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MoonDragon's Alternative Health Information
(Laying On Of Hands)

Touch & Movement Therapies

For "Informational Use Only".
For more detailed information, contact your health care provider
about options that may be available for your specific situation.

  • Healing (Laying On Of Hands) Therapy Description
  • History
  • Key Principles
  • Evidence & Research
  • Conventional Medical Opinion
  • Consulting A Practitioner


    Healing, sometimes known as the "laying of hands", is part of the ancient religious and magic practices of many cultures, past and present, encompassing a wide range of belief systems. Healers describe their work as the "restoration to health by non-physical means". They channel benign healing energy to the patient to activate natural self-healing mechanisms, either through the laying of hands or at a distance by thought or prayer. In the late 20th century, medical science began to acknowledge the possible benefits of healing, and it is offered in some hospitals, mostly in the UK, to support conventional treatment.


  • Chronic pain, post-operative pain.
  • Healing wounds.
  • Stress-related conditions, such as depression & anxiety.
  • Tension headaches, migraines.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Menstrual problems.

  • MoonDragon's Health & Wellness Index: Disorders, Therapy & Nutrition


    Cultures throughout the world have a tradition of healing linked to shamanism, religious rituals, or magic. Priests in ancient Egypt were said to have cured the sick by the laying on of hands, and there are many examples of miraculous cures in the Bible.

    By the Middle Ages, the work of spiritual healers was viewed with suspicion by the Christian church, which often attributed their power to witchcraft. Today many modern-day Pagans, Wiccans and Witches still use this form of "energy" healing in their rituals and working with clients (human and animal) either with hands on or distance healing. One form of this type of healing is known "Reiki", a Japanese method of energy healing which requires no spiritual belief system for its use.

    MoonDragon's Alternative Health Information: Reiki
    MoonDragon's Alternative Health Therapy: Touch & Movement - Reiki

    One church tolerated practice was the visiting of holy shrines by the sick. Usually tombs of saints, or places associated with divine visions, healing shrines such as Lourdes of France and Knock in Ireland still draw thousands of pilgrims every year. In the 20th century some churches have revived early Christian traditions of healing in special services. Unfortunately, it has often received bad press due to the few "preaching charlatans" using "fake" healing to fleece money from their unsuspecting and gullible congregations.

    Visiting shrines.
    A 19th century illustration showing pilgrims at the shine of Lourdes in southern France. The waters from a spring in the grotto are believed to have the power to effect miracle cures, and thousands of people visit this shrine every year.

    Reports of healers using "auras," or psychic energy fields, were common in the 19th century. Reflecting a centuries-old practice, aura healing was part of a wider interest in the "subtle body" that emerged in Europe and the US at this time. It became fashionable to attend seances held by mediums said to communicate with the spirit world and, in some cases, to channel healing powers from the spirits of the dead. One of the most famous spiritualist healers was the British medium Harry Edwards (died in 1976), who claimed Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister among his spirit guides.

    In the UK today, around 8,000 people belong to healing organizations, and many more practice as unregistered healers. Since the 1970s, healers have been permitted to work in British hospitals when requested by patients or medical staff, and a few practice regularly in a number of hospitals, pain clinics, and cancer units. Some British health care practitioners refer patients to healers, and several include them in their practice.

    In the US, healing is not a separate therapy, but may be offered in offices or innovative hospitals by health professionals including medical doctors, osteopaths, and acupuncturists. Acceptance varies by state law. Public interest exists in some other countries.


    Most healers believe therapeutic changes take place in the patient's soul during treatment, prompting biological responses. Traditionally, healers worked in the name of a spirit or god, and many healers today believe in a spiritual or divine presence and purpose behind the therapy. Some interpret this power as a form of "energy," or "channel," or a "guide." Others believe extraterrestrial beings are involved, or rationalize their work using theories from quantum physics, Jungian analysis, or New Age philosophy. There is a confusing overlap of ideas, and it can be difficult to distinguish between the forms of healing. Major differences usually lie in the source attributed to the healing energy, and the way it is transferred.

    Most practitioners are ordinary people without any particular qualifications, who see themselves as channels for, rather than possessors of, healing energy. The energy's nature varies according to the healer's beliefs. Healing ability is seen by some as a special gift; others consider it to be a natural talent shared by all.

    Specific forms of healing include Therapeutic Touch, Reiki, and those listed below:
    • AURA HEALING: Healers claim to see "bands" or "fields" of changing colors or radiance, representing a non-physical "auric" body that reflects the patient's state of health. Aura healers place their hands on or near the patient and visualize "healing" colors, sometimes involving Ayurvedic chakras or color therapy.

    • SPIRITUALIST HEALING: Practitioners claim that an entity from the "spirit world" takes over their body while they are in a trance and performs healing through them.

    • FAITH HEALING: While most healers regard themselves as channels for an impartial force, faith healers believe that without the patient's faith in their personal powers or those of the deity or cult leader they represent, there can be no cure.

    • ABSENT HEALING: One or more healers visualize a transfer of healing energy from themselves to a distant recipient. This type of healing may include prayer and/or rituals in some form.


    There is no explanation as to how healing is induced, but trials allegedly demonstrate its beneficial effects. In 1993 Dr. Daniel Benor, an American healer, reviewed 155 studies and claimed 60 percent had significant results, notably in cases of high blood pressure, anxiety, and wound healing. However, his review was unsystematic, and whether healing triggers specific biological changes remains debatable.

    A controversial trial in 1988 on 400 heart patients at San Francisco General Hospital claimed that absent healing by prayer seemed to help patients in recovery.

    Studies with animals and plants are sometimes considered more convincing than those on humans because the results cannot be attributed to a placebo effect. In laboratory tests, healers have apparently extended the life of blood cells and accelerated growth of plants. The UK healer Matthew Manning is said to have accomplished this. In other series of experiments in the 1970s, laboratory mice recovered more quickly from anesthesia when treated by healers.


    "Healing energy" so far defies scientific explanation, although there is a substantial, occasionally convincing, body of research into its effects. A placebo response or auto-suggestion may explain some successes, but a collection of 700 American case studies reported spontaneous, quot;miraculous" recoveries from a range of problems makes disturbing reading for skeptics. Many conventional practitioners reason that healing can at least offer patients comfort in severe cases where medicine has little to offer.


    Depending on the type of healer, a consultation may take place at a church, the practitioner's home, your home, or a center or clinic. You will usually be asked informed questions about your complaint, medical history, and lifestyle. You will then sit or lie down while the healer sits or stands beside you. The healer will usually spend a few moments "centering" himself, relaxing and focusing his mind, before mentally "attuning" to you.

    A healer using his hands.
    A healer uses his hands to connect with the aura or energy field of the patient, mentally attuning to her to awaken her healing processes. Some studies show that during treatment the healer's brain waves often slip into a pattern similar to that reported in people who meditate. The same changes in the patient's brain waves may follow.

    Healers often regard their hands as amplifiers or conduits of healing power, placing them on or slightly above the site of the problem in order to stimulate your healing processes. The healer may assess your energy field by touching your lightly with his hands, or by making sweeping movements around you, to detect any sensations of heat or cold that might indicate and energy "imbalance." Once attuned, he will consciously try to connect with the source of healing energy, allowing this to flow through himself into your body.

    Healers hands often feel hot.
    Healers often say that their hands feel hot during the healing process and many feel energized by the experience. Patients frequently report sensations of warmth, cold, or tingling, or even dizziness.

    Lighted candles or soft music may be used to encourage a calm and peaceful atmosphere. When healing is part of a Christian church service, prayers for the patient's recovery and hymns will be used. Other rituals, such as incantations, may be used, depending on the belief system.

    The healing session may last from a few minutes to over an hour. There are unusual cases of patients who claim to have been cured after one session, but a much longer course of treatment is generally advised. A rapport with the practitioner is not essential, but you must be comfortable with the healer and with the philosophy on which the healer is based. You should also remember that the benefits of healing may be more psychological than physical.


  • Avoid healers who charge excessive fees, who promise a cure, or who imply that any failure to recover reflects your lack of faith.


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