Alternate Title

  • Tara Reiki

Related Terms

  • Attunement, biofield therapies, distant healing, energy healing, energy medicine, external qigong, group healing, healing touch, Karuna Reiki, ki, laying on of hands, Medicine Buddha, meditation, pranic healing, qigong, Reiki touch therapy, self healing, spiritual healing, Tara Reiki, Tera Mai Reiki, therapeutic touch, traditional Japanese Reiki, touch therapies, universal life energy, Usui system, Western Reiki.


  • Reiki is a Buddhist practice that is approximately 2,500 years old. The name “Reiki” is derived from two Japanese words: rei meaning universal spirit and ki meaning life energy. Mention of Reiki can be found in the Tibetan sutras and in ancient records of cosmology and philosophy.
  • Hichau Mikao Usui, a Japanese physician and Buddhist monk, revitalized the practice of Reiki in the 19 Century. It is said that after 21 days of fasting, Reiki was presented to Usui on Mt. Kurama, a Japanese mountaintop near Kyoto during a spiritual experience. By this account, light struck him upon the forehead opening up a “third eye” possessing the highest source of power in the human body. Usui passed down his teachings, and Hawayo Tokata, a Japanese Hawaiian, introduced Usui Reiki to the West in 1930.
  • In modern times, multiple styles and historical accounts of Reiki are taught and practiced. In general, there are three levels of certifications/attunements associated with the practice of Reiki. A Level I degree often involves a weekend course that teaches the potential practitioner to transfer “universal life energy” to him/herself and to others. Students are trained in the concepts and hand positions of Reiki. Four ceremonies (attunements) are performed with the goal of opening students’ inner healing channels to engage them in the flow of energy. The Level II degree includes an initiation ceremony that aims to enhance the practitioner’s ability to interact with the flow of energy. Other training may include distant healing, teaching of symbols, and enhancement of mental/emotional/spiritual healing. In some cases, practitioners receive a Level II degree after ‘intuitively’ receiving Sanskrit symbols from spirit guides that are believed to increase their healing powers. The Reiki Master degree (Level III) takes years of close training with a Reiki Master and allows the practitioner to teach Reiki to others.
  • Reiki practitioners conduct sessions with the intention to heal specific maladies or to improve overall well-being. Treatments involve the systematic placing of hands in 12 to 15 varying positions. Hand positions are held for approximately 2-5 minutes each. Hands may be placed directly on a clothed patient or held one to two inches above the skin. The practitioner’s hands are positioned palm-side down with the fingers and thumb extended. The standard positions may be modified if deemed necessary by the practitioner. The timing of the hand positions may be cut short if the practitioner believes that he or she senses energy flow. All of the body systems can be covered with the hand positions within 30 to 90 minutes. The number of sessions varies from patient to patient based on the judgment of the practitioner. Acute issues may be treated faster than chronic conditions.
  • Patients have reported feeling different sensations during Reiki sessions such as warmth, tingling, sleepiness, relaxation, or invigoration. Practitioners have reported tingling in their fingers, heat, cold, or pulsing while administering Reiki.
  • Sometimes a technique called “sweeping” is used prior to starting the formal healing session. Sweeping involves the practitioner aiming to pass hands through the patient’s energy field. This technique is said to allow the practitioner to more easily detect areas of energy disruption, imbalance, or blockage and to cleanse patients of negative feelings, emotions, or physical burdens.
  • Principles taught in Reiki include: “just for today do not worry,” “just for today do not be angry,” “just for today give thanks for your many blessings,” “honor your parents, teachers and elders,” “earn your living honestly,” “be kind to your neighbors and every living thing,” and “show gratitude to everything.”
  • Types of related therapies include distant healing, self-healing, group healing, Tera Mai Reiki, Karuna Reiki, traditional Japanese Reiki, Tara Reiki, and Western Reiki. There are numerous schools and professional Reiki organizations. The International Association of Reiki Professionals maintains a list of practitioners who have pledged to uphold a Code of Ethics developed by the group.
  • Reiki is also used on animals, including horses. Reiki Masters believe that all living beings are affected by the “universal life energy” flow around them, and animals may be treated in the same manner as humans.

Evidence Table


    These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

    Autonomic nervous system disturbances

    One randomized trial suggested that Reiki may have an effect on autonomic nervous system functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, or breathing activity. Large, well-designed studies are needed before conclusions can be drawn.


    Reiki may contribute to reduced perception of pain, improved quality of life, and reduced fatigue in cancer patients. More studies are needed.

    Cognitive disorders (mild cognitive impairment)

    Early research suggests that Reiki therapy may improve behavioral and memory problems in patients with mild cognitive impairment or mild Alzheimer’s disease. However, additional studies are needed to confirm these findings.

    Depression and stress

    There is evidence that Reiki can reduce symptoms of distress when compared to placebo. More information is needed before a conclusion can be drawn.


    Reiki instruction may help HIV/AIDS patients reduce pain or anxiety, but results are unclear.


    Patients in a preliminary (“phase II”) trial of Reiki in combination with standard pain medications (with opioids) were reported to experience improved pain control. Further research is needed to confirm these findings.

    Stroke recovery

    In a randomized controlled trial, Reiki did not have any clinically useful effect on stroke recovery in patients receiving appropriate rehabilitation therapy. Selective positive effects on mood and energy were noted.

*Key to grades:



    The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.



    Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.

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  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration ().



    Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to . Selected references are listed below.

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    View Abstract
  • Astin JA, Harkness E, Ernst E. The efficacy of “distant healing”: a systematic review of randomized trials. Ann Intern Med 6-6-2000;132(11):903-910.
    View Abstract
  • Brewitt B, Vittetoe T, Hartwell B. The efficacy of Reiki hands-on healing: improvements in spleen and nervous system function as quantified by electrodermal screening [abstract]. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 1997;3:89.
  • Crawford SE, Leaver VW, Mahoney SD. Using Reiki to decrease memory and behavior problems in mild cognitive impairment and mild Alzheimer’s disease. J Altern Complement Med 2006 Nov;12(9):911-3.
    View Abstract
  • Kennedy P. Working with survivors of torture in Sarajevo with Reiki. Complement Ther Nurs.Midwifery 2001;7(1):4-7.
    View Abstract
  • Krucoff MW, Crater SW, Gallup D, et al. Music, imagery, touch, and prayer as adjuncts to interventional cardiac care: the Monitoring and Actualisation of Noetic Trainings (MANTRA) II randomised study. Lancet 7-16-2005;366(9481):211-217.
    View Abstract
  • Mackay N, Hansen S, McFarlane O. Autonomic nervous system changes during Reiki treatment: a preliminary study. J Altern Complement Med 2004;10(6):1077-1081.
    View Abstract
  • Mansour AA, Beuche M, Laing G, et al. A study to test the effectiveness of placebo Reiki standardization procedures developed for a planned Reiki efficacy study. J Altern Complement Med. 1999;5(2):153-164.
    View Abstract
  • Olson K, Hanson J. Using Reiki to manage pain: a preliminary report. Cancer Prev Control 1997;1(2):108-113.
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  • Olson K, Hanson J, Michaud M. A phase II trial of Reiki for the management of pain in advanced cancer patients. J Pain Symptom Manage 2003;26(5):990-997.
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  • Schlitz MJ, Braud WG. Reiki-plus natural healing: an ethnographic/experimental study. PSI Research 1985;4:100-123.
  • Shore AG. Long-term effects of energetic healing on symptoms of psychological depression and self-perceived stress. Altern Ther Health Med. 2004;10(3):42-48.
    View Abstract
  • Tsang KL, Carlson LE, Olson K. Pilot crossover trial of Reiki versus rest for treating cancer-related fatigue. Integr Cancer Ther 2007 Mar;6(1):25-35.
    View Abstract
  • Vitale AT, O’Connor PC. The effect of Reiki on pain and anxiety in women with abdominal hysterectomies: a quasi-experimental pilot study. Holist Nurs Pract 2006 Nov-Dec;20(6):263-72; quiz 273-4.
    View Abstract
  • Wardell DW, Engebretson J. Biological correlates of Reiki Touch(sm) healing. J Adv Nurs 2001;33(4):439-445.
    View Abstract