S25: Towards an Integrated Understanding of Scientific and Methodological Issues in Biofield/Bioenergetic Therapies


Shamini Jain1, Richard Hammerschlag2, Ann Baldwin3, Gloria Gronowitz4, Susan Lutgendorf5, Garret Yount6  and James Oschman7
1Samueli Institute; University of California San Diego, USA; 2Oregon College of Oriental Medicine; The Institute for Integrative Health, USA; 3University of Arizona, USA; 4University of Connecticut, USA;  5University of Iowa, USA; 6California Pacific Medical Center, USA, 7Nature's Own Research Association, USA
This session will educate and update conference attendees regarding the current state of the science and methodological issues surrounding the study of biofield/bioenergetic therapies, e.g. External Qigong, Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, Healing Touch, Johrei, in cell, animal, and human trials.   The session will also include evidence-based discussion on model development for an integrated understanding of the physiological correlates of biofield/bioenergetic therapies as well as the effects of these therapies on the whole person.  Seven leading experts studying the clinical effectiveness and basic science of biofield therapies will present new data and discuss its relevance to contemporary health care and current models of physiology.   Specific methodological issues, such as testing for noise, non-specific, and placebo elements, will be addressed.  Audience members will be invited to engage in discussion with panelists on topics arising from the panelists’ presentations.
The study of biofield therapies (also sometimes termed bioenergetic therapies) is one of the more controversial areas within integrative medicine.  Despite an incomplete understanding of mechanisms underlying biofield therapies (such as Reiki, Healing Touch, Therapeutic Touch, Johrei, and Pranic Healing), they continue to be offered in clinical settings and used by diverse clinical populations, most notably chronic pain and cancer patients.   Recent controlled cell culture studies indicate significant and specific effects of biofield therapies on cellular processes associated with cancer disease progression, as well as cell metabolic function.  Controlled clinical trials indicate significant effects on symptom reduction and clinically-relevant immune and endocrine function in patient populations. There is a need, therefore, to better understand the effects of biofield therapies both directly on physiology as well as in the whole person. 
Current research from our symposium group utilizes refined and expanded methodologies for testing potential effects of biofields in cell, animal, and human populations.  Studies to be presented illustrate the methods used to test for specific and non-specific effects in in vitro (e.g., the use of systematic negative controls in cell designs) as well as in-vivo (e.g., examining impacts of placebo elements on psychoneuroimmunological outcomes).   Results of these studies indicate promise both for understanding biofield effects directly on physiology as well as in elucidating specific and non-specific aspects of the clinically significant effects that are often found for biofield therapies in humans.   
This proposed symposium will focus specifically on the state of the science and methodological issues in the study of biofield therapies, utilizing preclinical and clinical models that have direct relevance to cancer and other diseases.   Presenters will discuss new, unpublished data as well as previously published data and integrate their findings with discussion and commentary on methods used to test biofield therapies in specific models.   Audience members will be invited to dialogue with presenters on topics such as: 1) the relevance and implications of current understandings of biofield effects on outcomes as they relate to commonly practiced therapies, 2) current limitations and barriers to this field of research, and 3) future directions for strengthening the evidence base by assessing the therapeutic effectiveness and physiological correlates of these biofield and bioenergetic practices.
  • Objective 1: Describe the term “biofield/bioenergetics therapies” and the state of the science of studies examining biofield healing in various study models (cell, animal, human).
  • Objective 2: Discuss specific methodologies utilized to refine our understanding of biofield effects directly on physiology as well as within the whole person. 
  • Objective 3: Invite discussion among symposium members and audience to target new directions as well as new solutions for barriers to conducting high-quality studies of biofield healing.