Evaluation of anxiety, salivary cortisol and melatonin secretion following reflexology treatment: a pilot study in healthy individuals

Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2007 Aug;13(3):137-45. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2006.11.001. Epub 2007 Jan 4.


This pilot study sought to identify an appropriate methodology to investigate the impact of reflexology in healthcare settings. The study involved healthy volunteers to prevent unnecessary intervention to individuals who may already be experiencing health related trauma. Thirty participants underwent either reflexology or no treatment (control), in a cross-over experimental design. Self-reported anxiety (Spielberger STAI), cardiovascular parameters (BP and pulse rate) and salivary cortisol and melatonin concentrations were assessed before and after reflexology. Control data were obtained at the same time points in identical settings. Reflexology had a powerful anxiety-reduction effect ('state'; P<0.001) but no significant effect on underlying anxiety ('trait'). Cardiovascular parameters decreased (P<0.001). Baseline salivary cortisol and melatonin were not significantly correlated with STAI scores and did not change significantly following reflexology. Reflexology reduced 'state' anxiety and cardiovascular activity within healthy individuals, consistent with stress-reduction. Considering the connection between stress/anxiety and well being, the effects of reflexology may have beneficial outcomes for patients. These findings will be transferred to a study involving breast cancer patients where effects may be more pronounced particularly since cancer patients display disregulation of cortisol and melatonin secretion.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / metabolism
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Biometry
  • Blood Pressure
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / analysis*
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Massage / psychology*
  • Melatonin / analysis*
  • Melatonin / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Psychometrics
  • Saliva / chemistry*


  • Melatonin
  • Hydrocortisone