A pragmatic, three-arm randomised controlled trial of spiritual healing for asthma in primary care

Jennifer A Cleland, David B Price, Amanda J Lee, Stan Gerard, Arun Sharma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Well-designed trials are required to assess if complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is effective.

Aim: This study assessed the effectiveness of spiritual healing for asthma.

Design of study: Randomised, placebo-controlled trial. Setting Aberdeen, Scotland.

Method: This was a single-blind, three-armed randomised, controlled trial of spiritual healing for asthma, comparing the effectiveness of five sessions of spiritual healing with placebo (delivered by an actor), and with a control group receiving normal care only. The primary outcome measure was the Juniper Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire (AQLQ). Secondary outcomes were forced expiratory flow in one second (FEV1), peak expiratory flow (PEF), HADS (Hospital Anxiety Depression Scale), SF-36 and MYMOP (Measure Yourself Medical Outcome Profile). Baseline and follow-up data were collected.

Results: Eighty-eight adult patients receiving pharmacological treatment for asthma participated. AQLQ scores improved significantly from baseline and the end of treatment in all groups (spiritual healing P = 0.008; 'sham' healing P = 0.001 and control P = 0.01) but there was no significant difference between groups (P 0.57). These improvements were maintained at follow-up 1 for two of the groups (spiritual healing P = 0.016; sham healing P = 0.001 and control P = 0.09) but none of the groups showed an improvement at follow-up 2 (spiritual healing P = 0.161; sham healing P = 0.016 and control P = 0.11). Similar proportions of patients in each group showed a clinically important improvement in AQLQ score. Analysis of AQLQ scores at end of treatment and both follow-up periods indicated no significance between group differences. No consistent changes were seen in secondary outcome measures, possibly due to the small sample size.

Conclusion: Spiritual healing does not appear to have any specific affect on patient asthma related quality of life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)444-449
Number of pages6
JournalThe British Journal of General Practice
Issue number527
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding was provided by Chief Scientist’s Office, Scottish
Executive Health Department (CZG/4/2/50) and Grampian
Primary Care Trust


  • asthma
  • complementary medicine
  • quality of life
  • randomised controlled trial
  • SF-36 health survey
  • outcomes


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