Tapping into your inner energy: Alternative medicine is off to a slow start here but it still has its advocates

For thousands of years, indigenous cultures have seen the human body as an energy system with the innate ability to heal itself. But it is only in recent decades that some modern-day physicists have said they uncovered evidence that supports these ancient beliefs.

The idea behind vital energy therapy is to revive the old ways our ancestors used to cure diseases and provide replacements for traditional medicines. In Egypt, energy therapy is still a novel concept that most people aren’t aware of, but it is growing in popularity in Europe, the US and eastern Asia.

Abdel Tawab Abdallah Hussein, a Cairo-based vital energy therapist and founder of the International Center for Vital Energy, explains his view of vital energy.

“Vital energy is the life pulse in every organism taken from the cosmic environment that contains galaxies, suns, moons and stars. It also springs from himself to express his existence,” Hussein, a member of the American Holistic Health Association, says.

For example, cells produce vital energy that’s necessary for them to act. “The total energy that’s produced by any organ cell in the body indicates the total energy that gives the ability for constriction, relaxation and movement,” he says.

He compares this concept to a car’s electrical plexus, with vital energy flowing in the body through paths or channels. If any damage happens on any of these energy paths, the body feels pain according to the degree of that damage.

Then, therapeutic intervention is necessary to make the energy current return to normal.

There are different types of vital energy therapy, such as touch therapy or Reiki, massage, hypnotherapy, meditation, aroma therapy and yoga, as well as many others.

Hussein says vital energy therapy in Egypt is still limited and restricted, compared with its use in European countries and the US. Many pharmacies in those countries sell herbal and natural remedies alongside traditional medicines, and patients can decide what to use.

“Both kinds have their distinguishing frameworks, and it’s always left to the patient to choose which therapy will suit his tendencies and his financial ability, because using original medicine is less expensive,” he says.

Energy therapy reportedly can help treat a wide range of diseases, such as arthritis, chronic pain, migraines, autoimmune disorders, depression and other illnesses. Some claim it helps treat cancer, hypertension, fibromyalgia, wounds or fractures and organ diseases.

But Dr. Ahmed Refaat, orthopedic surgeon at Qasr al-Aini Hospital, says energy therapy isn’t a scientific way to heal some of these illnesses and conditions, such as bone fractures and arthritis.

“How can energy therapy be used to treat muscle rupture, bone fractures and bruises? This makes no sense,” Refaat says. “These cases need rest and sometimes need surgical intervention. I think this therapy is related to beliefs and traditions of particular nations rather than science.”

Reiki, one of the most commonly practiced forms of energy therapy, typically involves the recipient lying on a massage table or sitting in a chair, fully clothed with only his or her shoes removed. The practitioner’s hands are placed either directly on, or just above, the recipients body, usually starting from the head and moving down to the feet.

The recipient can usually feel heat from the practitioner’s hands as the energy moves from them to the recipient, creating a gentle, soothing effect.

Vital energy therapists say Reiki heals by flowing through affected parts of the energy field and charging them with positive energy, raising the “vibratory level” of the energy field in and around the physical body where negative thoughts and feelings are attached. This causes the negative energy to break apart and fall away.

Other vital energy therapy sessions might include tools such as acupuncture needles, hot stones, medicinal herbs, colors, lights or magnets, which the therapists believe help energy to flow in the correct paths.

While many people don’t buy into the idea of energy therapy, Hussein argues that vital energy and “auras” — the energy field that some say surrounds the human body — are mentioned in the Torah, Bible and Quran, as well as the Sunnah. In the New Testament in the Bible, Hussein says, a light energy that fills the body is described.

In the Hadith, Prophet Mohamed said, “The first crowd enters paradise on the day of resurrection, their faces as the moon at full moon’s light, the second crowd as the best brilliant star in Heaven,” according to Hussein.

He says touch therapy was mentioned in the Quran and appeared in Japan in 1923 under the name Reiki. After that, some branches used symbols that were added to the practice to make it spread widely and get approval from the West, though he adds that his center only uses what was mentioned in Sharia.

Dr. Abdel Moneim al-Masry, a chest diseases consultant, says some types of energy therapy exist in medical textbooks, and some are based in science — while some are based in delusion.

“This kind of therapy is spread worldwide, but people don’t know much about it in Egypt,” he says.

He says before people start to use it, it must be tested and examined by specialized scientific centers on large numbers of samples, and the results must be assessed in comparison with traditional treatments.

“If it proved its effectiveness, we can allow people to start using it, but leaving people’s spirits in the hands of unspecialized people will end up in disaster,” Masry says, adding that he thinks the country should impose laws that protect people from being cheated or deceived by ineffective therapies.

Nevertheless, Hussein hopes that vital energy therapy will be legalized. His center established a charity for treating disabled individuals and people with special needs for free, using energy therapy techniques. It also offers training courses.

“Although the original medicine methods in Egypt and the Arab world are fought by the authorities, we hope they will be legalized and regulated following what happens in Europe and America, instead of closing the doors in front of this useful therapy,” he says.

This piece was originally published in Egypt Independent’s weekly print edition.