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An “energy-based” therapy that originated in Japan. The development of Reiki is usually credited to a 19th-century Japanese physician and monk named Mikao Usui, who trained others in its use. According to some sources, the practice had its roots in ancient Buddhist texts called Tibetan sutras.

The term “Reiki” is derived from two Japanese characters – “rei,” which roughly translates to “universal,” and “ki,” which means, roughly, “life-force energy.” The Reiki practitioner strives to access the universal ki to promote healing. He places his hands on or near the person receiving treatment to transmit ki to the person. Reiki practitioners also use Reiki to heal themselves.

Reiki has been used for many different health purposes, including reducing stress, easing chronic pain and side effects of chemotherapy, and enhancing the immune system, mental clarity, and a sense of well being. Few scientific studies have looked into Reiki. What research there is hasn’t shown conclusively that Reiki is more effective than a placebo (inactive treatment) at improving health, nor has it yielded clear theories as to how Reiki might work. People sometimes report feeling more relaxed after a Reiki session, which could help to reduce nausea, pain, and fatigue.

Reiki is generally considered safe, and no serious side effects have been reported with its use. However, some people report feelings of weakness or tiredness, headache, or stomachache from Reiki. Reiki practitioners attribute these effects to a “cleansing crisis,” in which the body releases toxins. When people develop such symptoms, Reiki practitioners generally recommend remedies such as getting more rest, drinking plenty of water, and eating a lighter diet. If you choose to try Reiki, let your health-care team know about it and any effects – positive or negative – you experience.

Originally Published November 24, 2009

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