Measurement of External Qi with Infrared Imaging: a case study involving group healing

Group healing -medical acupuncture

Possible measurement of external Qi with infrared imaging: a case study involving group healing

Shui Yin Lo, PhD*, Grace Yen, RN, Minh Thanh Nguyen, MS, and Shiu Ling Chiu, MS, Quantum Health Research Institute, Pasadena, CA 91107;* also at American University of Complementary Medicine, Beverly Hills, California 90120


Qi is one of the most important and fundamental concepts in Chinese Medicine. Despite thousands of years of tradition, and much research in recent years, its existence, let alone its property, has not yet been acknowledged by mainstream biomedicine and medical professionals. In this study, we used infrared imaging method to record objectively and quantitatively, changes in body surface temperatures in a human subject who underwent a 10-minute group healing session. In this case, the group consisted of six individuals who had no previous qigong training background, but were taught a simple qigong movement. We find statistically significant changes in body surface temperatures of the subject who received the qi treatment, as well as in two of the participant- healers of the group. The experiment is designed in such a way that it can be reproduced easily. We hypothesize that the effect of group healing increases rapidly with an increase in the number of participants in the group as N2, where N is the number of participants.


A key tenet that underpins Traditional Chinese Medicine is the concept of qi, which can be defined generally as vital energy that circulates within the human body. Disease and illnesses are defined within the Chinese Medicine framework to be the result of a blockage or imbalance of qi. Research has shown that there are two kinds of qi: internal and external qi. Internal qi circulates inside a human body via a network of acupuncture channels or meridians (1). External qi, however, is energy that an experienced practitioner, such as a qigong master, can emit from his/her body and which can be felt by a receiver. While research into the nature of qi and qi healing has been conducted in China for many decades, it is only recently that Western scientists have joined the effort to measure the qi effects, and to understand the mechanisms by which qi is transmitted (2-5).

In our previous published research, we proposed the hypothesis that acupuncture meridians are made up of electrically polarized molecules (6-10). We have identified the oscillations on the stable water clusters along the meridians as qi. As a simple analogy, meridians are more or less like piano wires. There are two kinds of vibrations associated with a piano wire: the internal vibration and the external vibration. The internal vibration is the oscillation of the piano wire itself in sinusoidal movement. The external vibration is the vibration of the air outside the piano wire, which is the sound made by a piano wire. External qi is similar to sound waves that travel from the piano wire to a listener. External qi can travel from the emitter, such as a qigong master, to the receiver of external qi, who is often a patient.

The external qi emitted by qigong masters has been shown to have effects on animals (11,13,14), to affect human fibroblasts FS-4 (15), human polymorphonuclear leukocytes (16) and others (17-22). Almost all of the research on external qi has been carried out using experienced qi gong practitioners. However, research that involves experienced qi gong practitioners can face obstacles and limitations. For example, qi gong masters are rare in number. Even when they can be located, they are not always willing to participate in research and/or healing projects; some of them are not interested in using their qi skills for healing purposes. On the other hand, some qi gong masters, while very skilled in qi cultivation, have poor aptitude for healing.

We hypothesize, however, that external qi can be emitted by ordinary people who have little or no training in qi gong; and, moreover, that this external qi can be used for healing purposes. Thus, the objective of our case study is to demonstrate that the physical effect of external qi, such as that measured in research involving qi gong masters, can be reproduced by ordinary people who move and act as a coherent group. The implications of our hypothesis are radical in nature: 1) Ordinary individuals have the capacity to emit external qi; 2) Research into external qi does not have to involve skilled qi gong masters; 3) Biochemical reactions in the body can be induced by external qi emitted by individuals who have limited or no training in qi gong.

We take as our theoretical basis the electromagnetic theory of wave, which posits that the amplitude of the electromagnetic wave adds up if the oscillations of the electric charge oscillate coherently (12). We then make the theoretical jump that when ordinary people with polarized molecules in their meridians come together as a group and move coherently (i.e. move their arms and hands in a coordinated and uniform manner), this group will emit coherent electromagnetic waves, and the amplitude of the waves will add up coherently. Thus, we postulate that the greater the number of individuals who act coherently in a group context, the bigger the electric effect produced and emitted by the group as a coherent healing entity.

In our case study, we measured the physical effect of external qi emitted by participants in the coherent group on a subject who was a recipient of this external qi. We employed infrared imaging to evaluate the state of the patient and the group participants before and after the coherent group external qi treatment. We hypothesize that there will be noticeable changes in the infrared images not only of the subject, but also of the group participants who were doing the qi gong movement.

Infrared Imaging

Among all parameters of the human body, internal temperature is one of the most sensitive and important parameters for measuring health. A person in good health will have an internal body temperature measured as 37 0C in the oral cavity. In terms of absolute temperature in Kelvin, a person with 1 0C above normal temperature, which is only 1/310 or 0.3 % above normal temperature, is considered sick. In other words, a person with an oral temperature of more than one degree, or above 38 0C, may be considered sick.

Studies have shown that the infrared imaging system, commonly called “thermograph,” can accurately measure the temperature at each spot of the human body surface to one hundredth of a degree (Meditherm 2000). Infrared imaging system contains a single detector maintained at 13 0 K that measures the infrared imaging at all points of body, and it continuously calibrates. Therefore, the absolute temperature is reliable (1,2). Normally, a person in perfect health is assumed to have uniform body surface temperature, which can be detected with infrared images. When expressing perfect health through infrared images in color code, the skin temperature will be presented in only one uniform color instead of in many different colors. When a higher temperature spot, or a different color appears in the infrared images, it usually implies biochemical changes in the body that can indicate pain and discomfort.

Because the internal temperature is a very sensitive indicator of the average rate of biochemical reactions inside the body, and it can be sensed by the infrared images, we employed the infrared imaging system to examine the effects that external qi had on the internal temperature of one patient.


The case study involves a 36-year-old female in relatively good health. A 10-minute coherent group healing treatment was executed by six participants who had very little training, if any, in qi gong. During the 10-minute coherent healing treatment, the subject was asked to sit on a chair, relax, and close her eyes. The six participants formed a circle around the subject, standing at a radius of about three meters. The six participants were instructed to act as a single coherent group and to perform a simple qi gong movement repetitively and in unison. The simple qi gong movement involved the following: the participants moved their arms and hands up over their head and come down directing the hands and fingers at the subject sitting in the middle of the circle. The participants were instructed to emit qi from their body and hands via the qi gong movement to the subject without direct physical contact. Infrared images and numerical temperature were taken before and immediately after the 10-minute coherent healing treatment for the subject and two randomly chosen participants from the group. In this time, the external environment and infrared images were assumed to remain constant.

The infrared images were captured in color pictures. The color coding of the images is as follows: the hottest areas of the body are represented in white; the next hottest areas in red, then yellow, green, and blue, with black depicting the coldest regions of the body. According to studies from the thermograph manufacturer, the normal fluctuation of surface temperature of a person is about 0.11 0C to 0.25 0C. Therefore, a difference in surface temperature less than 0.25 0C will not be considered significant. The significant difference level of temperature fluctuation was set at 0.5 0C for comparison in this study, which is more than 2 standard deviations away from the normal fluctuation. Therefore, a significant temperature fluctuation was primarily attributed to the external qi treatment.


The infrared images of the subject before and after the coherent group treatment are shown in Fig 1. The color code for the infrared images are: white being the hottest, then red, yellow, green, blue and black, the coldest, with sixteen shades of these. The span of the maximum temperature from hottest to coldest is 8 0C. If there is a difference in shades of color that represent the local body surface temperature, then there is a change of more than 0.5 0C. Before the treatment, the infrared images showed that the subject had several hot spots (white area) and uneven temperature distribution all over her body, especially the chest, genitals and back regions. After 10 minutes of coherent group healing treatment, the entire body surface temperature decreased significantly ( > 0.5 0C ) and the body surface temperature distributed more evenly. The overall body surface temperature fluctuation was around 1 0C, except in the upper and lower back regions.

The before and after coherent healing treatment infrared images of the two surrounding participants are shown in Fig 2 – Fig 3, respectively. For healer participant A, the infrared images showed that she had hot spots (white area) around the torso and neck regions before doing the coherent group exercises, but the hot spots diminished after performing the coherent group exercises. Significant decrease in body surface temperature ( > 0.5 0C ) was found in the chest, genitals, lower back and leg areas. The entire body surface temperature fluctuation was around 0.5 0C, which is less than the subject. For healer-participants B, the infrared images showed that he had hot spots (white color-coded areas) around the torso and lower back area before the coherent group exercise, and the hot spots area expanded after the exercise. Significant increase in body surface temperature ( > 0.5 0C ) was also found in these two areas. The overall body surface temperature fluctuation was around 0.5 0C.

There are more than 10,000 pixels in each of these infrared images. Each pixel has its numerical values of local temperature. We had enormous numbers of local temperatures values to do the analysis. We chose to use the maximum temperatures to represent the change of thousands of local body surface temperatures. The maximum temperatures of the face, torso, genitals, the lower back, the upper back, and the legs for the subject, healer-participants A and B are listed in Table 1. The differences of maximum temperatures due to the group healing treatment are also listed in Table 1. During the ten minutes of group healing treatment, we keep all external circumstances constant. The effects of external conditions should be subtracted out and do not appear in the difference of maximum temperatures. The differences are considered to come from the effect of the external qi from the group.


We have carried out coherent group healing practice as described above in this case study for more than one year. We have practiced this coherent group healing in different contexts and involving different people; we have also used different kinds of scientific instruments to quantitatively measure the effects of external qi. We have always gotten positive feedback from both the healers in the circle that do the healing and the subject in the middle. In the case study reported here, we have all the external conditions under control, and the measurements completed. We have deliberately designed our experiment discussed above so that other groups can repeat the experiment easily; and, hopefully, they will reproduce similar results.

The results from this study demonstrate that there was some form of external qi emitted by the coherent group participants, and that this external qi elicited changes in the both the subject and the group participants. The thermograph changes indicated that the subject in the center of the circle that received qi as well as the two healer-participants who emitted qi to the subject had dramatic responses to the coherent healing treatment. Not surprisingly, the subject had more significant responses to coherent healing treatment than the two healer-participants. Significant body surface temperature differences were mainly caused by the treatment, demonstrating that there were decreasing or increasing biochemical reactions in the body in response to external qi. We take the decrease in body surface temperature to imply a lesser amount and degree of biochemical reactions. The subject and healer-participant A got healthier from the qi treatment. This showed up as less variation in body surface temperature distribution. The body surface temperature increase for participant B, however, can be considered to result from the qi effect activating more healing processes in the body. Hence, more heat was being released from an increased amount of biochemical reactions. Whether there was an increase or decrease in body surface temperature, we regarded both changes as direct evidence of the existence of external qi. If external qi did not exist, there would be no change in temperature. The interpretation of such change of temperature, however, is still under investigation and subject to more thorough discussion.

We noticed that the temperature changes occurred all over the body, which indicated a systematic body effect. A systematic physiological effect of the whole body is presupposed by Chinese meridian theory, which postulates that stimulation of qi in one specific area of the body will have systemic effects throughout the whole body via the network of meridians. Therefore, coherent healing treatment implies a whole body treatment. Qi travels in the meridians to reach every parts of the body, and the healing effect occurred for both the healer-participants and the subject alike.

We designed and performed this experiment based on our hypothesis that external qi has an electromagnetic wave component. Since electromagnetic waves can add up, a group effect is predicted to be stronger than an individual effect. This case study demonstrates this. If external qi is indeed as we assume, then the amplitude of electromagnetic waves from a group healing is N times that of an individual. Since the intensity of the electromagnetic waves is the square of the amplitude, we predict the coherent group healing effect to be of the magnitude of N2, where N is the number of participants in the group. For a group comprising of ten individuals, the coherent group healing effect will then be 100 times that of an individual. It is important to test this prediction and we hope to carry out future research to accomplish this.


Not only can infrared imaging be used as a diagnostic instrument, but it can also help us examine the treatment effects of external qi by objectively showing the immediate biochemical reactions taking place in the body in response to external qi. This technique is suitable for demonstrating the effects of qi because the meridians are there to connect the surface skin with the internal organs. Our case study suggests that coherent healing treatment could have good healing effects for both the subject receiving the qi treatment and the participants who are emitting external qi.

Before qi treatment After qi treatment *[to view the images, please click on Group healing -medical acupuncture and navigate to appropriate section of published study]

Fig. 1. Infrared images of the subject of group coherent healing: From top to bottom they were from face, torso, genitals, upper back, lower back, and legs. The left pictures were taken before the group healing, and the right pictures were taken after the group healing of the same body surface. The maximum temperatures of body surface for these parts of body were 33.820C, 35.470C, 35.290C, 34.020C, 33.750C, 31.210C before group healing. They became 32.990C, 34.080C, 33.910C, 33.780C, 32.960C, and 30.100C. The decreases of these maximum

temperatures were 0.830C, 1.390C, 1.380C, 0.240C, 0.790C, and 1.110C respectively. The maximum temperatures of the face, torso, genitals, and lower back all decreased more than 0.50C, or more than two standard deviation away from normal statistical fluctuation, and therefore were significant.

Fig. 2. Infrared images of healer-participant A: From top to bottom they were from face, torso, genitals, upper back, lower back, and legs. The left pictures were taken before the group healing, and the right pictures were taken after the group healing of the same body surface. The maximum temperatures of body surface for these parts of the body were 33.880C, 34.210C, 33.360C, 33.250C, 32.960C, 29.200C before group healing. They became 33.520C, 33.550C, 32.790C, 32.920C, 32.300C, 28.670C. The decreases of these maximum temperatures were 0.360C, 0.660C, 0.570C, 0.330C, 0.660C, 0.530C respectively. The maximum temperatures of the torso, genitals, lower back and legs all decreased more than 0.50C, or more than two standard deviation away from normal statistical fluctuation, and therefore were significant.

Fig. 3. Infrared images of participant B (no genital and leg images) From top to bottom they were from face, Torso, Upper back, and Lower Back. The left pictures were before the group healing, and the right pictures were after the group healing of the same body surface. The maximum temperatures of body surface for these parts of body were 32.960C, 33.580C, 32.630C, and 32.660C before group healing. They became 32.990C, 34.240C, 32.590C, and 33.190C. The increases of these maximum temperatures were 0.030C, 0.660C, 0.040C, and 0.530C respectively. The maximum temperatures of the torso, and lower back increased more than 0.50C, or more than two standard deviation away from normal statistical fluctuation, and therefore were significant.

Table 1. Difference of maximal temperature before and after coherent healing treatment ( 0C ) *[to view the chart, please click on Group healing -medical acupuncture and navigate to appropriate section of published study] a. Difference = Before treatment temperature – After treatment temperature b. * significant difference which was greater than 0.5 0C


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