As tai chi and chi kung grow in popularity, American consumers are gaining familiarity with the ancient concept of chi. The purpose of these activities is to bring the body, mind and spirit back into balance. In traditional Chinese medicine, the human being is said to be composed of body, mind and spirit. The mind and body include three “treasures” of life: mind, chi and essence. Chi refers to the natural life force that exists in all life forms and connects them to each other in the natural world. For an individual, chi refers to the flow of life energy through that person.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, the balanced flow of chi through the body is evidence of good health, while blockages or imbalances in this flow may lead to illness or disease. Establishing the harmonious flow of chi assists in maintaining health. Chi masters can help direct the flow of external chi, which in turn can positively affect the flow of internal chi in people with whom they work.

Contemporary scientists have made efforts to measure the presence of external chi while chi masters are performing chi kung healing. In a review published in the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine (2004; 10 [4], 38–50), the author examines 20 years of research literature on this topic. The studies reviewed confirm that chi kung healing works, but they do not clarify how it works. To date, studies of chi kung and external chi have focused on the use of physical signal detectors, chemical dynamics methods, detectors using biological materials, detectors using life sensors and detectors using the human body. The author recommends that future studies use more biological or life-sensor detectors to increase our understanding of the healing potential of chi kung.