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How reiki works: The Vagus Nerve

Updated: Aug 26, 2018

From Journal of American College of Cardiology


Before we describe the findings in this medical journal article, what is the vagus nerve?


Have you ever felt physical "heart ache" or "a gut feeling" that seems more wise than your conscious mind? The vagus nerve is the longest and most complex of nerves that connects the brain to the rest of the body. The brain stem communicates to the so-called "heart brain" or a neural network of controls over the cardiovascular system and the "gut brain" or the neural networks that control gastrointestinal and hormonal shifts in the abdominal cavity. Polyvagal theory proposes that the vagus nerve is key to the survival and reconciliation of traumatic experiences that often lead to bodily symptoms, including heightened stress response, as well as things like blindness (30% of vision is controlled by the brain). Activating the vagus nerve has shown to improve well-being across autoimmune diseases, depression, anxiety, epilepsy, and a host of other diseases. Click here for more on the vagus nerve.


A 2010 study in the Journal of American College of Cardiology showed that reiki stimulated the vagal nerve system in patients with autonomic dysfunction after heart attack. The study found that the effect of reiki equaled that of the medication propranolol, a beta-blocker commonly administered after heart attacks.


A snippet from the article by Rachel S.C.Friedman, MD; Matthew M.Burg, PhD; Pamela Miles, BA; Forrester Lee MD; Rachel Lampert, MD:


"Reiki, administered by nurses, significantly increased vagal activity as measured by HF HRV [high-frequency heart rate variability], compared with resting and music control conditions, with a decrease in negative and an increase in positive emotional states. The magnitude of the effect on HF HRV seen was similar to that of propranolol in the BHAT (Beta Blocker Heart Attack Trial) (2)."



Figure 2. Effect of Intervention on Emotion. Values represent change in the level of emotion as measured by a Likert scale from baseline to intervention.

Click here for the full article:

Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Volume 56, Issue 12, 14 September 2010, Pages 995-996

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