Energy medicine includes a broad variety of complementary/ alternative
medicine (CAM) therapies, such as acupuncture, kinesiology, and
spiritual healing. The term "energy medicine" derives from the perceptions
and beliefs of therapists and patients that there are subtle, biological
energies that surround and permeate the body. Recent research is
confirming that these therapies can be helpful in treating many
problems for which conventional medicine may have no cures. Growing
numbers of doctors are integrating these therapies in their practices.
Energy medicine includes a broad variety of complementary/ alternative
medicine (CAM) therapies. (See Table 1) The term, "energy medicine,"
derives from the perceptions and beliefs of therapists and patients
that there are subtle, biological energies that surround and permeate
the body. They suggest that these energies may be accessed in various
ways through CAM for diagnostic and therapeutic interventions.
Energy medicine may be difficult to understand and even more difficult
to accept as a possibly effective intervention without explanation
and a review of recent research.
Some of the energy medicine therapies are provided in a manner
similar to the delivery of Western medicine. That is, the therapist
performs the intervention directly, as in acupuncture and homeopathy.
Most CAM therapies encourage patients to participate in their own
healing. This places the therapist in the role of consulting and
advising rather than treating patients directly. When these therapists
intervene directly, it is to enhance the natural functions of the
patient. (See Table 1.)
Various theories are offered as to how such interventions may influence
the patient. These propose the existence of a number of biological
energies that are alleged to sustain life and through which therapists
may treat various illnesses. My own general theory, in Western concepts,
is followed by the traditional theories of the CAM modalities.
Spiritual awareness, the inner sense of being a part of something
vastly larger and wiser than ourselves, can be an important therapeutic
component of energy medicine. This is especially common with spiritual
healing and self-healing approaches, and is very much related to
the spiritual awareness of the practitioner.(Benor 1996; Benor in
Patients experiencing energy medicine treatments may report that
they feel an inner peace, a spiritual guidance, and a re-connection
with their spiritual or religious roots. This may occur with no
prompting on the part of the therapist, or may arise out of deliberate
questing for a spiritual connection through practices of meditation
and imagery. This aspect of energy medicine may be helpful to patients
who are dealing with serious or terminal illnesses.
Spiritual awareness may also be a help to the terminally ill and
to their families in dealing with dying.
ENERGY MEDICINE THEORY
General Theory for Energy Medicine
Early in the 19th Century, Einstein proposed that
matter and energy are interconvertible, E=mc2. Quantum
physics has amply confirmed that we can address the world we live
in as matter or as energy, even though this contradicts our everyday
perceptions of the world of Newtonian physics. While the chair I
am one is sitting on feels very solid, Ione knows it is composed
of tiny atomic and subatomic particles that are held together by
atomic and subatomic forces. Viewed through quantum equations, the
chair could also be described in terms of energy.
Modern medicine, based on Newtonian principles, has been slow to
consider the possibility that these same principles may apply to
biological matter. A living body can be described within quantum
theory as energy.
Energy medicine practitioners have been saying for many centuries
that there is a physical body and an energy body. They are not mutually
exclusive. The bioenergy body is said to surround and interpenetrate
the physical body and to interact with it. Energy medicine practitioners
report that they provide treatment through the energy body, thereby
influencing the physical body, emotions, mind, relationships and
spirit.(Benor 2001c; Brennan; Gerber)
In the early years of quantum physics there were many who were
skeptical about theories that contradicted those of Newtonian physics.
Over the better part of the 20th Century, these doubts
have been dispelled through experiments that confirm quantum theories.
We have learned that Newtonian physics is accurate in describing
the physical world as perceived by our five senses. However, this
is only a limited part of the spectrum of explanations for how the
world can be understood. Quantum physics does not invalidate Newtonian
physics. It describes the molecular, atomic, and subatomic parts
of the spectrum of the world that are outside of our ordinary awareness.
Energy medicine practitioners suggest that the same applies with
energy medicine. It does not contradict conventional medicine. It
is an extension of our understanding of biological systems on the
energy side of Einstein's equation. If this is true, we are in the
early stages of understanding and integrating such conceptualizations
of the world. Much as it was in the field of Newtonian physics in
the early part of the 20th Century, Newtonian medicine
is having a difficult time accepting energy medicine theory.
Until recently, it was difficult to accept even the possibility
that there might be energy medicine approaches that could not be
explained by Newtonian medicine. Even though many of these therapies
had been practiced for several thousand years, they had not passed
the test of the randomized controlled trial (RCT). In the past two
decades, rapidly growing numbers of RCTs have been published for
many energy therapy modalities. A selection of these will be highlighted
The mechanism of action of biological energies purportedly utilized
by CAM practitioners is unknown. Suggestions include: activation
or unblocking of patients' energies, projection of the practitioners'
own energies, channeling of energies by the therapist from nature
(the earth, cosmic energies), or interventions of spiritual agents
(spirits, saints, Christ, Buddha, God).(Benor in press (b); LeShan)
Many CAM modalities have their own variations on these theories
that are relevant to their particular approaches. These are considered
under each modality.
Alternative General Theories for Energy Medicine
Suggestion or placebo effects are the most obvious alternative
explanation. An element of suggestion is present in CAM therapies,
as it is in conventional therapies. However, there are randomized
controlled trials that suggest that several of the CAM therapies
are of significantly greater benefit than the effects of suggestion
demonstrated in the mock-therapy control groups.(Benor 2001c; Harrington)
The opposite case may also be possible. Many of the myriads of
beneficial effects of suggestion have not been adequately explained.
It is conceivable that some of these derive from energy medicine
interactions between therapists and patients, or as self-healing.
Spontaneous remission has been proposed to explain away
isolated cases of unusual cures.(O'regan) As there is no mechanism
proposed for the apparently spontaneous changes occurring sometimes
in some illnesses, it is also possible that instances of so-called
spontaneous remission represent responses to energy medicine or
self-healing interventions that were not reported by the patients
or documented by the researchers. This hypothesis is supported by
several observations on energy medicine interventions. First, there
are cases where improvements occur rapidly following energy medicine
interventions, with major improvements or total cures of chronic
conditions that had previously been unresponsive to all other therapies.(Kirkpatrick)
Second, it is very rare in the literature on spontaneous remission
to have investigators ask about energy medicine interventions. A
contributing factor is the reluctance of recipients of CAM therapies
to mention these to their physicians, fearing criticisms or rejection.(Eisenberg
Non-local consciousness, in which the awareness of the therapist
may connect with the awareness of the patient, is an alternative
explanation for some of the effects obtained with energy medicine.(Benor
in press b; Dossey 1993) That is, rather than an exchange of energies,
there could be an exchange of information. Energy medicine practitioners
suggest that the mind, acting through biological energies, can profoundly
influence states of health and illness. The therapist may in some
way reprogram the patient's disease patterns of perception, behavior,
or bioenergy states, thereby promoting changes towards health.
Recently, more physicians are becoming familiar
with energy medicine and related approaches.(Astin et al 1998) Doctors
were wary of using therapies that were of unproven value, and little
research evidence was available in support of these therapies. Alternative
medicine was an appropriate term for these therapies because
patients often resorted to these rather than to conventional medical
care, and would hesitate to reveal to their doctors that they were
using them. David Eisenberg's landmark articles (Eisenberg 1993;
1998) revealed that Americans had more visits with these therapists
than with primary care physicians, and were paying almost as many
dollars annually out of pocket as were being paid (with the help
of insurance) for conventional medical care. As some physicians
have become convinced of the benefits of these therapies, they have
introduced them as complementary interventions along with
standard medical treatments.
Integrative care blends CAM therapies with conventional
medical care in a spectrum of combinations. At one polarity are
practices where bits and pieces of energy medicine modalities are
imported into Western medicine, such as needling certain acupuncture
points to assist in pain management, or recommending homeopathic
Arnica or Rescue Remedy flower essence for stress. Further along
the spectrum, physicians refer patients out to energy medicine practitioners
for help with aspects of their problems. With full integration,
CAM practitioners are invited to work in the physicians' offices,
and physicians may learn to practice energy medicine therapies themselves.
Wholistic medical practice is promoted by many of the energy
medicine therapies and by a growing number of physicians. Most of
the energy medicine therapies are derived from cultural therapeutic
traditions that have developed over many centuries; some over several
millennia. They may include cosmologies and theories for underlying
mechanisms that are alien to Western ways of thinking.(Benor 2001c)
While each has its distinct practices, a common underlying theme
amongst most energy medicine therapies is that each person is treated
as a unique individual.
Wholistic practice addresses the person who has the disease, not
just the disease the person has. Energy medicine promotes awareness
of dis-ease as well as disease in body, emotions, mind, relationships
and spirit. (This term with a "W" is used to distinguish it from
its common usage to indicate inclusion of a smattering of CAM techniques
with conventional medical care.) Each person is addressed as an
individual. His or her unique personality, life experiences, and
current state of being are considered in deciding on therapeutic
Today, more than half the medical schools include courses in CAM
therapies, and growing numbers of doctors are exploring how to make
them available to their patients.
ENERGY MEDICINE THERAPIES
Most CAM therapies involve some aspect of energy medicine, although
this may not be a prominent component of the intervention. As with
suggestion, it may be impossible for a therapist to not have a bioenergetic
interaction with a patient, though in many cases this could be entirely
unconscious to both participants. The following discussion focuses
on CAM therapies where energy medicine is a major component of the
Energy medicine is illustrated most clearly with various forms
of spiritual healing, such as Reiki,(Rand) Therapeutic Touch,(Krieger
1979; 1993) Qigong,(Cohen). Healers may report sensations in their
hands such as heat, tingling, vibration, electrical sensations,
or cold, and patients may feel similar sensations in the part of
their body being treated..(Benor 2001a)
Spiritual healers and many other therapists who are sensitive to
bioenergies report they can palpate an energy field with their hands
surrounding the body. Some report they also see an aura of color
surrounding the body. Various layers of these energy fields are
perceived to reflect the physical, emotional, mental, relational,
and spiritual conditions of the person.(Benor 2001c) For instance,
a healer may feel with her hands a "stickiness" or unusual heat
or other sensations over a part of the body that is diseased. The
energy fields are also believed to be templates for what occurs
within the body, being shaped by genetic, mental, emotional, and
environmental factors. As well as sensing people's conditions, healers
can enhance people's states of health by interacting with the bioenergy
Healers treat with a laying-on of hands, their hands touching or
held a few inches away from the body. At the same time, healers
hold a mental intent, meditative focus, or prayer for the improvement
of the healee. Some healers may direct flows of energy by moving
their hands or through mental focus. Other healers believe they
are simply channels for healing energies that come through them
from nature or from a Divine source. Qigong healers teach self-healing
meditations and gentle exercises that also promote a healthy flow
of subtle energies.(Benor 2001a)
Healers commonly claim they can treat with equal effectiveness
from any distance, even from many miles away. While this stretches
Newtonian understandings of the world, recent studies support that
prayer healing sent from many miles away can enhance treatments
of patients with AIDS (Sicher et al) and of patients hospitalized
in cardiac intensive care units.(Byrd; Harris)
Healing often opens therapists and patients to personal spiritual
awarenesses. This may include an inner knowing that you a person
isare part of a vast, collective consciousness; that angels and
spirit guides are there to support youhim; or that Christ or Allah
unconditionally accepts and loves youhim.(Benor in press (a)
Research: There are 120 randomized controlled studies
in humans, animals, plants, bacteria, yeasts, and enzymes which
suggest that spiritual healing can be effective for pain, anxiety,
depression, AIDS, hypertension, arthritis, wound healing, and other
problems.(Benor 2001a, b)
A study of healing sensations by a ten-year old girl was given
wide publicity when it was published in JAMA.(Rosa et al)
This study showed that Therapeutic Touch healers were unable to
determine when the girl's hand was held about ten inches from the
healers' hand. The then editor, George Lundberg, enthusiastically
endorsed this study, interpreting it to mean that any claims for
the efficacy of spiritual healing were hereby invalidated. An alternate
analysis of this study (e.g. Benor 2001a, b, Dossey 1988; Leskowitz
1988) is that it is seriously flawed in several ways. Holding the
experimenter's hand still at one steady distance from the healers'
hands is totally unlike the clinical practice of healers, who will
move their hands laterally around the body, as well as closer to
and further from the body. Healers were tested in a laboratory while
being videotaped, which could interfere with their mental focus.
Healing is generally given when there is a need on the part of the
patient for treatment. It is actually unclear whether it is the
healer who activates the process by giving healing, or whether the
healer merely provides a source of healing from which the patient
takes that which is needed. Furthermore, there are 120 other studies
showing significant effects of healing (some of which were cited
as references in the study of Rosa et al but not discussed). The
conclusions of Lundberg that this one science fair study invalidates
all claims for effectiveness of healing is patently ridiculous.
Adverse effects: Healing has no serious side-effects. An
occasional side effect is that symptoms such as pain may increase
in the first few sessions. This is taken by experienced healers
as good sign, indicating that the energetic components that lie
behind the symptom are being released. When treatment is continued,
symptoms usually improves.
Indications:Spiritual healing is an excellent therapy of
first choice, because it can be given as a complement to any other
therapy, with no side effects or dangerous interactions with other
treatments. Almost any problem may respond to healing. Healing may
thus be given along with every other treatment.
Craniosacral Osteopathy and Network Chiropractic
Chiropractic and osteopathy classically treat through physical
manipulations of the skeleton, particularly of the spine. Craniosacral
Osteopathy and Network Chiropractic extend these practices into
energy medicine. Using the lightest of touch, and sometimes holding
their hands near to but not touching the body, these therapists
report they sense and regulate flows of energies, and may direct
healing intent or healing energies to the patient. Without a physical
manipulation (such as massage or spinal manipulation), profound
changes may occur in chronic conditions for which conventional medicine
has no cure.(Upledger; Upledger & Vredevogt)
Network Chiropractic produces results without physical manipulations.
The therapist uses light touch, bringing about effects that appear
to be equivalent to those produced by chiropractic physical manipulations.
This treatment is said to be based upon a bioenergy intervention.(D.
Craniosacral osteopaths report that they sense with their
hands subtle bioenergy pulsations around the head. Through mental
intent they alter these pulsations when they intuitively perceive
that it is appropriate to do so. This brings about effective clinical
changes, though these may be of different quality from those of
the physical manipulations, extending to emotional and spiritual
responses in addition to physical changes.
Network Chiropractic Research:No studies have been published
on network chiropractic. However, a British study of Light Touch
Manipulative Technique, a method that closely resembles Network
Chiropractic, showed significant effects for back pain.(Dressler)
Craniosacral Osteopathy Research: There has been no research
to confirm the efficacy of craniosacral osteopathy.
Adverse effects:As with spiritual healing, there are no
known deleterious effects of network chiropractic or craniosacral
therapy. Because the touch used in craniosacral work is very light,
without physical manipulation, there have been no injuries.
Indications: Clinical reports indicate craniosacral osteopathy
can be of help in treatment of problems which conventional medicine
may be limited in treating, such as pain in the back and neck; fibromyalgia;
frozen shoulder and carpal tunnel syndromes; arthritis; scoliosis;
chronic ear infections; hormonal abnormalities; post-injury/illness
symptoms of head injury, meningitis and encephalitis; behavioral,
developmental and learning disorders in children (sometimes attributed
to cranial birth injury); sacral injuries, chronic neuralgia syndrome,
high blood pressure; temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) pain; strabismus;
amblyopia; migraine headaches; cluster headaches; trigeminal neuralgia;
chronic fatigue syndrome; tinnitis; vertigo; asthma; lymphedema;
plantar facitis; shin splints; tennis elbow; and golfer's elbow.(DiGiovanna
& Schiowitz). Research has yet to confirm many of these claimed
benefits of craniosacral therapy.
Acupuncture and various derivative therapies identify meridians
(lines of energy) running from head to extremities. Along the meridians
there are acupuncture points that relate to anatomic parts
and physiological functions in various parts of the body. Stimulating
these points is said to release unhealthy blocks in energy flows
along the meridians, which in turn improves the functions of the
related organs. Acupuncture points can be stimulated with needles,
physical pressure, electrical stimulation or laser light.
Within acupuncture theory, meridians correspond to bioenergy
(biological energy) functions of the body that overlap with but
are different from physical organ functions. For instance, the bladder
meridian relates to urinary functions, but may also relate to weak
legs, brittle bones, and stiffness in the spine. Diagnoses in acupuncture
relate to whether bioenergies are flowing smoothly, blocked, or
congested. Abnormal activity in one meridian will influence energy
flows in other meridians. While such explanations are difficult
to understand within a Western scientific paradigm, they have their
own coherence and provide a basis for treatment that has been successful
for a major segment of the world's population over several thousand
years of practice.
Acupuncture is discussed in more detail in another section of this
Related therapies:A number of therapies have been derived
from acupuncture. Acupressure, reflexology and shiatsu address problems
through finger pressure at various acupuncture points. Applied kinesiology
addresses muscle strength in particular muscles as they reflect
the energy flows in various meridians..
Applied Kinesiology (AK)
AK is derived from acupuncture theory and practice. Specific
muscles are intimately related to each meridian. When there is a
dysfunction in that meridian, the related muscles is reportedly
weaker than normal. By testing the strength of a series of muscles,
AK practitioners diagnose bioenergy dysfunctions in the meridians.(Diamond;
AK practitioners pass their hands around the body to correct the
flows of energies in the meridians, in a structured way that relates
to the meridians they are addressing.
AK may also be used as a general adjunct to other therapies. When
you people are in harmony within your their conscious and unconscious
awareness, in relationship to yourself themselves and your their
physical and social environment, your their bioenergy system (reflected
in your their muscle strength) is good. When you they are out of
harmony, your their muscle strength will be weak. General muscle
strength (not related to specific meridians) may thus be used as
an indication and measure of your their state of bioernergetic harmony.
For example, if you they are allergic to wheat and wheat is brought
close to your their energy field, the AK practitioner will note
whether your their muscles become weaker. This gives the therapist
a way of testing what you they might be sensitive or allergic to.
Conversely, various remedies may be brought near you them to see
whether they strengthen your their bioenergies, as reflected in
increased muscle strength.(Ballentine)
In psychotherapy AK may be used to explore whether particular thoughts
influence you patients positively or negatively. If you they think
of a traumatic incident in the past and your their muscles are weakened,
it suggests that emotions attached to this memory may be producing
an energetic imbalance. A variety of techniques may be used to help
you release the negative emotions, following which you one can again
check your muscle strength to see to what extent you these negative
influences have cleared yourself. (Gallo1999; 2000)
Research: No research has been published to validate the
claims of AK.
Adverse effects: No adverse effects are known.
Indications: AK is claimed to be effective in treating allergies
and digestive problems, and stress-related illnesses.
Meridian-Based Therapies utilize pressure points along various
acupuncture meridians to release negative patterns of emotional
and physical response. Anxieties, post-traumatic stress disorders,
fears, pains, and allergies are reported to be alleviated rapidly
and permanently with techniques such as Thought Field Therapy(Callahan),
Emotional Freedom Technique,(Craig/Fowlie) Tapas Acupressure Technique(Fleming),
and other variations on these approaches. These therapies are used
under the direction of a therapist, but may be used by patients
on their own as self-healing.
Chakra therapies may be used individually or may be included as
aspects of other approaches. The chakras (Sanskrit for wheels)
are major energy centers said to exist along the midline of the
body that channel bioenergies to organs locally as well as throughout
the body. Bioenergy therapists report they can sense the chakras
with their hands, and sensitive people who see auras may report
they see colored disks at the chakra points. These, like the biofield
as a whole, are said to reflect your one's condition and provide
an avenue for access of healing energies. Healers may direct treatment
to particular chakras, or may suggest that you patients hold your
their hands over particular chakras for self-healing(Clinton)
Research:There has been no research published to support
the enthusiastic clinical reports of patients and therapists who
are using these techniques.
Adverse effects: No adverse effects of these therapies are
I have personally found the Meridian Based Therapies extremely
potent for relieving anxieties, severe emotional traumas, pains
and allergies. These techniques have profoundly enhanced my practice
of psychiatric psychotherapy, and have been enormously helpful to
me personally in dealing with stresses on my job and in my personal
life. I have recently started teaching these methods to doctors
and other medical staff for stress reduction.
Clinical efficacyIndications: Helpful for Post Traumatic
Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxieties, phobias, poor self-esteem, performance
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR relies on alternating stimulation of the left and right
sides of your a patient's body to bring about release of fears and
traumatic memories, and to install positive cognitions and feelings.
While initially this therapy utilized only right-left-right-left
eye movements, it has been found that touching your a patient's
right and left sides or making alternating sounds in your her right
and left ears can have the same effects.(Shapiro)
In practice, you a person would decide on something that you she
wishes to change, such as a fear of speaking in public. You She
would assess how strong this fear is on a "Subjective Units of Distress"
(SUDs) scale of zero (not at all) to ten (the worst it could be)
at the moment you she starts this round of treatment. You She would
then focus on the fear while the therapist provides alternating
right-left stimulation. After a few minutes you she would pause
to reassess the intensity of the negative feelings. In most cases
they will decrease. Once they are down to zero, you she can then
install a positive perception in a similar manner. You She might
say, "I can speak with confidence in front of any crowd," assessing
your her level of confidence in this statement. Then the therapist
would repeat the alternating stimulation to build up the positive.
Research: An impressive body of research suggests that EMDR
can be helpful with post-traumatic stress disorders, even when they
are of the severity of those experienced by Vietnam war veterans.(Goldstein
Adverse effects: In the process of releasing negative emotions,
painful memories, previously long-buried and forgotten, may re-surface.
The patient is encouraged to feel in control through an agreement
with the therapist that they will stop processing feelings if the
patient feels they are too intense for comfort. These uncomfortable
releases usually are transient and melt away as the alternating
stimulation is continued. If a person panics and stops in the middle
of a session, the feelings may persist.
Clinical efficacyIndications: Helpful for Post Traumatic
Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxieties, phobias.
See experiential exercise using a hybrid of EMDR and Meridian-Based
Therapies at the end of this chapter.
Research: An impressive body of research confirms that EMDR
can be helpful with post-traumatic stress disorders, even when they
are of the severity of those experienced by Vietnam war veterans.(Goldstein
Similar to homeopathy, remedies have been produced from various
flowers and plants, based on the symptoms they produce when ingested
by normal people. Remedies are made by placing the desired part
of the plant in water for a period of time. These remedies tend
to be more helpful with psychological and relational issues, but
may also help with some physical problems.(Scheffer)
Shamanic herbalists in traditional cultures have reported that
plants speak to them, telling the shaman how they can be helpful--both
in a generic way and for specific patients. In a similar manner,
some highly sensitive healers have developed flower essences intuitively.
That is, they psychically sense the spectrum of benefits of a plant
and develop an essence from the plant rather than going through
the clinical procedures for testing the spectrum of the plant's
Recently, topical applications of flower essences have been found
to be helpful for various problems. Various skin zones of the body
are said to correspond to internal organs and to different illnesses
and dysfunctions. (Dietmar 1995a; 1995b; firstname.lastname@example.org)
Theory:It is proposed that a biological energy pattern is
imprinted in the water. When ingested or used topically, these remedy
energy patterns interact with the biological energies of the healee
to promote healing.
Research: Cram (1999a; b) reports controlled, double-blind
studies on effects of combinations of flower essences that are commonly
used for treating stress. Electromyograms, used as a measure of
stress, demonstrated significant decreases of tension over the mastoid
processes and the chest with the essences compared to placebo. These
studies, limited in scope and methodology, are the only available
ones to date.
Adverse effects: Occasionally there are temporary worsenings
of the symptoms, as the energy patterns of illness are unblocked
Clinical efficacyIndications: Reported helpful in stress,
Mental imagery can be used to focus and utilize bioenergies.
Healers may visualize that they are projecting healing energies
to treat a particular part of the body, to unblock obstructed energy
flows, or may visualize that they are withdrawing excesses of energies.
(Krieger 1979; 1993) Healers report that if they visualize that
they are projecting their own bioenergy they may become tired from
energy depletion. To prevent this, and to be maximally effective,
they visualize that they are channels for unlimited universal energies.
Healers report that when they use these visualizations of channeling
energies, they themselves are energized rather than depleted during
Imagery is used in self-healing.(Achterberg) Patients may be encouraged
to visualize that they are inviting healing energies into their
bodies to treat their problems. Pains may be imaged as a red color,
then pictured as being washed away by the healing energies. Shifts
in the color towards pink and then white are common as the pain
dissipates. People with allergies may find that imagery of having
a bioenergy shield surrounding them like an egg or space suit decreases
their allergic reactions.
Immune system activity may be enhanced through imagery.(Pert/Dreher/Ruff;
Simonton/Sherman) Patients with cancer have been encouraged to picture
that their white cells are sharks, white knights, or "Pac Men" that
can eliminate any unwanted cancer cells. It has been postulated
that immune cells may communicate directly with brain cells through
the dozens of neuropeptides that they share in common.(Pert &
Dienstfrey) Another postulated mechanism for mental influence over
the immune system is via bioenergies, as described earlier.(Benor
Research: Imagery exercises
may enhance immune system activity. Steven Locke and Mady Hornig-Rohan
reviewed 1,453 professional articles on this subject in an annotated
bibliography. Stephanie Simonton and Allen Sherman reviewed numerous
studies in which imagery (often combined with psychological interventions,
meditation and relaxation) appeared to influence the course of patients
with cancer, reducing morbidity and prolonging survival times. More
focused studies have demonstrated enhanced immune cell function
(Simonton 1994; Smith et al 1981)
Adverse Effects: There are no known adverse effects of imagery.
Clinical EfficacyIndications: While there are no clinical
controlled studies of the efficacy of imagery alone to alter disease
processes, anecdotal reports indicate imagery can be helpful in
treating hypertension, accelerating healing of bone fractures, in
decreasing morbidity in cancer and AIDS patients and prolonging
their survival.(Dienstfrey; G. Epstein)
Meditation may take many forms, all of which help the mind to focus.
You One may concentrate on a word or phrase (mantra), prayer,
object, visual image, or activity (breathing, sacred dance). By
concentrating mental energies on a single point, the mind becomes
much more forceful and powerful. Meditation facilitates the practice
of energy medicine in several ways. It sharpens focus and concentration,
increasing the ability to connect with your one's own bioenergies
for self-healing and brings the practitioner into dimensions of
awareness where the bioenergetic connection between therapist and
patient are facilitated. Meditation helps to connect with spiritual
dimensions, connecting the meditator with spiritual inspiration
Research Meditation can help with pain; stress, substance
abuse; hypertension; muscle tension, high cholesterol, and other
problems. Extensive overviews of meditation research have been compiled
by the Maharishi International University, covering over 500 studies
and including a meta-analysis (Orme-Johnson/ Farrow). Michael Murphy
and Steven Donovan have published a review of over 600 studies.(Murphy/Donovan)
Meditation has been particularly helpful in treatment of hypertension,
pain, and stress responses. The practice of meditation has been
found to be cost effective, in that those who meditate regularly
have reduced health care utilization significantly.(Orme-Johnson
Adverse effects:Emotional releases may occur spontaneously.
People who are marginally compensated are at risk for emotional
destabilization if they are not prepared or supported in dealing
with such releases. Focusing inward in meditative states may also
be confusing or disorienting, and may result in decompensation,
so patients with.
Clinical efficacyIndications: Helpful for hypertension,
stress, anxiety, pain, substance abuse.
Intuitive assessments and interventions
In the realms of energy medicine, when the therapist connects
with the patient, there are times where exchanges of information
occur that facilitate the healing. This has been termed non-local
consciousness.(Dossey 1993) Energy medicine therapists report
they often intuitively know where a patient's pathology is and are
guided by intuition to offer bioenergetic interventions. Healers
intuitively know where to put their hands, how to direct the energies,
and for how long.(Benor 2001a)
Intuition is also reported to be helpful in identifying psychological
contributors to physical and emotional problems. Intuitive CAM counselors
may know intuitively that patients have suffered specific physical
or emotional traumas that have contributed to their symptoms and
illnesses. For instance, in giving a 40 year-old woman a laying-on
of hands treatment for her headache, the author intuited that she
was upset over a relationship with a man who was abusive towards
her. She confirmed this and we were able to discuss how she could
handle her relationship better, at which point her headache subsided.
There are anecdotal reports of similar instances where anxiety,
anger, hurt, or depression were released, and simultaneously backaches,
stomach aches, or other physical problems rapidly cleared.(Benor
Research:A few studies confirm that healers may correctly
assess with their hands areas on the body of the healee that are
in pain.(Benor 2001a, b) Several pilot studies suggest that the
aura perceived by healers can be correlated with physical, emotional,
and mental conditions of people they view.(Benor 2001a; b) Healers
using Therapeutic Touch, Reiki, and other approaches report that
they rely on intuitive perceptions to guide their treatments.
Caution:Many intuitives believe that they perceive "the"
state of the person they are "reading."In two pilot studies of several
healers who viewed the aura of the same person simultaneously, each
healer had different perceptions and interpretations of the meanings
of these perceptions. The people being viewed confirmed that most
of the various perceptions were relevant to their conditions.(Benor
1992) Intuitive assessments may therefore be accurate, but may relate
only to parts of the problems. This is an area requiring further
Indications: Intuitive assessment is a non-invasive diagnostic
approach with no known adverse effects. It can be a useful complement
to conventional assessments.
OTHER ENERGY MEDICINE THERAPIES
Anthroposophic Medicine, Ayurveda, Naturopathic Medicine, Traditional
Each of these approaches may include energy medicine as an aspect
of their treatments.
Homeopathy, a different form of energy medicine, is described elsewhere
in this volume.of Medical Clinics of North America.
GENERAL ISSUES OF SAFETY
Side effects of energy medicine interventions are very
limited. The most common one is an increase of symptoms as therapy
is initiated and bioenergy patterns are stirred. The increased symptoms
are generally viewed as a positive sign that the problem is shifting
and prognosticate an improvement with continued treatment.
Delaying other treatments that are potentially beneficial
is a conceivable problem. However, we have very little research
to clarify which therapies are best for given problems. [I AM UNCLEAR
WHY YOU WOULD SUGGEST DELETING THE LAST SENTENCE.] The best approach
is often to use both conventional and energy medicine interventions
together. Most of these energy medicine interventions are excellent
complements to conventional interventions.
Malpractice insurance is carried by many energy medicine
practitioners. They have a very low rate of claims.
PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATIONS AND LICENSING
Acupuncture, chiropractic, and osteopathy are licensed professions
in many states. Homeopathy is recognized in some states but limited
to physician use. Most of the other energy medicine practices are
unregulated and unlicensed.
In Minnesota a law was passed in 2000 permitting CAM therapists
to practice without license or restriction, as long as their interventions
were not invasive or harmful.
CHOOSING AN ENERGY MEDICINE PRACTITIONER
Personality compatibility variables are as important as knowledge,
innate gifts and technical skills. The practitioner is the instrument
for providing the treatment. Practical common sense is a very helpful
counterbalance to bioenergy, intuitive and spiritual gifts.
Paradigm conflicts may arise between approaches. There may
be conventional therapies that are viewed by some energy medicine
therapists as potentially harmful.
While randomized controlled trials are the gold standard for
research, prior to this step it is possible to explore clinical
efficacy of treatments through personal exploration and casual clinical
trials, particularly when these are easily applied, without risk.
You may explore this exercise yourself or introduce it to a patient.
It takes about five minutes for a basic introduction.
Pick a problem you'd like to work on. Identify on a scale of zero
to 10 how intense your discomfort is when you focus on this problem.
Using your index and middle finger (of either hand), alternate tapping
on the median end of each eyebrow, across the bridge of your nose.
As you do this, recite this affirmation to yourself:"Even though
I have this (insert words that identify your anxiety, phobia,
or residual emotional distress from a past event), I completely
and totally accept and love myself."Take one deep breath and continue
to tap your eyebrows while focusing on your problem. After a few
minutes, pause and re-assess how intense the negative feelings are.
You may continue again in a similar manner until you have brought
the feelings about the situation down to zero.
It is then possible to formulate a counterbalancing, positive affirmation
to replace whatever negatives you have eliminated. Note on a scale
of zero to 10 how strongly you feel the positive. State the positive
affirmation while tapping in the same manner. After a few minutes,
pause and note how much stronger the positive feels. Continue until
you bring it up to a 10 or as high as you can.
Growing bodies of clinical experience and research suggest there
are major benefits for patients, physicians, and CAM practitioners
with the integration of energy medicine with conventional medical
Conventional medical practice is excellent for infections, surgically
correctable problems, hormonal dysfunctions, and for some genetic
defects. There are many illnesses for which conventional medicine
can offer treatment, with medications and surgerical interventions.
Side effects of medications may be troublesome, and Rrisks of allopathic
medicine include side effects of medications and surgery, which
may sometimes be include fatalities;.
Energy medicine interventions may complement conventional care
and have minimal risks. In addition, patients report high satisfaction
with energy medicine interventions because perhaps because CAM therapists
often offer them significant amounts of time to talk about their
Most energy medicine practitioners are not familiar with conventional
medical diagnoses or research methodology. Conventional medical
wisdom can inform and enhance energy medicine practice by encouraging
further research. Hopefully, the future will bring more collaboration,
greater acceptance of integrative care, and greater appreciation
of energy medicine.
Table 1. Energy Medicine Modalities
|Chinese (Oriental) Medicine
|Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
|Native American Healing
|T’ai Chi Chuan
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This article was published originally as
Benor, Daniel J, Energy medicine for the internist, Medical
Clinics of North America 2002, 86(1), 105-125
Copyright © Philadelphia, PA: Saunders/Elsevier 2002