by Michelle Mclemore
First published in Energy Magazine, July/August Issue
Between the years I taught psychology and my work in energy therapy, the two words I have come to disdain most are “pseudoscience” and “placebo.” They have been used to dismiss what Western medicine has yet to prove, disprove, or acknowledge—especially in terms of energy medicine. When the community does not understand an unplanned positive result, they say it is placebo—just a mental trick.
And when technology or controls cannot be established for consistent study replication, it must be sham science instead of acknowledging limitations of technology or our limited understanding (at the present moment) of the nature of the topic.
Because of the resistance to study that which seems invisible, research studies on energy medicine have had a long-term struggle to gain legitimacy for funding and publication. Yet, through the years, devotees kept pushing on and because of it, have made discoveries noteworthy for anyone working with energy therapy. From influencing tools to ruling out placebo excuses, highlights of when energy therapy has yielded significant results, and the latest finds in the energy anatomy of meridians, these highlighted studies may provide a therapist more confidence in why the work is legitimate.
One of the early studies, by Dr. Bernard Grad of McGill University, demonstrated successful transference of healing intention to tools. In these studies, healer Oskar Estebany held a bottle of saline for fifteen minutes with the intention of inhibiting its properties. Normally applying one percent solution to barley seeds would retard the growth of the seeds. When the intentionalized, or energy-charged, solution was applied however, the seeds experienced no damage (Grad, et al., 1961).
For me, this is a reminder that items in an environment which may hold risk, may be neutralized, or even modified to transfer positive results for the body. In this vein, I send gratitude and purifying intentions to my water and food (as often as I remember)—a blessing of the gifts as some say. How might this research be expanded to show what other materials and structures may be influenced? Could prescriptions be influenced to lesson side effects and maximum the benefits?
In a second study, fibers were influenced by Estebany. Researchers gave rats goiters for this experiment. Estebany sent intentional healing properties into cotton and wool which was then placed in the experimental rats’ cages for one hour, morning and evening, six days a week. These rats’ thyroids grew slower than the control group. Additionally, when returned to normal diets, the experimental group’s thyroids returned to normal quicker than the control group (Grad, et al., 1961). This suggests it is possible to store healing intentions in a secondary source which may then influence a body just by its proximity for some period of time.
Distance, or Remote Healing
For skeptics regarding remote healing, these studies from 1968 and 1981 may help. In one study, ten subjects attempted to inhibit the growth of fungus cultures by intent. Each participant had fifteen minutes at a distance of 1.5 yards from the cultures to send their intent, or energy, after which the cultures were incubated for several hours. Of 194 total culture dishes, retarded growth was evident in 151 samples (Barry, 1968). In a replication of the same experiment in the 1980s, remote sending of intention was tested from 1 to 15 miles away from the cultures. One group yielded the same significant results in 16 of 16 trials (Tedder, 1981).
Of additional interest, a study was done to check influential ability by subjects who held no claims of healing abilities. Sixty volunteers were asked to set intentions to alter genetic ability of the bacteria Escherichia Coli in test tubes. Of nine test tubes, three were designated for attempts to increase mutation from lactose negative to lactose positive, three for decreased mutation, and three to be left as controls. The results showed the bacteria was influenced in the direction asked of the subjects (Nash, 1984). This suggests that (as Healing Touch training outlines) the average human has the inherent power to exert intentional influence (both healing as well as eroding) on other natural organisms. In simple words? We are born with the ability to intervene in a discriminating, precise manner.
In 1993, Larry Dossey, MD, released an enlightening book called Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine. He highlighted various research studies and, one, I believe, should be pondered by all energy workers. Dossey summarized the work of a researcher name Schmidt who successfully proved that past subatomic events are capable of being intentionally altered—even if they have already occurred, as long as they have not been consciously observed. What does that mean?
As Einstein theorized in his 1905 Theory of Relativity, time does not exist in a linear fashion. However, consciousness fixes reality, be it by human, dog, goldfish or other cognizant entity (Dossey, 1993). So, what in the past could we influence that has not been observed? Could health conditions be reversed or healed before medical tests observe and diagnose something? Could time be designated personally or in retreat formats for self-reflection to predict potential imbalances and send energy to the past moments of strain which may have unconsciously initiated health imbalances? They could be a type of proactive past-corrective retreat.
Ruling out Placebo or Self-induced healing
In 2008, Dossey summarized in Healing Research: What We Know and Don’t Know, studies with highly significant effects done on bacteria, yeasts, fungi, plants, and animals at the molecular level disprove the placebo “participant intention or mind-set” tampering excuses of old. Surely bacteria cannot “decide” to believe in healing it doesn’t know is being sent. The study also suggests there is some design element in nature enabling intentionality to change matter. From preventing or reducing tumor cells in vitro, to influencing DNA replication and states of DNA helix, to expediting arousal of rodents from anesthesia in repeatable trials, the research continues getting stronger in design and is demanding its rightful spotlight time on the global scientific stage (Dossey, 2008).
Direct Subject Intervention
By 2010, the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine published a study summarizing biofield therapy successes in reducing pain in cancer populations, decreasing negative behaviors in dementia, and decreasing anxiety in general hospital patients. The review additionally noted biofield therapies impacted fatigue, pain, and quality of life for cardiovascular patients (Jain and Mills, 2010).
The same year, another study published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, found that Healing Touch sessions helped protect and preserve the body’s natural killer cell cytotoxicity (NKCC) during cervical cancer treatments of chemotherapy in contrast to the control group. Participants in the experimental group received four sessions a week for six weeks. The supplemental HT treatments also produced decreases in depressive moods in contrast to the other test groups (Lutgendorfa et al., 2010).
Multiple studies, with varying sample sizes, can be found summarized on the Healing Touch and Healing Beyond Borders’ websites. One example is a study on chronic and severe pain from a spinal cord injury. During the study, participants who received Healing Touch showed decreased pain in contrast to the control group who received muscle relaxation (Wardell, D. et al., 2006). Another study conducted a randomized controlled trial of Healing Touch and guided visualization producing statistically significant results for reducing PTSD and related symptoms in a returning, combat-exposed active-duty military population (Jain, S. et al., 2012).
The variety of when and how energy work has made a positive impact on a subjects’ health is impressive. So much so, that when a client asks, “What can energy therapy help?” I honestly reply, I don’t know if it has limits.
The acupuncture community in Traditional Chinese Medicine is another useful research realm to watch. As they make gains in producing studies showing energy movement through a physical system as well as electromagnetic fields from Qi Gong practitioners, the data has relevance to hands on and off intentional energy healing.
In 2005, researchers proved a meridian-type network exists in humans. By stimulating BL 2 acupuncture point of the Bladder meridian (the tip of the medial eyebrow), an infrared camera observed a warming of point BL 67 of the same meridian located at the outer side of the fifth toe in the foot on the same side of the body (Narongpunt et al., 2005). They clarified the nature of the network was still a mystery; they simply had proven one existed.
Acupressure uses the same points as acupuncture. And some of the hand techniques used in Healing Touch, such as the mind clearing technique, line up on these same points as well. Direct electrical manipulation of the body could be occurring through the same networks.
And one of the largest discoveries? A University of South Korean research team discovered physical evidence of a new anatomical system they named the Primo-Vascular System. Location proximity to the acupuncture points and traditional meridian lines are leading inferences that this may be the Chinese meridians long sought after. Stefanov and associates published an in-depth study of the implications and where all throughout the body the network has been identified along with a description of the fluid movement, unique cells and DNA structures within the fluid, and more (Stefanov et al., 2013). Another researcher in the U.S. contributed finding the network also in another mammal (Martin, C. 2016).
Now does this also address the Indian Medicine view of nadis? Continued research is needed.
When I find the urge to make a cup of tea and research for research studies, I joke about “getting my geek on.” The truth is you don’t have to be intimidated about reading research studies. We don’t all have degrees in physics, chemistry, or biology so sure, some of the terminology may be daunting. But understanding a few basics can help you gain access to the information.
You will come across two main types of research papers: a literary review (which examines a bunch of other people’s studies) and actual research studies (like experiments). Reading a literary review can catch you up on the research history of a topic. Reading the actual study allows you to know for sure what was reported versus someone else’s take on the study.
Take confidence that studies are written in a consistent format. The first paragraph, the abstract, is a summary of the entire paper. Read that. Sometimes that is enough. Nearing the end of the abstract, it will summarize the results of the study. Does it use the phrase “statistically significant”? That’s a lottery winner for a researcher. In the design does it mention, “randomized,” “blind” or “double blind” study? That gives it more legitimacy in the scientific community as it is believed less tampering and less bias is involved because of these measures.
That’s it. Explore the basics. Consider setting up research-sharing circles with other energy workers. We cannot expect the average Western person indoctrinated by a life-time of commercials from Big Pharma to suddenly look for holistic, natural healing options. And just as important, perhaps knowing the research will help you understand your energy work in a new, or deeper way.
Bader J.M. (1986). Acupuncturists stung to the quick [in French] Sci Vie, 823(4):54–59.
De Vernejoul, P.A. and lbarède P Darras JC. (1985). Studies of acupuncture meridians by radiotracers [in French]. Bull Acad Natl Med ., 169(7):1071–1075.
Dossey, Larry M.D. 1993. Healing words: The power of prayer and the practice of medicine.
Dossey L. (2008). Healing research: What we know and don’t know. Explore, 4(6): 341- 52.
Grad, B., Cadoret R.J., and G.I. Paul. (1961). The influence of an unorthodox method of treatment on wound healing in mice. International Journal of Parapsychology, 3: 5-24.
Jain S. and Mills P.J. (2010). Biofield therapies: helpful or full of hype? A best evidence synthesis. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine,17:1–16.
Jain T. et al. (2012). Healing Touch with guided imagery for PTSD in returning active-duty military: a randomized controlled trial. Military Medicine, 177(9): 1015-1021. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23025129.
Lutgendorf, S. K. et al. (2010). Preservation of immune function in cervical cancer patients during chemoradiation using a novel integrative approach. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 24(8): 1231-1240. sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S088915911000173X.
Martin, C. (2016). Auburn scientist discovers microstructure of primo-vascular system, revealing possible foundation of how Acupuncture works. Auburn University. cm.auburn.edu/newsroom/news_articles/2016/12/auburn-scientist-discovers-microstructure-of-primo-vascular-system.php.
Narongpunt V, Cornillot P, Attali JR, et al. (2005). Infrared thermographic visualization of the traditional Chinese acupuncture meridian points. ACU , 16(2): 32– 37.
Nash, C.B. (1984). “Test of psychokinetic control of bacterial mutation,” Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 78(2): 145-52.
Semyachkina-Glushkovskaya, O. et al. (2021). Lymphatic window from and into the rain: new concept of lymphatic/Primo-vascular pathways of drug brain delivery. Second International Symposium of Primo-Vascular System. Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, 14(3): 116-125.
Stefanov, M. et al. (2013). The Primo Vascular System as a New Anatomical System. Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, 6(6): 331-338. doi.org/10.1016/j.jams.2013.10.001.
Tedder, W. and M. Monty. (1980) Exploration of long-distance PK: a conceptual replication of the influence on a biological system. Research in Parapsychology , 90-93.
Wardell, D. et al. (2006). Pilot study of Healing Touch and progressive relaxation for chronic neuropathic pain in persons with spinal cord injury. Journal of Holistic Nursing, 24(4): 231-240.