  This document has no copyright and you are encouraged to use it freely.


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17 thoughts on “The Science of Biofields”

  1. Hi… yes Pamela… that’s why I always am careful to use ‘possible’ ‘potential’ etc when it is just a considered opinion)…and mention that an idea or theory is either proven… or not (as the case may be – in which ever subject I refer to)…. I look at both sides of the coin as I’m both a reiki practioner and have a science background. (Molecular biology and genetics)… and work in nutritional chemistry -after 10 yrs in forensics)… its no wonder I pull everything g apart! ! .. its interesting to look at the history and current knowledge… and at the (generally) eastern acceptance of the unknown (a faith in what’s within) (while westerners have to disect everything)… including me :0* I know reiki works – but that doesn’t stop me from viewing the likely ways this is possible… it can – on occasion be ‘too good to be true’ I do believe we will find the answers – and am open to what ever those answers may be… it won’t change the fabulous results we see daily. I just wish I’d taken up physics… with a side helping of quantum physics… :)

    1. Interesting use of the word “faith,” which is very much a European-based religious perspective.

      Asian spiritual practices such as Reiki don’t rely on faith. Non-dual, holistic spiritual perspective isn’t a matter of “acceptance of the unknown” or “faith in what’s within,” but rather direct experience of it.

      Direct experience doesn’t extinguish curiosity about the mechanism of action, but there isn’t the same drive to pull everything apart; the connections woven within the whole are valued at least as much as the parts.

  2. I have looked at all the biofield info (and lack of ‘proof’..)…  (though- it’s funny how we accept so many things without visible proof, but not something that has been around for centuries… Usui may have helped create reiki in its current format – but energy therapy has been about in many forms for sooo long).  There has to be good reason it’s not died out! 

    My take on this is:  we know (scientifically)  that electrical  energy / circuit creates a biomagnetic field (check out any magnet…  with its North south energy… you can feel that but not see it).  Now consider that we are only alive and thinking because of electrical energy… so why wouldn’t we have a biomagnetic field…  where all oyter eletrcally charged items do….. Also (in relation to our energy)  where something is malfunctioning – not balanced… then our energy field will also be so.  I firmly believe that science and reiki are at one… we just can’t prove it…… yet …  The time will come, in the same way we eventually worked out the world was not flat (but magically floats in space) ;) 

    1. Thanks for your comment, Sue.

      Just to clarify, the biomagnetic field is different than the biofield. Biomagnetism is measurable. Subtle bio-energy is not measurable by conventional scientific means.

      1. Hi Pamela. Yes. My reasoning is that perhaps it is not different ? (That the ‘biofield energy’ that is spoken of is just a subtler and yet to be recognised/measured part of the biomagnetic field? .. the result of chemical /biological interactions that cause /effect our health and wellbeing.
        I would love to know!

        When we witness birds or fish all moving in synronicity (without the one at the front shouting orders)…. well…. there is definitely an unseen force of nature at work that can be felt or sensed in some way.

        The answer is out there :)


      2. It may well be that there is a continuum, Sue, but there is no confirming evidence to date.

        When Reiki practitioners cite science, it’s important to distinguish between what evidence is available and what is not (yet) documented.

        That’s a distinction that Reiki practitioners often miss, because it’s not important to them, but it is important to the public and to scientists. When we ignore that distinction, we discredit ourselves and our practice.

  3. Winthrop Wiltshire

    Pamela, very interesting discussion on biofields. Congrats on all the work you are doing. I like Chris’ point on parachutes. In a tv interview earlier today on Reiki I made the point that empirical reality always precedes scientific validation, and that bacteria existed many thousands of years before the microscope and ultramicroscope. On another public appearance I confidently exclaimed, only half facetiously, that as a scientist I can say categorically that Reiki conforms with the scientific laws of nature, and after a pause I added that it so happens that many of those laws are yet to be discovered!

    1. Totaly agree with you Winthrop.. .. well said :) I look forward to the day there is ‘concrete proof’… to speak of (for the sceptics) but happy that more and more are accepting ‘what is’ – and to be honest there is already plenty positive to say without need for guestsmates (- I love to look at all posibilities… but only with other practitioners… I like to stick to grounded facts to those who ask… You’re right though… science does conform with the laws of nature… :)

  4. Oh, thank you so much for your prompt reply Pamela! I am so excited to have found an inspiration such as yourself. I am indeed taking your advice to heart and to action.


  5. Candace, thank you for your kind words.

    I’m not sure what you are looking for in terms of academia, but I think the Intro to Medical Reiki webinar and the chapters on Reiki research and integrative medicine in my book would be helpful. Also read the medical papers. I will teach my 2-day Medical Reiki seminar in NYC Oct 30/31.

    The best way to offer a woman in labor a Reiki treatment is the way she wants it. It’s important to accommodate yourself to a mom in labor. Help her do what she has to do the way she is most comfortable rather than imposing any structure on her. Remember that even resting a hand on her arm can be helpful. But why wait until she is in labor? Why not give her regular treatment now–if she wants it–so that she goes through her pregnancy as balanced as possible, making an extra effort to give her regular treatment as she enters her last month? But again, only as she wants it. Good luck.

  6. Excitingly enough, I am in a Health class, in community college, right now, that is focusing on the human energy field, chakras, Reiki, and conscious living, as being “a part of this complete breakfast”, lol! Woohoo! Welll, actually it’s being tied in to how we can better care for our complete wholesome health. :)

    I am so excited about the rapid spread of consciousness about our subtle energies, soon these realities will be accepted mainstream, I do believe. I, for one, would love to help ground this area of study into conventional science. Does anyone have a suggested path regarding the academia side of this goal? I am a fairly new student, and thus have decisions to make with my career path right now. Currently, my major says Biology. I am grateful for any input!

    I am currently reading Pamela Miles’ book, Reiki- A Comprehensive Guide, by the way; amazing book, amazing woman, and certainly an amazing time to be alive.

    Also, just to throw it out there, I am a first degree Reiki Practitioner and my best friend is pregnant. What is the best way to deliver Reiki to her while she is in labor?

    Thanks again for any replies! Light and Love!

  7. Of course that’s true, Chris. We don’t need gravity to be scientifically documented to know that parachutes are a good idea. But how exactly does that relate to Reiki?

  8. No double blind studies exist regarding issuing parachutes to airmen either, but no self-respecting airforce would get away with not issuing parachutes, on the grounds that “they haven’t been proven to work in properly conducted, double-blind studies”.

  9. Thanks, Bruce, I am aware of SQID magnetometers. I believe we mentioned them in the Reiki Review medical paper that was published in 2003. However, to my understanding, they are still considered somewhat frontier, not yet recognized mainstream. Am I wrong? There had been a scientist named Jan Walleczyk at Stanford who did some intriguing work on this, but I couldn’t locate him to research it further.

    Do you have a science background, enough to explain SQID? It would be great to have more explanation of how this measurement works, if that is your field and you have time.

  10. Pamela,

    You made some good points in this post. Way too many practitioners of reiki (and similar modalities) have been too eager to engage in “hand-waving” — like mentioning quantum processes — and then calling it proof. If we use the language of science, then we need to understand what it means.

    But as for doubt about biofields, SQID magnetometers have been helping to demonstrate the presence of these fields.


  11. I would also like to see (or, more specifically, participate in!) a study of Reiki and addiction, and, one day, I expect this will come to pass. It has seemed like a long time coming, and yet, this entire forum didn’t exist before! Won’t be long, now!

  12. Pamela, thanks, this is so helpful, especially the “Reiki backgrounder,” which is very clearly written. Interesting that there are probably no double-blind scientific studies about how AA helps people with alcoholism either, and yet is the most effective method that does.

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