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Article Excerpt: A healing energy? Now in hospitals, Reiki musters critics and fans

Scott K

Syracuse, NY -- A controversial healing therapy touted by some as an almost magical stress reliever and dismissed by others as quackery is going mainstream at some Syracuse hospitals. Reiki, a form of energy healing, is being offered by a growing number of nurses, chaplains and other staffers at Crouse, Upstate University and the VA Medical Center. About 15 percent of hospitals nationwide -- including the Cleveland Clinic, Children's Hospital in Boston and Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore -- provide Reiki.

Developed in Japan, Reiki is based on the idea that there is a universal life energy that supports the body's healing abilities. A Reiki practitioner supposedly becomes a conduit for this energy. During a treatment, a practitioner puts his or her hands on, or just above, several parts of a fully-clothed patient's body.

"That energy is going through me to the patient," said Joyce Appel, a registered nurse and Reiki practitioner at Crouse. "I know it sounds strange."

Reiki is considered a spiritual practice not linked to any specific religion.

There's no conclusive scientific evidence Reiki works. But Reiki proponents point to anecdotal evidence that suggests it eases stress, relieves pain and can improve a person's overall sense of well-being. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health, says Reiki appears to be generally safe and no serious side effects have been reported. It also says more than 2.2 million U.S. adults have used it.

Among Reiki's fans are cardiac surgeon and TV show host Dr. Mehmet Oz, who recently urged viewers to try it. "This alternative medicine treatment can manipulate your energy and cure what ails you," he said on his program. (See clip, below.)

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