Healing and Rats

A couple of studies have shown that a 30 minute healing session reduced the heart rate (HR) and blood pressure (BP) in  resting volunteer healthy subjects. In another trial investigating the effect of healing on the autonomic nervous system (comprised of the sympathetic system  that raises HR and BP during stress, and the parasympathetic system that reduces through calming control in mutual balance) it was found that healing reduced both HR and BP at rest.

Under anaesthetic three rats had a tiny radio transmitter placed inside their abdomen with sensors for BP and HR. An earlier experiment had shown that when rats are exposed to the loud sound of what is called ‘white noise’ for 15 minutes their BPs and HRs are significantly raised during the period of aural stress and then drops back to normal. The question was this:  If healing was given to these three rats sometimes before the noise was switched on, or after the noise was switched on, or sometimes all through the experimental period, would it decrease their BPs and HRs as compared to them receiving sham healing in a similar, 8 day, follow up trial? The procedure was that for the first three days in each trial the rats would receive white noise with their HRs and BPs recorded as baseline, and for the next five days they would receive healing or, in the follow up trial, sham healing. For daily company each telemetered rat was pair-housed with a non-implanted rat who was just there as a friend. They were free to skip about and had fresh food and water throughout. During the trial both the healers, and sham practitioners who knew nothing about healing, placed their hands about 4ft from the front of the cage.


Sham healing had no effect on either BP or HR. When healing was given during the pre-sound quiet period it consistently reduced their normal activity HR, but not their normal BP, and their HR rose only slightly throughout the noise stress period. If healing was applied after the noise had commenced the resultant stress increase in HR was reduced but not quite back to pre- noise levels. If applied in the pre-noise stage and continued through the noise stage their HR remained steady at just below normal activity throughout. The rise in BP in all cases remained unaffected. The investigators concluded thathealing reduces HR in stressed and unstressed animals and promotes homeostasis, thereby optimizing cardiac function’. They go on to say that resting HR is an important indicator of how hard the heart is working to maintain blood flow, and a high resting HR is strongly correlated with an increased death rate in middle aged men.


Whilst we many not be happy with animal experiments, once done, to ignore the results seems pointless. Once again, healing intention has been shown to have a direct effect on the physiological system of another animal even although we do not know how. Over the last 60 years there has been over 20, good quality, non-placebo effect trials demonstrating the positive effects of healing intention on enzyme reaction rates, inhibition of fungi growth, bacterial multiplication, bone cell multiplication, rate of wound healing, stressed seed germination, rate of seedling growth and, as here, reducing stress reactions. Many other less procedurally good but honest trials have found a similar pattern.

From Bob Charman


Baldwin AL, Wagers C, Schwartz GE (2008) Reiki Improves Heart Rate Homeostasis in Laboratory Rats. JACM vol 14(3): 417-422.