Chow: Most of the research has taken place in China. In my book, I summarize some of the major studies, including effects on cancer cells, immune function, psychological effects, hearing loss, paralysis, and more. There's only one program funded at a minimal level by NIH, through the Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Redwood: What is your sense of how Qigong is similar to or different from Therapeutic Touch or laying on of hands?
Chow: Oh, my. Both are part of complementary and alternative medicine. Therapeutic Touch [a form of non-tactile energy healing used by many nurses] involves emitting qi, but it only touches on one tiny percentage of what Qigong is. Qigong is a combination of emission of qi, varying forms of meditation, and tactile methods resembling physiotherapy. It's a total lifestyle, attitude, and way of being. It also can involve both self-care practices and treatment by a Qigong master.
Redwood: Are there certain frequencies of energy that come out of the Qigong practitioner's hands?
Chow: There are some hypotheses and beginning research on that. It's not been scientifically proven beyond doubt, and there are many unanswered questions. There is, for example, a vibration under 10 hertz which does seem to correspond to the "Qigong vibration." There are questions as to what other rays may be emitted. We tested some of the masters who came over from China, with electroencephalographs and also biofeedback instruments. We found an increase in theta waves in the masters' EEG when the client was in the healing state and the Qigong master felt that he was at his maximum.
Redwood: Theta waves are very low frequency brain waves that correlate to a deep state of relaxation.
Chow: Yes. And we also found increased high alpha.
Redwood: There are machines which are marketed as Qigong machines. Is it your sense that these may mimic certain aspects of what happens when a Qigong master is at work, but not the whole thing?
Chow: Yes, because it comes back to the human interaction. The machine can isolate certain wave forms. It's like in medicine, where they isolate a certain property which science thinks is the property that helps heal heart disease, cancer, or whatever. But then it has its side effects. God, or whoever it is, created us to be whole. When a whole person treats another whole person, there's a totally different interaction. To isolate the physical from the emotions and the spirit may well diminish the effects you would find with a true Qigong master. However, the Qigong machine may be a good bridge to self-care and independence.
Redwood: I think your answer to that question really speaks to natural medicine of all kinds.
Chow: Exactly. In Western medicine, we isolate the factor and then believe we can treat everybody with that same thing.
Redwood: The so-called "active ingredient."
Chow: That's right. With my clients, I treat everybody differently. That's what natural medicine really is. That's what makes it more potent.
Redwood: In the United States, it's my impression that there are relatively few Qigong masters who can emit qi at this high level of quality. What do you see for the future development of Qigong, of people who can do this, in the West? So that it's not just one exceptional practitioner out in California.
Chow: This is what the East West Academy of Healing Arts and the American Qigong Association are working on. To be a clearinghouse for Qigong, and to establish ethics of practice. We have a division called "Medical Qigong," which is primarily what I do. Then there is Qigong for people in the community, doing exercises and so on. But to treat paralyzed people, as I do, or cancer clients who are referred from all over, from doctors, clinics and hospitals, from the American Association for Oriental Medicine -- this takes time and good training. That's what my 100-hour training programs are for. Qigong masters need to develop trainings for people who will then teach other people. That's probably how it will spread. It's hard to establish one standard, but there are ethics and general good principles of practice that the American Qigong Association is developing. We must remember that Qigong is for everyone and not just an isolated group.