Bioenergetic Effects of Qigong

Among the many conclusions of the research reported on below is that Qigong masters can consciously control blood flow and other metabolic processes, functions normally regulated by the autonomic nervous system.


How measured?

Description and Bioenergetic Results


Local oxygen consumption via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)

Stimulation of specific acupoints resulted in changes in activity at specific locations in the brain.  For instance, stimulation of foot acupoints commonly used to treat eye disorders increased activity at the visual cortex while treatment of a foot acupoint used for pain relief deactivated the activity at pain centers at the cingulate cortex of the brain.

Independent Component Analysis of electroencephalograms (EEG)

Increase in alpha and theta waves resulting from meditation was also accompanied by an increase in beta waves.   Since alpha andtheta waves signify a state of relaxation and rest while beta waves reflect a state of alert consciousness, this analysis indicate thatmeditation is a dual state of “relaxed concentration”.  This conclusion is consistent with the common notion that mediation is not only an excellent way to achieve deep rest, but also an effective way to train the mind to be sharply focused during mental activities in every day life.

The brain is both relaxing and concentrating during Qigong meditation!

Read a short description of the five Brainwave States.

Cell culture

Growth rate and biochemical analysis

(1) Cancer cells grown on culture plates had a slower growth rate following exposure to external Qi emitted by a top Zen meditation master.  (2) The treated cancer cells exhibited more of the characteristics of normal cells.

Intracellular calcium concentration

Calcium ions measured with a fluorescence indicator dye assay

Exposure to external Qi caused a substantial increase in intracellular calcium concentration in cancer cells grown in culture.

Immune system

Hormone concentration in blood

14 weeks after starting practice of Guolin Qigong (a style popular among Chinese cancer patients), a group of normal subjects had a substantial decrease in stress hormone (i.e., cortisol) and interleukin 10 (suppresses anti-cancer immunity) and an increase in interferon (protects against cancer) in the blood stream




Twenty-four articles from twenty-nine studies in publications from 1970 to 2007 were searched to support or refute the claim that acupuncture points or meridians possess distinct electrical properties. The reported electrical associations at acupuncture points include increased conductance, decreased resistance/impedance, elevated capacitance, and higher potential compared to controls. (Ref: Ahn, J.Alt.Compl.Med. Oct 2007. 13(8) 817-24).

Cardiac system

Heart rate variability (HRV) analysis of data from electrocardiograhy (EKG) is becoming an increasingly common method to non-invasively evaluate autonomic nervous function.  In many studies, low frequency variability (LF, < 0.15 Hz as shown in the power spectrum produced by fast Fourier transformation of time series data) is taken as an indicator of sympathetic function, and high frequency variability (HF, > 0.15 Hz) as an indicator of parasympathetic function

In a published study by Dr. Zhong-Yuan Shen and collaborators at the Qigong Research Institute (QRI) of the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, regulation of respiration by a group of Qigong masters produced cycles of increase and decrease in heart rate (defined medically as Heart Rate Variability) corresponding to slow and deep breathing cycles as indicated by computer analysis of electrocardiograms (EKG).  This effect is apparently caused by conscious control of the autonomic nervous system, which in turn regulates the heart rate.  In a related study at the QRI, Qigong meditation was accompanied by fast cycles of heart rate variability.  Because such a variability pattern is normally seen during deep sleep, this result supports the notion that meditation is a very effective way to deeply refresh the mind and the body.

Circulatory System

Laser Doppler Flowmetry and an infrared imaging system.

Qigong masters were asked to focus their intention on sending their internal Qi to their hands.  This resulted in significant increases in blood flow in their hands and a corresponding increase in the temperature of that part of the body. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, qi follows intent (i.e. mind intent) and the blood follows the qi.

Single photon counting device

Detected changes in emission of visible light (i.e. biophotons) from the hands. The dark adapted eye can detect single photons

Chemical absorption of laser light shone through the skull (i.e., transcranial photon migration spectroscopy)

Qigong deep breathing and breath-holding exercises produced a strong increase in oxygen content in capillaries of the forebrain.

Recent Developments in Qigong and Acupuncture ResearchDr. Shin LinLaboratory for Mind-Body Signaling & Energy Research, UC Irvine. Also see Publications of the Laboratory for Mind-Body Signaling & Energy Research website and Research Leading to a Systems/Cellular/Molecular Model for the Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi on Health and Healing.

PubMed logoBioelectromagnetic Medicine: Specific electromagnetic (EM) frequencies modulate cellular function to restore or maintain health. Ultrasmall magnetic intensities are biologically significant which suggests that EM signaling is endogenous to cell regulation, and consequently that the remarkable effectiveness of EM resonance treatments reflects a fundamental aspect of biological systems. Organisms contain mechanisms for generating biologically useful electric signals.

PubMed logo

Chinese researchers measure electromagnetic fields and microdischarges from the human body. This is a new way to measure "external qi". To date, mainstream medical science researchers have not claimed to be able to measure qi, let alone external qi. What has been measured is bioenergy. Also see Bioenergetics.

First and foremost, qigong is exercise. The following book goes into great detail on the molecular and cellular benefits of exercise.


book cover

Molecular and Cellular Regulation of Adaptation to Exercise, Vol 135.
Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science


Molecular Aspects of Exercise Biology and Exercise Genomics, the latest volume in the Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science series includes a comprehensive summary of the evidence accumulated thus far on the molecular and cellular regulation of the various adaptations taking place in response to exercise. Changes in the cellular machinery are described for multiple tissues and organs in terms of signaling pathways, gene expression, and protein abundance. Adaptations to acute exercise as well as exposure to regular exercise are also discussed and considered. - Includes a comprehensive summary of the evidence accumulated thus far on the molecular and cellular regulation of the various adaptations taking place in response to exercise - Contains contributions from leading authorities - Informs and updates on all the latest developments in the field of exercise biology and exercise genomics.

Order online: Molecular and Cellular Regulation of Adaptation to Exercise, Volume 135 (Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science).