The History and Future of Energy Healing

July 25, 2023
IONS Communications Team

Energy healing has been around since the dawn of time. People have known about the healing powers of the unseen world for millennia. Only with the rise of materialism and the pharmaceutical industries did this age-old wisdom get dismissed as pseudo-science and hidden from the masses. 

Instead, allopathic medicine became the norm – a system that treats the body as a mechanical system with one part completely isolated from the others, and where emotions and thoughts are considered as separate entities not affecting one’s physical health. 

In this article, we’ll dive into the rich history of energy healing, and what we can expect moving forward. Let’s dive in! 

You are what you eat… or? 

While Western medicine is indispensable in emergencies, people have had enough of its separation between body, mind, and spirit. A reflection of this is that energy healing is becoming more and more mainstream. 

Not many people would believe that eating exclusively fast food would have a positive or even neutral impact on health. Morgan Spurlock’s documentary Super-Size Me showed the detrimental health effects of eating only McDonald’s for 28 days. 

Yet, by Western medicine, food is not believed to have a huge impact on physical health. Medicine students study the anatomy and physiology of the human body for 5-6 years, but only about 20% of American universities require their students to take a nutrition course. 

This view of the body parts as completely independent from each other, of thoughts and emotions as separate from our physical state, and of food as not impacting our health makes it hard to trust Western medicine. At least, it would be preferable to have alternatives. And that’s where many consider energy medicine a substitute, or at least a complement, to its allopathic counterpart.

How does energy healing work?

While the exact workings of energy healing can be seen as a “mystery” since they don’t fit into the known laws of physics, the healing works by altering the human energy field. Biology states that the human body is electromagnetic. For example, nerve impulses are mediated by electricity. 

It thus seems valid that one could apply an external force field to change this electromagnetic field and bring it back into balance. And that’s what energy healing seems to do. The healing is mediated through a subtle force outside of the ordinary laws of physics – a force we have yet to understand from a scientific perspective.

The body is phenomenal in that it can heal itself by itself, given the right circumstances. Rather than actually “do” the healing, energy medicine provides an optimal environment for the human body to repair itself.

Energy Healing: History 

To see your energy healer for an energetic top-up, or to heal a physical or mental ailment, might be considered New Age by some. But it’s time-tested knowledge.

It makes sense to believe that many indigenous people had the knowledge of subtle energies and their healing effects on the human body. However, much of this wisdom is either not documented, or the evidence has been destroyed under the rule of the Catholic church and the demonization of anything spiritual outside of Christianity. 

Some well-known systems have survived, and their insights keep helping people to heal to this day.

Among those are:

  • Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
  • Native American medicine women/shamans 
  • Yogic traditions and the use of prana 

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, works with the life force called qi or ki (the same as “prana” in India). It is based on the energy meridians. The meridians are a complex network in the body through which qi flows, similar to the bloodstream but invisible. Two widespread modalities from TCM are acupuncture and acupressure. They work on stimulating specific points on this network to remove blocks for the qi and release stuck emotions.

Other forms of healing based on TCM are qi gong, tai chi, and herbal medicine.

TCM acknowledges that different meridians are connected to different organs and emotions. Stimulating e.g. the liver meridians can help energize and strengthen the liver, and release the corresponding emotions: anger and rage.

In scientific studies, acupuncture seemed to reduce chronic pain substantially.


There are many types of shamanism all over the world: Andean shamanism, Siberian, Korean, Hawaiian, Scandinavian, South African, and Mexican, to name a few. 

They have in common that the shaman enters a trance state and interacts with the spirit world to facilitate healing, often in the form of retrieval of lost parts of the soul. The shaman acts as a bridge between the spirit world and the physical world, drawing wisdom and healing from the former to benefit the latter.

Shamans often have dreams or visions that support the healing. They may have spirit guides or spirit animals assisting them. Just like animism, there’s no central God. Instead, shamanic traditions believe everything has a spirit – plants, animals, fungi, and even inanimate objects. 

There’s no study program or certification to become a shaman – it’s inherited gifts that sometimes awaken during a near-death experience, leading the person onto their shamanic path. 

Shamanic healing is built on the philosophy that all physical and mental disease has a spiritual origin. When the spiritual imbalance is corrected, the physical body has a greater chance of healing itself and returning to homeostasis. 

While many associate shamans with plant medicines, such as ayahuasca, these medicines are only a small part of the tools used to connect with the spirit world. Many shamans alter their consciousness without the use of external substances.

Yogic traditions 

In India and yogic traditions, the energetic body has seven main chakras or energy centers. These are described in ancient Hindu texts. The energy body has nadis (the same as meridians in TCM) conveying the prana. 

Each chakra is associated with a color that will help bring it back to balance. It is responsible for a physical organ or system, and certain emotions and qualities. For example, manipura, the solar plexus chakra, governs the digestive system and adrenal glands. It harbors the energetic qualities of inner strength, willpower, action, and passion. Healing the manipura can help people with low motivation or digestive issues. 

One way of equilibrating the chakras and stimulating the nadis is the practice of yoga. Kundalini yoga, in particular, is designed to target specific chakras and organs/systems. 

Electricity healing?!

We don’t need to go back to the origin of Patanjali’s yoga sutras or the ancient Hindu scripts to find ways of healing the energy body. As late as in the late 1880s, physicians used electricity to heal ailments. Meanwhile, mainstream science rejected this “vitalism” (the idea that living matter contains “life force”) since it doesn’t fit into the laws of physics. 


Modern-day science confirms what the ancient traditions already knew to be true: energy healing works. Numerous scientific studies show results of energy healing that cannot be described by chance. 

Although it’s a more subtle form of healing and may not work as quickly as pharmaceuticals, it’s gentle and non-invasive with little to no side effects. Although it has shown success, we do not recommend getting off your regular meds without consulting your doctor. Instead, energy healing can be used as a complement to whatever medical treatments you’re using to speed up the recovery process.

Types of healing today

Here’s a list of some types of energy healing today. Some have been used for thousands of years, while others are relatively new. Note that this is by no means an exhaustive list.

  • Acupuncture
  • Acupressure
  • Reiki
  • Pranic healing 
  • Reflexology
  • Sound healing
  • Crystal healing
  • Emotional Freedom Technique/Tapping
  • Prayer

Let’s look at each of these in more detail:

  • Acupuncture and acupressure are described in the section on TCM. Reiki is a form of healing through the hands (although it can be done at a distance) and was founded by Dr. Usui in Tokyo in the early 1900s. It’s said to work with the universal life force as a means of healing, and is popular worldwide today.
  • Pranic healing resembles reiki but is done without physical touch. The practitioner places their hands a few inches from the patient’s body (this can also be done at a distance). First, stagnant energy is removed, since activating this energy is thought to potentially worsen the condition. Then, new energy is applied – and finally, the treated area is stabilized energetically to “enclose” the energy and prevent it from leaking.
  • Reflexology is related to TCM and works on meridian points on the hands, feet, or ears. It can be seen as a simplified version of acupressure. While there are hundreds of acupressure points for an organ or ailment along the meridians throughout the body, each organ has one area in the hand, foot, and ear. It is simpler but can also be seen as less precise.
  • Sound healing works with the mechanical waves of sound and music. Some examples are Solfeggio frequencies, where each frequency is related to a chakra. Another is binaural beats, where the listener uses headphones and gets one frequency in one ear and a slightly altered frequency in the other, creating an intermediate wave inside the brain that is said to be beneficial for focus, sleep, or alleviating anxiety. 
  • Crystal healing leverages the specific crystalline design of a stone to streamline the healing energy. It is thought that the colors of the crystals tell what chakra it can help heal. So, for example, the yellow citrine stone would be suitable for balancing the manipura (solar plexus) chakra since it’s yellow.
  • Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), or tapping, is a form of self-healing. It consists of knocking or “tapping” on specific acupressure points in a particular pattern. While doing so, you repeat A) the thing that is worrying you and how it makes you feel and B) your desired reality or what you want to feel instead. As EFT works on the energy body, it can be used to balance physical as well as mental or emotional issues, just like all types of energy healing. It’s thus a handy tool to have in your toolbox – especially since it’s easy to learn and can be performed in a few minutes.

The way energy healers work varies and depends on their personal skills and noetic gifts. Some can “see” the block or illness (clairvoyant) and combine the healing with questions, while others let their intuition guide them to where the healing energy needs to be applied. Many can sense a block with their hands or by holding their hands a few inches from the body.

Distance healing is gaining popularity – especially since people are used to video calls after the pandemic. The energy conveyed in energy healing can be sent across space since it doesn’t follow the normal physical laws, but rather the noetic “laws” in the same way as telepathy.

Reported Benefits of Energy healing

  • Pain reduction: Many studies, including a 2021 pilot study by IONS, suggest that energy healing can reduce physical pain. In the IONS study, patients with hand and wrist pain reported an average 2-point decrease in pain on a scale of 1-10 directly after the session. They also reported increased well-being and sleep quality, and less negative emotions. Other examples: a study suggested that acupuncture reduces chronic pain, and in another study, the modality Healing Touch led to a pain reduction in patients with osteoarthritis.
  • Improved sleep (see the IONS study above).
  • Boosts the effects of conventional medical treatments. 
  • Better mental and emotional health overall. 

Energy Healing: Future 

In our society, energy healing is getting increasingly accepted as we move from the limited materialist worldview into the multidimensional way of looking at life. And other places are ahead of us. For example, in India, it’s normal to offer both conventional and “alternative” healing at hospitals. The ancient Indian health system ayurveda is well integrated into the national healthcare. 

The future of energy healing may go toward self-healing in the moment we need it. Cleansing our energy body may soon be as standard as showering or brushing your teeth. We may also see different types of energy medicine being prescribed alongside pharmaceuticals or conventional methods. 

Finally, the most important thing to remember is that even if you receive help from a healer, it’s still your miraculous body that’s doing the healer. You are your best healer! It’s simply about getting out of your body’s way and letting it do what it does best. 

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