In the universe of New Age healers, Mas Sajady is one of Minnesota's stars, pledging to "Change your frequency, change your life." In the world of government regulation, Sajady also has emerged as an unlikely lead player — as one of the first such healers facing investigation by the Minnesota Department of Health.

Unconventional healing practices, from energy readers to faith healers, typically operate below the state's radar screen unless a complaint is made. In this case, a former client is claiming Sajady's supernatural healings are tantamount to practicing medicine, and he should follow state regulations for alternative health care.

It's a tricky issue. The Health Department's mandate isn't to evaluate whether a treatment is effective or fraudulent. It's to determine whether the department has jurisdiction over a provider, and if so, to decide whether the provider is following state rules, such as providing a Client Bill of Rights and factual advertising.

Health Department supervisor Catherine Lloyd said her office has investigated massage therapists and acupuncturists. But she was unaware of any New Age spiritual healers under scrutiny.

"I don't recall any action we've taken on that kind of practice," said Lloyd, supervisor of the Office of Unlicensed Complementary and Alternative Health Care Practice. The department would not confirm an investigation is in progress, but the Star Tribune has obtained a document indicating a case file has been opened.

Sajady says he is not practicing medicine. His website clearly states he is "not a medical doctor." But it also advertises such services as "21-Day MediHealings" and "HealingMAStery programs" offering health, healing and anti-aging.

Sajady insists he isn't the one doing the healing, but that he is the conduit for connecting clients to "Pure Source."

"There is an agent within you, and you heal yourself," said Sajady, echoing a theme embraced by many New Age adherents.

Big business

Alternative and complementary medicine is a $40 billion business in the United States, according to a National Institutes of Health survey. It ranges from relatively mainstream "complementary medicine," such as acupuncture and meditation, to unlicensed "alternative medicine" such as magnet therapy and spiritual healing.

A Minnesota Health Department brochure, for example, shows it oversees more than 20 alternative practices, including healing touch, homeopathy, energy healing, "polarity therapy" to balance the body's energy, and iridology — the study of a person's iris to reveal health issues.

With an annual budget of $73,000, the state office overseeing these practices is not poised for vigorous enforcement. Nor has it been bombarded with complaints. It has investigated 132 cases since 2004, out of 259 complaints, according to state reports. The most common investigations are for sexual contact, client harm and fraudulent representation.

Sajady, a former computer consultant for Twin Cities car dealerships, is part of a community of New Age or supernatural healers not known to most Minnesotans. They belong to churches or spiritual communities that embrace psychic and supernatural phenomena, exhibit at Twin Cities conferences such as Conscious Living Expos and appear on community-access TV.

Sajady said he started working with clients in 2009, when a second near-death experience gave him extraordinary abilities to sense the problems of others and to be a conduit for a higher power to cure them.

His website states: "Mas Sajady was gifted with intuitive and healing abilities so remarkably potent that he was soon likened to some of the most significant healers in history."

Click on his website and his image appears with scenic backdrops of New York, London, Toronto, Paris — cities he'll be touring in the next two months. His schedule also includes "In Person Healing Sessions" in Minnetonka, an online eczema clinic and ongoing online "medihealing." Costs range from about $150 to $1,200.

He also offers "frequency clinics" described this way: "The Frequency Clinic is designed to target serious and chronic physical and mental ailments for you and your loved ones. Mas selects different areas to work on each time according to what people come to him the most for in his private sessions, such as back pains, joint pains, depression, diabetes, and cancer."

There are testimonials from clients who credit him with curing ailments ranging from dizzy spells to sciatica, smoking cessation, scoliosis and vertigo.

A small group of former clients says this is akin to practicing medicine, and Sajady needs to follow state guidelines for alternative providers. They accuse him of false advertising, failing to provide the required Client Bill of Rights and endangering the public with suicide clinics that claim to treat the troubles of those contemplating suicide and those already dead.

A complaint was recently filed by local real estate agent Theresa Nygard, a New Age healer herself who said she is working with several other former clients. She enrolled in Sajady's medihealing program for several months but "had no benefits whatsoever."

"My main complaint is it's false marketing, that what he's saying isn't the same as what he's doing," said Nygard. "It's one of those things that's difficult to prove. The evidence for it will be the number of people who come forward."

Sajady says the complaint is unfounded. He sees his work as spiritual rather than medical, and he points to the thousands of people he says he has helped who are not filing complaints.

He has taken out a restraining order against Nygard, who he said trespassed at his home. Nygard does not deny that. Sajady also said Nygard has launched a campaign of harassment to boost her own business, a claim she denies.

What next?

Nygard's complaint raises these questions for regulators: Is Sajady practicing some form of alternative medicine? Does the department have jurisdiction over him? Can he advertise himself as a "healer" without landing under state rules?

"If under our jurisdiction, the next step is to go through the list of things that the law prevents them from doing, among them puncturing the skin; providing a medical diagnosis; false, fraudulent, deceptive or misleading advertising; engaging in conduct to deceive, defraud or harm the public ... and others," said Lloyd.

"If they are engaged in a prohibited activity," she said, "then we can sanction them."

Such cases pose challenges for regulators, said Mary Jo Kreitzer, director of the U's Center for Spirituality and Healing.

"There is not a license, there is no certification, there is no formal education and training," said Kreitzer. "There are not standards of care and practice."

There is also not significant harm being reported about the more unconventional practices, "except for people losing money," said John Weeks, editor in chief of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. That's a reason that states across the country are not eager to add tighter regulations, he said.

Kreitzer says the case points to the need for consumers to be aware of anyone making health care claims, whether it be medical doctors or practitioners of more ethereal care.

"Sometimes when people are desperate, they take advantage of solutions that are not solutions," she said. "We need to ask the same questions in all health care we receive."

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511