Ancient medicinal art form or modern wellness trend? We investigate energy healing – and whether it really works.
Wellness is all the rage these days and following a year fraught with health anxiety, fake news and conspiracy theories, it’s no great surprise that energy healing has surged in popularity. With stress and anxiety levels through the roof, who wouldn’t want to find inner peace and live your best life minus any medical intervention?
Proponents of energy healing claim it’s a way of naturally relieving pain, rebalancing and repairing the body and healing trauma and even physical disease. But energy healing has its sceptics. After all, with peer-reviewed, scientific evidence thin on the ground, how do we know if it actually works?
We spoke to Antonia Harman, healer and emotional trauma expert and founder of Divine Empowerment, and Stanford-trained physician Dr Leonard Laskow, about the pros and cons of energy healing, so you can make your own mind up and maybe find some inner peace in the process:
What is energy healing?
Although it forms part of the modern wellness movement, energy healing actually has roots that go far back into history.
‘Energy healing is the original form of medicine,’ says Harman. ‘Descriptions of the “laying on of hands” to relieve pain have even been found in ancient Egyptian papyrus dating back to 1,500BC. It’s been practiced for four thousand years – probably far longer.’
One of the major principles of energy healing is that prevention is better than a cure.
There are many different forms of energy healing but, broadly speaking, it refers to any practice that works on the subtle flow of energy throughout the body, to help restore health (both mental and physical) and a sense of balance. ‘One of the major principles of energy healing is that prevention is better than a cure,’ says Harman. ‘It’s important to keep you vital, healthy and sound of mind, as this can help you to swerve illness.’
Forms of energy healing
There is no ‘one’ form of energy healing and, in fact, any therapy that works to restore health energetically can come under this broad umbrella term. It includes (but is not limited to) the following:
★ Chinese medicine
Traditional Chinese medicine (or TCM) originated in China thousands of years ago. ‘It includes acupuncture, which treats meridians or energy pathways corresponding to organs,’ says Harman. ‘These meridians have even been discovered by mainstream science – they injected dye into meridian pathways versus random areas, and the pathways showed up under CT scans.
‘A major principle of Chinese medicine is that emotions relate to organs, so if you have intense heavy emotions, you may restrict or damage organs. As an example, the lungs and large intestine relate to grief. Anger, frustration and resentment are the liver and gallbladder. Kidneys are fear of death, while the bladder is general fear, and the spleen and stomach are worry.’
The word reiki originates from the Japanese words ‘rei’, meaning universal and ‘ki’, meaning life force.
‘Reiki is a popular and nourishing form of energy healing,’ says Harman. ‘It involves the gentle laying of hands, symbols and intention. Practitioners are a conduit for universal energy, which restores balance to the body mind and spirit.’
Many people trust in reiki to alleviate pain, stress and anxiety, which is why it’s now offered as a complementary therapy in some NHS trusts.
★ Chakra healing
This type of healing aims to balance the flow of energy through your chakras, or energy centres.
‘We have seven main chakras, from the base of the spine to the top of the head,’ says Harman. ‘They are spinning wheels of light in the colours of the rainbow, which all have individual characteristics and defined locations. One of the most important factors in chakra work is balance. Chakras can be worked on in numerous ways – there are countless chakra meditations on YouTube and affirmations also help, as do colours.’
Chakra healing, says Harman, is very fashionable right now. ‘There are countless products on the market with major bands, such as Aveda, even selling chakra balancing body sprays,’ she adds.
★ Crystal healing
While there is no scientific basis for the claim, advocates of crystal healing say stones and crystals hold specific healing properties and that being in the presence of them can affect your wellbeing.
‘This is another hugely popular form of energy work,’ says Harman. ‘Crystals emit energy, so having them close by can heal. Choose the one with the appropriate characteristic for your needs. They do anything from protecting, to soothing, to blocking electromagnetic stress, to drawing in love, to allowing for cohesive thinking and much more.’
★ Divine empowerment
Harman’s own personal brand of energy healing works to dissolve emotional trauma in an instant, from single events to long-standing mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. She says she can also dissolve physical pain and problems, and has a team of practitioners who can be booked for sessions.
‘I’ve had wonderful results with fibromyalgia, as well as sciatica,’ she says. ‘I teach by awakening people’s latent abilities – abilities we all have, which are locked away. Humans are far more capable than we’ve realised. Anyone can learn Divine Empowerment and the results are humbling, daily.’
Energy healing and physical pain
While even sceptics will understand why some people might choose to consult an energy healer for an emotional issue, what about physical problems, including pain and illness? Being tangible health issues, how might energy healing help?
‘As strange as it sounds, physical symptoms are your body’s way of communicating with you,’ says Harman. ‘ The body is a map. You just need to learn how to read it.’
Harman reveals that pains have their roots in specific energetic or emotional origins:
- Shoulder pain:is about feeling burdened and guilty about having fun.
- Back pain:(general) is about not feeling supported – that your life lacks structure, or there may be issues around responsibility and stability.
- Middle back pain:relates to feeling responsible for others, and having blurred lines between what is your issue and what is not. It can also relate to humiliation, embarrassment and feeling dominated.
- Lower back pain:relates to financial responsibility, others’ needs, burdens and feeling under pressure.
- Hip pain:is about not being flexible, relationship problems, sexuality or confidence in personal relationships.
Energy healing: the evidence
Sounds intriguing, completely out there – or maybe a bit of both? If the sceptic in you is crying out for evidence, you may not be surprised to hear that it’s somewhat hard to come by.
‘Medical research is costly and largely funded by big companies to develop drugs,’ says Harman. ‘In terms of energy healing, there is really nothing for them to sell, so the research simply hasn’t been done.’
However, there is research out there, including that of Stanford-trained physician, Dr Leonard Laskow, who has found that the structure of DNA can be changed depending on whether it is sent conscious anger (it dies), or conscious love (it heals). A Life Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Dr Laskow coined the term ‘holoenergetic healing’, and states that love and forgiveness are the keys to health and longevity – something Harman agrees with.
Any form of therapy that can reduce stress will help maintain health.
‘If you would like to heal yourself on your own, the key is forgiveness and letting things go, completely,’ she says. ‘It’s looking deeply into your life and relationships, and forgiving all parties. Forgiveness is a major theme in religion for this very reason.’
There have been several studies into the effectiveness of reiki healing, including a 2010 review of research finding strong evidence that biofield therapies, such as reiki and therapeutic touch, can alleviate pain, and moderate evidence that they can reduce anxiety in hospitalised patients.
What’s also important to take into account is patients’ perceptions of how they feel after energy healing. ‘It’s known and well documented that stress causes all sorts of illness, so any form of therapy that can reduce stress will help maintain health,’ says Harman. Which explains energy healing’s growing popularity, as well as the fact that therapies, including reiki and acupuncture are now offered alongside traditional treatments.
How to find a professional energy healer
If you’re fascinated by the idea of energy healing, as with any therapy it’s important to ensure the practitioner you choose is qualified.
‘Energy healing, like any other profession, has regulatory bodies,’ says Harman. ‘Divine Empowerment is backed by The International Practitioners of Holistic Medicine and their website has lists of accredited therapists.’
And its not just about checking their credentials – it’s important to ensure you feel happy and comfortable with a practitioner before parting with your money.
‘There are countless amazing healers out there,’ says Harman. ‘and as with anything, you need to find the therapist who can best suit your needs. It’s important to also feel comfortable with your healer – most of us are happy to answer questions before you part with your hard-earned cash. I for one wouldn’t take someone on as a client unless I was confident I could help in a significant way.’
‘Now is a really exciting time in the field of energy healing, as new modalities spring up and the whole industry goes mainstream,’ adds Harman. ‘Whatever style of healing you opt for, it will be nourishing to your soul, so why not give it a try?’
Always consult your doctor
If you’re interested in energy healing for a specific health complaint, it’s important you view it as a complementary therapy. Do not stop any traditional medicines or treatments you may be undergoing, and consult your doctor before making changes to any treatment plan. But you may find energy healing is a good complement to Western medicin.