Energy chelation, a form of biofield healing, had beneficial effects on fatigue and cortisol variability in breast cancer survivors with cancer-related fatigue, according to recent research. This research also examined the impact of believing one is receiving authentic, rather than placebo, hands-on healing.

The study, “Complementary Medicine for Fatigue and Cortisol Variability in Breast Cancer Survivors,” involved 76 fatigued breast cancer survivors, diagnosed stage I to IIIa, who had completed treatment one month to 10 years prior.

These subjects, all female, were screened for fatigue via the RAND SF-36 vigor-fatigue subscale. Exclusion criteria included any uncontrolled condition known to cause fatigue, such as sleep apnea or thyroid disorder.

Participants were randomly assigned to either the biofield-healing group, a mock-healing group or a waitlist control group. Subjects were blinded to their group assignments, so they would not know whether they were receiving mock or authentic biofield healing.

Intervention sessions occurred twice a week for four weeks, for a total of eight sessions, each lasting one hour, for subjects in the biofield- and mock-healing groups. These sessions took place at the University of California San Diego General Clinical Research Center. Subjects assigned to the waitlist control group completed questionnaires and gave salivary cortisol samples during this four-week intervention period.

Four practitioners trained in energy chelation provided the biofield healing, which consisted of the placement of hands for the purpose of healing, beginning with the feet, then knees, hips, bladder area, stomach, hands, elbows, shoulders, heart, throat, head and heart again. In general, the practitioner would spend five to seven minutes on each area.

For the mock healing, four skeptical scientists were recruited to play the role of healing practitioners. These scientists were trained to use proper hand placements, but were asked to mentally disengage during each session. Rather than think about healing the participants, the scientists were directed to think about their current and upcoming research studies and grants.

Outcome measures for this study included fatigue, cortisol variability, quality of life and depression. The researchers also explored whether a subject’s belief in receiving authentic, rather than placebo, healing would impact the outcome measures.

Results of the research showed that 75 percent of the women believed they were receiving authentic healing, regardless of whether they were assigned to receive true biofield healing group or mock biofield healing.

The results also showed that both biofield healing and mock healing led to significant decreases in fatigue, with no such changes in the waitlist control group. In addition, belief in the authenticity of the healing session had no impact on fatigue.

“Given that both active groups showed significant fatigue reductions, results suggest that biofield-healing effects on reducing fatigue may be partially because of nonspecific factors, [such as] scheduled rest, touch [and] clinical interaction, but not belief,” state the study’s authors.

However, those women assigned to the biofield-healing group did show significantly greater improvements, as compared to the mock-healing group, when it came to general fatigue, as well as physical and mental fatigue, which suggests biofield healing may be more effective in reducing fatigue than mock healing.

As for cortisol variability, the beneficial effects of biofield healing were significant as compared to the mock-healing and waitlist control groups, neither of which showed significant improvements. Researchers report belief did not impact this outcome measure, either.

“The significant decrease in cortisol slope for the biofield healing versus mock healing and control groups suggests that the impact of biofield healing on cortisol variability is not simply because of nonspecific effects such as rest, clinical interaction and touch,” state the study’s authors.

Neither biofield healing nor mock healing appeared to have any significant effect on depression among the breast cancer survivors, and belief did not affect the depression scores. However, the researchers did find one outcome measure strongly linked to belief: quality of life.

The Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Breast (FACT-B) is a 44-item scale specifically used to measure quality of life and functional outcomes in breast cancer. According to the researchers, this study showed “increases in FACT-B scores for participants who believed they received healing, with participants who did not believe they received healing showing little change.”

Authors: Shamini Jain, Desiree Pavlik, Janet Distefan, Reverend Rosalyn L. Bruyere, Julia Acer, Rosalie Garcia, Ian Coulter, John Ives, Scott C. Roesch, Wayne Jonas and Paul J. Mills.

Sources: Samueli Institute, Alexandria, Virginia; Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, University of California, San Diego; Healing Light Center Church, Sierra Madre, California; and RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, California. Originally published in February 2012 in Cancer, 118, 777-87.