Scientific Studies of Qigong

This page presents summaries and excerpts from various studies of Qigong.

The commentaries excerpted are impressions and conclusions of the authors of the referenced articles and are provided for your information and your study of the practice of Qigong.

Major Depression effectively treated with Spring Forest Qigong practice

"Applying Spring Forest Qigong to Depression as an Alternative and Complementary Treatment," by Frances V. Gaik Ph.D., Adler School of Professional Psychology, Chicago, IL, 2002.

Dr. Gaik found that "all subjects improved over the treatment period" and "a very significant level of improvement in the majority of the subjects who were measured at serious levels of depression."

Pain intensity reduced following each Spring Forest Qigong treatment

"External Qigong for Chronic Pain, Results from a peer-reviewed, randomized, controlled, clinical study" by Ann Vincent, Brent A. Bauer, et al Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, Jamia Hill, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine, Vol. 38, No. 4, 695-703

Objective: "Chronic pain is highly prevalent in the general population. Adequate clinical management of chronic pain is an ongoing challenge and a purely pharmaceutical approach has proven inadequate. We investigated the efficacy of external qigong [Spring Forest Qigong technique] as an adjunctive treatment for chronic pain."

Conclusions: "Subjects with chronic pain who received external qigong experienced reduction in pain intensity following each qigong treatment. This is especially impressive given the long duration of the pain (>5 years) in most of the participants," writes lead author Ann Vincent, MD, MBBS, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota.

Physical pain and emotional distress decreased significantly; Sleep, concentration, decision-making, and appetite improved using Spring Forest Qigong

"Utilizing Spring Forest Qigong as a Self-Directed Treatment for Chronic Pain & Emotional Distress" by Jane F. Coleman, R.N., PhD, Professor Emerita, Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN. Published in Journal of Holistic Nursing, Vol. 28, Number 2, June 2011, titled "Spring Forest Qigong and Chronic Pain: Making a Difference."

Study findings: There was a significant decrease in the perception of physical pain and emotional distress for the majority of participants during the study timeframe. Also, symptom variables (sleep, concentration, decision-making, appetite, loss of interest) improved in the majority of subjects.

Conclusion: Both the active exercise and meditative aspects of Spring Forest Qigong proved to be effective self-care modalities for persons with perceived chronic physical pain and/or emotional distress. Subjects demonstrated significant improvement both anecdotally and statistically during the study period.

Medical Applications of Qigong

An original paper by Kenneth M. Sancier, Ph.D, "Medical Applications of Qigong," was published by "Alternative Therapies" in January 1996.

"This article focuses on internal Qi, because almost everyone can learn Qigong exercises for maintaining health and self-healing," writes Dr. Sancier. ("Internal" Qi involves self-practice, whereas "external" Qi involves, for example, a Qigong Master emitting Qi to someone.)

Dr. Sancier writes, in the practice of Chinese therapies such as Qigong, "the flow of Qi is regulated, and blockage of the flow of Qi is removed. Energy blocks or excess or deficient Qi may result from disease, injury, or stress."

Stroke and Mortality Rates decreased with Qigong practice

Dr. Sancier reviewed a 30-year follow-up study on hypertensive patients who were divided into a Qigong group and a control group. All patients had been given drug therapy to control blood pressure. The experimental group also practiced Qigong. The mortality rate in the Qigong group was nearly half of the group who did not practice Qigong. The incidence of stroke as well as death due to stroke was half for those who practiced Qigong. In other words, people who did not practice Qigong suffered a stroke or died from stroke at a rate twice that of those who practiced Qigong.

"Researchers also reported that over the 20-year period, blood pressure of the Qigong group stabilized, whereas that of the control group increased. Remarkably, during this period the drug dosage for the Qigong group could be decreased and for 30% of the patients, could be eliminated. However, the drug dosage for the control group had to be increased."

(Citations for this study as well as other other studies noted in this section can be found in the above-mentioned article.)

Sex Hormone Levels improved with Qigong

Dr. Sancier cited three studies that indicate the trend of estrogen increasing in males and decreasing in females with age "can be reversed by Qigong exercise."

In an auxiliary study, "changes were accompanied by improvements in symptoms such as soreness, dizziness, insomnia, hair loss, impotence, and incontinence associated with Kidney deficiency hypertension (a TCM diagnosis.)"

Bone Density increased with Qigong

Dr. Sancier reviewed a study related to aging that found, "bone density was found to increase in male subjects who practiced Qigong for one year."

He conjectured, "That Qigong therapy also would help restore the bone density of women, especially menopausal women, seems likely."

Cancer and Drug Treatment improved with Qigong practice

Dr. Sancier referenced a study of patients with "medically diagnosed malignant cancer." They were divided into two groups, and all received drugs. One group, however, practiced Qigong. "Both groups improved, but the [Qigong] group showed improvement in strength, appetite, freedom from diarrhea, and weight gain four to nine times greater than the control group." Additionally, a measure of the immune function improved for the Qigong group and decreased for the control group.

Senility symptoms improved with Qigong practice

Dr. Sancier reported, "To study the mechanism of keeping fit by Qigong, a controlled study was made of 100 subjects classified either as pre-senile or with cerebral function impaired by senility."

The control group, which did not practice Qigong, exercised by walking, walking fast, or running slowly. "Criteria for judging outcome were based on measuring clinical signs and symptoms including cerebral function, sexual function, serum lipid levels, and function of endocrine glands."

The results: "After six months, eight of the 14 main clinical signs and symptoms in the Qigong group had improved more than 80%, whereas none of the symptoms in the control group had improved more than 45%."

Mind-Body Regulation

Dr. Sancier wrote, " A tenet of Qigong is that the mind leads the Qi, and the Qi leads the blood. This somewhat mysterious statement can be interpreted to mean that intention (the mind) can direct the Qi within the body."

Alpa Brain Waves increase with Qigong practice

Dr. Sancier referenced two studies that show alpha brain waves dominate beta waves and spread to the frontal areas of the brain during Qigong practice.

One study found differences between the practice of Zen and and the practice of Qigong. Dr. Sancier writes, "According to Kawano and Wang, these differences in brain function suggest that internal Qigong is a semiconscious process that involves some awareness and activity, whereas Zen meditation is a neutral process that releases the meditator from all concerns. Perhaps because of this difference, Qigong is considered a healing art, whereas Zen is generally not."

"A Qigong master can emit Qi to heal a patient. The interaction between Qigong masters and subjects has been followed in double-blind tests in which masters and subjects were simultaneously assessed by EEG, polygraph tests, biochemical blood tests, and psychological tests. The EEG studies showed that a type of brain waves and their location were synchronized in the brains of masters and subject. Such synchronism may be required for healing by emitted Qi."

Bloodflow to the brain increased; Memory improved while dizziness, insomnia, numbness, and vertigo headaches decreased

Dr. Sancier reviews two studies where Qigong exercise has been shown to increase bloodflow to the brain. For subjects "with cerebral arteriosclerosis who practice Qigong for one to six months, improvements were noted in symptoms such as memory, dizziness, insomnia, tinnitus, numbness of limbs, and vertigo headache. During these studies, a decrease in plasma cholesterol was also noted."

Combination of Qigong and drugs is superior to that of drug therapy alone

Dr. Sancier referenced six studies saying, "There is ample evidence in the literature that therapy by a combination of self-applied Qigong and drugs is superior to that of drug therapy alone."

"The mechanism of this apparent synergism is not known but undoubtedly relates to the fundamental mechanism of Qigong. Qigong is believed to relax the body, promote the flow or Qi (energy), blood, oxygen, and nutrients to all cells of the body, and promote the removal of waste products from cells. The increases in flow of Qi and microcirculation nourished diseased or stressed tissue. We may assume that Qigong also promotes drug uptake by tissue and cells by means of increased microcirculation."

Conclusion: "Qigong enables the body to heal itself"

In the conclusion of the paper, Dr. Sancier writes, "This review encompasses only a small number of studies from a large collection of research using medical applications of Qigong, mainly in China. The main conclusion from many studies is that Qigong enables the body to heal itself."

The effects of the Qi of Qigong

This next section excerpts abstracts of scientific research that studied the affect of "external", or emitted, Qi on various substances. The subject was Qigong Master, Dr. Yan Xin of China. Specific citations are available on request. The abstracts were published by Springer-Verlag in Berlin on April 22, 1999.

Qi caused a structure change in tap water, saline, glucose, and medemycine solutions

The purpose of these experiments was to investigate whether external Qi could cause measurable changes in the property of tap water and some aqueous solutions.

Laser Raman spectroscopy is a well-known technique in the study of molecular structure. Each sample has a characteristic spectrum at a given state. A change in the spectrum is an indicates a change in the molecular structure.

"All the results showed some structural changes of the test solutions treated by external Qi, as indicated by their Raman spectra."

Qi significantly affected the processes of nucleotide polymerization, protein crystallization, and enzyme activity

"These data indicate that Qi emission is detectable using biochemical techniques and that the effects are not necessarily uniform. This suggest that the nature of Qi is more akin to particles or information than a homogenous energy field."

Qi increased the ultraviolet absorption of nucleic acids

"The UV absorption spectra of calf thymus DNA sample placed in closed lead bottle with a change of 12%."

"The observed hyperchromic effect could only be caused by the external Qi, which has provided certain basis of the objectivity of Qigong healing."

Qi caused the bromination in solution of n-hexane and bromine

"It is well known that chemical reactions play a significant role in life processes. The study of the influence of external Qi on certain organic chemical systems will provide useful information about the mechanisms of Qigong healing since the nature of Qigong and Qigong healing is highly related to life processes."

"The preliminary results revealed that the external Qi of Qigong not only caused a bromination in a n-hexane/bromine mixture, but also this effect was produced from remote distances."

Qi changed the Radioactive decay rate of 241Am

"Based on the success of the external Qi experiments at the molecular level, an experiment at a deeper level, namely, the atomic and nuclear level was designed. Radio active decay rate was chosen as an experimental object."

"The decay rate of a radioactive source is usually extremely stable and cannot be altered by such physical or chemical processes as high temperature, high pressure, high electromagnetic field, strong acid, etc."

During the experiments in the laboratory, the changes of decay rate were detected much beyond the experimental uncertainty.

"While maintaining the same configuration and procedure, the experiment was conducted in six rounds. During four of the six, Qi was emitted from outside Beijing, specifically at the cities of Kunming, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Chengdu, 1,500 to 3,000 kilometers away from the laboratory where the sample was kept. The coordination of Qi emission was done via telephone. The results also showed significant changes on 241Am radioactive decay rate obtained when Qi was emitted from ultra-long distances."

Additional Medical Applications

To follow are excerpts from an article that appeared in the "American Journal of Acupuncture", Vol. 19, No. 4, titled, "Medical Applications of Qigong and Emitted Qi on Humans, Animals, Cell Cultures, and Plants: Review of Selected Scientific Research." The article was written by Kenneth M. Sancier, Ph.D., and Bingkun Hu, Ph.D.

"Abstract: In the past few years, many studies have been conducted to investigate the scientific basis of Chinese Qigong and emitted Qi and to document their medical benefits. Most of this information has been generated in China and published in Chinese. For the benefit of Western scientists and medical practitioners, we discuss selected scientific reports pertaining to the effects of Qigong exercise and emitted Qi that were presented at two international conferences held in 1990. The reports document the medical benefits of Qigong exercise and some of the significant changes produced when Qigong practitioners or ‘masters' emit Qi to living systems: humans, animals, cell cultures, and plants."

One mechanism by which Qigong practice can cure disease

A study of the effects of Qigong exercise on changes in blood chemistry and mortality of patients with hypertension. "Commentary: The researchers concluded that Qigong played a major role in improving the self-regulation and relaxation of the multiple cerebro-cardiovascular risk factors. Further, they suggest that this may be a mechanism by which to prevent stroke. The study shows the benefits of Qigong in combination with Western medicinal practice."

A study of the effect of Qigong exercise on the blood chemistry of human subjects. "Commentary: The researchers concluded that Qigong exercise had stimulated the increased activity of the enzyme, SOD, which in turn resulted in better control of the aging process by decreasing the estrogen level for men and increasing it for women. ... We believe that these results suggest one mechanism by which Qigong exercise can promote health, improve the condition of the aged, and cure disease."

A study of the effect of Qigong state on the nervous system. "Commentary: The researcher suggests that Qigong meditation may bring about excitatory or inhibitory effects of the central nervous system, thereby unmasking or enhancing the functions that are not part of the normal repertoire of the nervous system."

A study of the effects of Qi processes related to healing on body energy of human subjects. "Commentary: In Chinese medicine, healing is achieved by balancing the body energy, i.e., by dispersing or tonifying the energy along certain meridians. Such balancing is often achieved by using external or internal Qigong. The present study indicates that the Qigong Master's intent, which affects his external Qi, and subject's visualization, which affects his internal Qi, can be potent forces in affecting muscle strength and balance of body energy. The results affirm the often stated belief that visualization and positive thinking are an essential part of the healing process."

Tumors reduced or eliminated

A study of Qi on tumors implanted in rats. "Commentary: The researchers suggest that emitted Qi damages tumor cells, inhibits their growth, promotes the regenerative function of the lymph system, and increase anti-tumorigenic function in rats. ... Therefore, such studies provide support for the numerous claims that emitted Qi and personal Qigong exercise can cure or inhibit cancer growth in humans."

Qi affects cell cultures

A study of the effects of a Qigong master's intent on biochemical reactions of cell cultures in vitro. "Commentary: ... We believe that this in vitro study provides strong support for the reality of emitted Qi and its potential for changing the metabolism of living cells. The dependence of the outcome on the intent of the Qigong master has profound implications for medical Qigong in clinical applications. Similar studies with tumor cells are in progress in the United States."

A study on pulmonary cancers cells in a cell culture. "Commentary: The researchers conclude that Qi-treated lung cancer cells tend to lose their neoplastic character, but they exhibited less of this tendency than liver cancer cells, which they also studied."

A study of human peripheral blood lymphocytes and natural killer cells. "Commentary: ... We observe that the emitted Qi affected all the functions of cell-mediated immune systems that were measured, not just one part of the system. Thus, the study offers a mechanism by which Qigong helps cure disease and promote health in a holistic way. This study provides scientific support for the popular assertion that emitted Qi can significantly change the biochemistry associated with the immune system of humans and animals."

Qi even benefits plants

A study of the germination rate of rice seeds. "The results of germination rates for three batches of seeds treated by a given Qigong master in a given 30-minute period of time were averaged. ... The results show that the percentages of seeds that germinated were generally greater for the Qi-treated seeds."

Qigong and AIDS

In the article "Meditation, T-Cells, Anxiety, Depression, and HIV infection," William Koar, Ph.D. wrote, the practice of meditation, specifically Qigong, was hypothesized as being helpful to HIV-infected individuals. The intervention was assumed to be stress-reducing. Anxiety, depression and T-cell counts were measured. A statistically significant increase in T-cells and a statistically significant decrease in anxiety and depression were found. A control group was not included in this study.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Wen-hsien Wu, M.D. is professor of anesthesiology/pain medicine and the director of the Pain Management Center in Newark, New Jersey. The article, "The Effects of Qigong on Late-stage Complex Regional Pain Syndrome," was published in "Alternative Therapies" in January 1999.

Dr. Wu studied patients who were taught to practice Qigong and patients who were taught an exercise that resembled Qigong (the control group). After ten weeks, "91% of the Qigong patients reported a transient drop in pain compared to only 36% of the controls. A long-term reduction in anxiety in patients suffering from treatment-resistant CRPS-I was found."