Biofield therapies: helpful or full of hype? A best evidence synthesis

Int J Behav Med. 2010 Mar;17(1):1-16. doi: 10.1007/s12529-009-9062-4.


Background: Biofield therapies (such as Reiki, therapeutic touch, and healing touch) are complementary medicine modalities that remain controversial and are utilized by a significant number of patients, with little information regarding their efficacy.

Purpose: This systematic review examines 66 clinical studies with a variety of biofield therapies in different patient populations.

Method: We conducted a quality assessment as well as a best evidence synthesis approach to examine evidence for biofield therapies in relevant outcomes for different clinical populations.

Results: Studies overall are of medium quality, and generally meet minimum standards for validity of inferences. Biofield therapies show strong evidence for reducing pain intensity in pain populations, and moderate evidence for reducing pain intensity hospitalized and cancer populations. There is moderate evidence for decreasing negative behavioral symptoms in dementia and moderate evidence for decreasing anxiety for hospitalized populations. There is equivocal evidence for biofield therapies' effects on fatigue and quality of life for cancer patients, as well as for comprehensive pain outcomes and affect in pain patients, and for decreasing anxiety in cardiovascular patients.

Conclusion: There is a need for further high-quality studies in this area. Implications and future research directions are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease / therapy
  • Electromagnetic Phenomena
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Holistic Health
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Pain Management*
  • Qi
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care
  • Therapeutic Touch / classification
  • Therapeutic Touch / methods*