Richard Hammerschlag, PhD

headshot of richard hammerschlag

Home Institution: Oregon College of Oriental Medicine


Current Position: Dean Emeritus of Research, Oregon College of Oriental Medicine

My Driving Question

What are the physiological mechanisms through which biofield therapies—such as reiki, external qigong, and healing touch—produce a therapeutic effect?

Scholar Project (2007-2013)

Dr. Hammerschlag’s work as a Nova Institute Scholar focused on the physiological basis of biofield therapies, such as reiki, external qigong, johrei, and healing touch, whose purpose is to balance the energy fields that surround and permeate the therapy recipient. The project’s overarching goal was to frame biofield physiology as an area of study. It was guided by a working definition of the biofield as a confluence of electromagnetic as well as other conventional and non-conventional phenomena to which living systems contribute and within which they exist. The project sought to illuminate the role of biofields in the maintenance of health and to summarize current understanding of how the body generates and responds to biofields. Dr. Hammerschlag’s Scholar project included the performance and publication of two systematic reviews and a roundtable discussion: The roundtable discussion resulted from Dr. Hammerschlag’s contacts with a community of research scientists who share an interest in biofield research: Drs. Ann Baldwin, Gloria Gronowicz, Shamani Jain, Susan Lutgendorf, James Oschman and Garret Yount. The discussion reflects these researchers’ presentations at a symposium, organized by Drs. Hammerchlag and Jain, at the third International Research Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health, held in May 2012 in Portland, OR. The symposium examined the evidence for biofield healing, for biofield therapy-related changes in healers and healees, and for physiological mechanisms related to endogenous and exogenous electromagnetic fields. Dr. Hammerschlag, the first member of the Institute’s Scholars & Fellows Program, concluded his tenure as a Scholar in August 2013, with the inaugural Capstone presentation, “Biofield of Dreams: Energy Physiology as a Basis for Integrative Health.” His talk explored the possible role of connective tissue as a whole body network that monitors and regulates the flow of energy, integrating the biofields inside the body with the biofields around it.


Dr. Hammerschlag began his academic career conducting research in neurobiology at the Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope in Duarte, California, where he served as associate chair of the Division of Neurosciences. Twenty-five years later, a growing interest in acupuncture led him to change careers and become founding director of research at Oregon College of Oriental Medicine in Portland, Oregon. There he engaged in collaborative research projects in acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine with Oregon Health & Science University, Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, and the University of Arizona, funded by the NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).

A co-editor of the book Acupuncture Research: Strategies for Establishing an Evidence Base, Dr. Hammerschlag currently serves as an executive editor for The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

Education and Training
  • Postdoctorate, neurochemistry, University College, London, England
  • PhD, biochemistry, Brandeis University
  • BS, chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • BS, humanities and science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Selected Honors
  • Executive Editor, Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2006-present
  • Editorial board, Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2000-present
  • Editorial board, Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, 2005-present
  • Editorial board, Clinical Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, 1999-2003
  • President, Society for Acupuncture Research, 1997-2003
  • Invited presenter, NIH Consensus Development Conference on Acupuncture, 1997
  • Chair, Research Methodology Panel, OAM/FDA Workshop: Status of the Acupuncture Needle, 1994
  • National Institutes of Health, Jacob Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award, 1989-96
  • Council member, International Society for Neurochemistry, 1991-95
  • Chair, program committee, American Society for Neurochemistry, 1993
  • Editorial board, Journal of Neurochemistry, 1986-93
Selected Publications

Research Papers