“Nothing happens in nature without an energy exchange. Communication or acquisition of knowledge of any kind occurs only with an energetic transfer. There are no exceptions. This is a rule of nature”.1

Bioenergy is a focus of emerging scientific inquiry. As the term indicates, it deals with biology (the study of all life) and energy (perhaps the underlying structure of all life) and where these two intersect. The idea of energy playing a role within the body is well established. The principal communication mechanism of the central nervous system is electrical. Brain waves are measured by frequency, and energy is at the root of metabolism. In his formative text, Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis, biophysicist James Oschman also points out that DNA’s response to pulsing magnetic fields has been documented, and he describes the extracellular matrix found throughout the body and its multi-faceted relation to energy fields. This matrix, he says, “exerts specific and important influences upon cellular dynamics, just as much as hormones and neurotransmitters”.2

The portrayal of the role of energy in physiological processes is also becoming more apparent as research has grown to include topics including cellular communication, neurobiology, and the role of electrons and photons—including investigations that are beginning to map the range of biophotonic activity in the body. Much of this overall effort falls under the umbrella of biophysics, which has evolved as a natural result of physicists furthering their research into all areas where energy plays a role.

While bioenergy is a modern term, it has deep historical roots. As part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), for instance, acupuncture has been practiced for at least 2,000 years with some dating its inception up to 5,000 years ago. It is now recognized as a medical science.3-4 At the heart of acupuncture are meridians, channels that form energetic circuits traversing the body through the extracellular matrix. The flow of energy along meridians is not unlike the movement of blood through the circulatory system, and like the circulatory system requires proper regulation for health.

As an indication that therapeutic approaches using bioenergy are gaining more credence, research sponsored by the U.S. National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) highlights the value of acupuncture for certain types of pain and other disorders. These investigations include a landmark clinical trial for osteoarthritis of the knee, and a pilot study showing that acupuncture may help people with post-traumatic stress disorder.5

NCCAM maintains that energy-based therapies deal with two types of energy fields: veritable and putative. Veritable fields are those that can be measured and include visible light, magnetism, and portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Magnetic therapy, for instance, as used for bone healing has been well documented. Putative fields are those that have yet to be measured and include subtle energies such as the homeopathic vital force and TCM life energy, or qi. Dynamics of intentionality, such as with distant or non-local healing, may also be categorized as putative.6-7 These areas of investigation may further our understanding of sub-molecular, energetic processes and relate to our Molecular Therapies. While veritable field research seems richly rewarding by itself, determining and measuring putative fields will lead to these energies being generally accepted and reclassified as veritable, thereby setting the stage for virtually inexhaustible research.

It is also important to note that findings such as those mentioned above are based on preceding knowledge. “The emerging concepts do not require us to abandon our sophisticated understandings of physiology, biochemistry, or molecular biology,” says Dr. Oschman. “Instead they extend our picture of living processes, and of healing, to finer levels of structure and function”.8 Accordingly, a common denominator of ancient healing practices and those being revealed by modern scientific inquiry is that a core mechanism of healing is energy, and this energy can often be measured by increasingly sensitive techniques.

Using infrared scanning, for example, researchers at the International Institute of Biophysics acquired evidence strongly suggesting the existence of the meridian structure of the body. And studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging conducted at the University of California, Irvine, demonstrated that communication along the meridians occurs more than two orders of magnitude faster than known signaling processes of the nervous system.9-10 Stemming from this type of research, a signaling model has been put forward revealing how energy may be a precursor to physical actions and reactions in cellular signaling pathways, thereby indicating that energy is an active inducer for desired patient outcomes.11


  1. Physicist Milo Wolff, e-mail correspondence, October 14 and 15, 2005.
  2. James Oschman, Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis (Edinburgh, Scotland: Churchill Livingston Press, 2000), 232.
  3. Ted J. Kaptchuk, The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine (Chicago: Contemporary Books, 2000), 14.
  4. World Health Organization, Standard Acupuncture Nomenclature, 2nd ed. (WHO Regional Office, Manila, 1993).
  5. National Institutes of Health, http://nccam.nih.gov/research/, June 15, 2010.
  6. “Energy Medicine: An Overview,” Backgrounder, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, March 2007.
  7. “Distant Intentionality and Healing: Assessing the Evidence,” M. Schlitz and W. Braud, Alternative Therapies, November 1997, Vol. 3, No. 6, 62-73.
  8. “Energy and the Healing Response,” J. Oschman, Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies (9, 2005): 3–15.
  9. “Biophotonics in the Infrared Spectral Range Reveal Acupuncture Meridian Structure of Body,” K.P. Schlebusch, W. Maric-Oehler, and F.A. Popp, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Vol. 11, No. 1, 2005, 171-173.
  10. Studies conducted by Joie Jones, Professor of Radiological Sciences, University of California, Irvine.
  11. Oschman, James L. Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis. Edinburgh, Scotland: Churchill Livingston, 2000, 197.