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Why do some people get well with a placebo?

Posted Feb. 15, 2011 by DyckDyck in Open

commented on April 28, 2011
by DyckDyck

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Hidden in the placebo is proof of the highest of human potential to self heal... and that there is no separation between mind and body. We know there are significant percentages of people who get better taking a placebo. Is it that we need a pill to seemingly give us license to heal? A prop? Or, is it affected by the prescribing doctor giving us his confidence or his expert or 'official' knowing? The way our medical community and most of us too view the placebo is quite myopic, as though its only use is to prove efficacy of a manufactured drug. Its like we're so enamored of finding gold, we don't notice the diamonds lying all around us.



In his chapter "The Mysterious Placebo," Norman Cousins wrote eloquently and deeply about this topic (excerpted from Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient). He says, "...we see ultimately that the placebo isn't really necessary and that the mind can carry out its difficult and wondrous missions unprompted by little pills. The placebo is only a tangible object made essential in an age that feels uncomfortable with intangibles, an age that prefers to think that every inner effect must have an outer cause..."


  • 12 Comments  
  • DyckDyck Apr 28, 2011

    Can we go slow... to turn placebo affect into something to explore... to somehow get past our opinions, perhaps to something new? Maybe it would open a different question altogether, who knows?

  • frequencytuner Apr 27, 2011

    Why so much talk? When you believe something you turn it into 'reality'. There is no questions to be asked here, no tricks or magic simply the power of consciousness working through the mind manifesting into 'reality' as it continually and perpetually does with every thought we think..

  • DyckDyck Apr 27, 2011

    How do we go about inquiring into this question? Right here on this discussion forum there are intelligent and creative people.

    So, is there a way to first Explore the Question and holding off answers for a while?

    For example, my observations are that one who heals themselves with or w/o Placebo seems to do it irrespective of conscious thought. I realize this is an assumption so maybe we could explore each of the two possibilities.

    1. If there is conscious thought, can those who''ve cured themselves explain it? If the internal knowing is subtle, could it be accessed via hypnotherapy or imaging? Perhaps it could, or can only be, communicated via other than just words, e.g the arts... and maybe this already exists actually. Then, perhaps if there are 'other' ways of communicating or realizing it, could that be taught and learned and therefore more prevalent?

    2. If there isn't conscious thought how can it be examined? Does not-conscious mean unconscious or maybe unaware (implied in the prior posit)? Does not-conscious mean extemporaneous, spontaneous, spiritual, energy (nonphysical), mystical, religious, realization of higher potential, divine, etc.. Could it be that all healing happens while sleeping? My personal evidence is that broken bones fuse suddenly while asleep after a lengthy period of 'getting ready' to fuse/heal.

    So, as you can see, I'm 'playing around' with the question... letting it take me somewhere... being tentative of what I know... poking and prodding at it and wanting to get others' to add reactions and imagination.

  • PonsAnimus Apr 09, 2011

    Placebo effect -- one the most interesting things you can watch while you work in medical business. Anyway, many people throw homeopathic treatment in the same "bottle", but this is actually not the same. You can use a homeopathic dose rate with a dilution of 1: 10^-4, which is still molecular. As soon as you enter a dilution higher than 1:10^-23, it is almost impossible to find a single molecule of the active ingredient. Yet, it works quite nice. This is because the pure information signature is left within the stuff you use to build up the dilution. Now, while you start in the homeopathic treatment with an active ingredient and just let the dilution grow, a placebo is in many cases just lactose with undergoing NO dilution process. The interesting thing is, that most lactose placeboes work pretty well when you explain what that "remedy" is for in the body. Each time the patient concentrates on that placebo and thinks about what it shall do. The more intense and detailed this concentration and info is, the better is the placebo effect. This indicates that the detailed "thought-construct" of what the body shall do is saved in the placebo. This effect works best in dipolic liquid and crystaline basics like sugar or salt. The function principle is completely different from homeopathic treatment, as the latter has the basic info of the original ingredient you use to produce it.

  • Anonymous Icon

    ginger Mar 09, 2011

    I just wanted to comment on the first comment that included acupuncture and homeopathy as examples of the placebo effect
    if I understood correctly- I would like to say that both sciences are based on scientific principles- unfortunately western
    science has not acknowledged or fully realized these principles as yet- but that is the goal of IONS research I assume- I just
    would not say that the placebo effect explains either-although, as an acupuncturist I would agree that the placebo effect can
    play a part in the healing-I don't think that is the primary mechanism of the healing-

  • Anonymous Icon

    Romero Mar 08, 2011

    We really don't known how the placebo or nocebo effects work. There was a recent study which showed that patients heal even if they knew there were receiving the placebo, which begs further studies into the mechanisms of these phenomenon. A reasonable assumption is that positive or negative expectations bring about physiologic brain changes that promote recovery. In medicine it is considered unethical to overtly give placebos as it undermines the current standard of informed consent of patients making informed decisions about their treatment. And the pharmaceutical companies usually are interested to prove that their medications show improvement beyond placebos, which when theyndo would make it a better option. Some conditions seem rather resistant to the placebo effect, seizure disorder comes to mind. Some physicians get around the ethical questions of giving an overt placebo by using things like homeopathy and even acupuncture in many cases.

    Energy healing must share similarities with the placebo effect, as client expectation is certainly a factor to consider. There is however evidence that as yet undiscovered mechanisms of information transfer might be at work during energy healing sessions and understanding the way information is exchanged in this situation might help us understand consciousness phenomena better. But there is still a lot of prejudice within the medical community on this subject.

    Douglas J. Romero, MD

  • AuthorAnitaMeyer Mar 02, 2011


    I think all have missed the point here… I think the placebo is nothing other than the age old antidote that involves religion and “FAITH”. Faith is a misunderstood word, and many people have different understandings of it. However faith involves things that are believed but not seen yet. In all actuality we can do NOTHING without faith.

    For instance, the very act of thinking involves faith. We cannot move from one place to the other without first consciously thinking it before we actually do it. It therefore implies FAITH!

    So what is the point about faith and where am I going with all this? Well, this gets rather deep since my thoughts revert all the way back to the book of Genesis (Genesis 2:7) that says that G-d spoke and created us with the “breath of life”. He spoke a language which is documented as Hebrew.

    As it turns out, faith (belief) and language (speech) go hand in hand. Speech follows from the process of thought, and thought comes about by faith. Therefore we are dealing with something that is not really biological, but rather something that has been of the “spiritual” sense ever since time began.

    I am the author to a book called “The Primordial Language“, which discusses the very subject of faith and bringing it to the forefront of all sciences to the very cradle of creation.

    Have a look here, this subject is very deep and I hope all can make the connection :

    http://www.insearchoftheuniversaltruthpublisher.com/files/Pictures_and_explanation.pdf

    http://www.insearchoftheuniversaltruthpublisher.com/theprimordiallanguage.html

  • Anonymous Icon

    Shavez Feb 28, 2011

    Hi Melvin,

    Can you clarify for me what a "physical change" is when you talk about "energy healing" and mind-brain-body healing?

    Increase in white blood cells and growing hair, both seem to me to be physical changes.

    I find this topic fascinating. Growing up with a father that is a doctor I was able to spend a lot of time in hospitals. My father, and many of the other doctors in the hospitals that he worked at, all said the same thing when I would get sick or hurt, "what do you want me to do?" I found it offensive that they wouldn't give me something or do something to make me better (none of my illnesses or injuries were life threatening). When I questioned one of my dad's friends about this, he told me, modern medicine has only invented two things, the ability to kill pain and infections. Other then that, they try to fight the symptoms and let the body heal itself. Look at surgeons, still wearing the traditional garb of their forefathers...the butchers coat, because that's where the first surgeons came from, they were butchers. Medicine still has a long way to go and I'm sure in 100 years we'll be looking back at the 20th century and laughing at how barbaric we were, the same way we do with medicine from the 17th and 18th century. I'm interested in hearing more about the study of self healing and if this is something that can be harnessed and taught.

    Also about your reference to random number generators:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Random_number_generation#.22True.22_random_numbers_vs._pseudorandom_numbers

    Random number generators were created because computers are incapable of generating a "random" number. You can give them a formula, and they can generate a string of numbers, but eventually, that computer is going to have to start over, and when it does, it will create that same string of numbers in the same order. If you make it develope a string that is 2 to the 128th power long, that seems random, but it's not. And when you're creating a program (like a game) where you need to make the computer seem to make a decision, you need it to flip a coin, and not always land on heads. So computer programmers will sample a natural phenomenon, which is random (like the decay of an atom).

  • DyckDyck Feb 28, 2011

    Melvin, I'm not a scientist and beg that you would explain the difference between 'physical change' and 'clinical change'. Maybe I should just say I'm confused by your #1 and #2 descriptions. Saying 'Energetic Healing' (outside the brain-body) you seem to be referring to 'spirit' or 'soul' or similar, esp. when you mention consciousness, and opening access to all knowledge. Is that your intention? (also, I know of nothing that is not energy.)

    Personally, I do attribute an additional quality to healing (& much more) that is beyond mind/brain - body, which I do call spirit. For me there seems no way to avoid bumping into God in this process... God can mean, Intelligence, love, the only reality, spirit, soul, beauty, or whatever it is to the reader. But, it seems quite difficult to discuss anything in this light. Perhaps it would be more like an inquiry, where we would need to set aside what we 'know' or at least would need to be tentative about it. One would need to be open to opposites of one's constructs of reality, for example.

    I'll leave it here for now. (perhaps this would be another discussion... it almost doesn't matter what the topic is)

  • Melvin Morse Feb 25, 2011

    Hi,
    I think placebo has not been well defined. Furthermore, mainstream medical science is undergoing a dramatic shift in understandings of placebo. The NIH conference on placebo in 2004 suggested that it needs to be completely retooled as a concept.
    Placebo needs to be separated into:

    1) Healing that comes from a source outside the brain-body. This is "energetic healing". Of course it is further complicated that it isn't energy, appears to be the opening of consciousness to the all knowledge timeless spaceless informational domain.

    2) Healing that comes from within the mind-brain-body. This is the power of suggestion.

    There are clearcut distinctions between these two aspects. Most importantly is that "energy healing" has been documented to cause physical changes in the body. Our study, for example, showed changes in white count in a neutropenic patient. Benour has reviewed this literature.

    Placebo, meaning suggestion from within the mind-brain-body has NEVER been shown to cause physical changes although obviously clinical changes are well documented. For example, in the minoxidil study for baldness, 19% of those given placebo grew hair.

    I emphasize this distinction however because we simply don't know how either placebo (suggestion) or energy healing works, so we should be clean about discussing what we do know.

    The literature suggests there is a clear distinction between the two in terms of effects. Interestingly, energy healing, although documented to cause changes in biological markers has never been shown to cause the dramatic tumor resolution or other dramatic clinical changes seen as a result of suggestion.

    Our research group is primarily focusing on energy healing and consciousness's effects on the data stream of a true random number generator as one of the most promising ways to sort all this out.
    True random number generators depend on sampling of natural phenomena, such as the white noise of a semi-conductor. I wish they weren't called random number generator as it distracts us from what is happening. What actually is happening is that consciousness actually organizes or quiets the white noise (or release of isotopes from a nuclear source) of the semi-conductor.
    They were originally developed to help McDonald Douglas understand why their pilots minds were effecting sensitive aircraft equipment!

    As an aside, energy healers should be prepared to dramatically step up their game in the next ten years. So far, I feel they are limited by our understanding of what is possible. Once the new paradigm shift that has already occured is appreciated, and energy healers see that they can cause the same dramatic effects of clinical based placebo, there will be a revolution in medicine similar to the advent of antibiotics. Current energy healers limited by our current world view of what is possible could easily be left behind.
    Melvin L Morse MD

  • BAwesome Feb 20, 2011

    It is the expectations of the one receiving the placebo that make it effective, not necessarily the conscious-willing to heal oneself. In almost all cases, those involved in the research do not know if they are receiving the drug or the placebo. Nor does the one responsible for giving them out. The placebo effect is evidence, mighty convincing evidence, for our mind's capability to heal. For many of us, we have experienced self-healing, and our belief in it perpetuates its success. It is up to the individual to believe or not, because this goes beyond faith in something higher than oneself. Beliefs and intentions have quite a dramatic effect on one's ability to heal. It may prove quite a daunting task to convince those who are used to reaching for the pill bottle that there is a better way. We know our power, we know our potential. There are many in this world who don't, and it is our moral duty to each other to make sure this information remains public and supported by respected people across the globe. If we could turn the news media into a force for self-healing and self-actualization, it would drastically bring us into a more cohesive unit as a global society, rather than broken and disordered.

  • Anonymous Icon

    Magenta Feb 18, 2011

    I'v been faced with this topic a lot lately. Self healing is an abstract concept for most of the world, or at least the Western world. We believe that we need medicine and drugs to correct whatever ailments we have. But in fact, self healing has been a part of Eastern cultures for centuries. Placebos work on the basis that a person has the "expectation" of healing. Why would we take medicine if we did not expect it to make us feel better. In experiments where placebos are used, the interest is in determining if people heal quicker with placebos (self will) or with medication. But the trick is, even if it takes an extra day or so, the ability to self heal does happen. So why do we run to the medicine cabinet everytime we have a pain? Plus, with the right attitude, healing can come even sooner. Based on the Law of Attraction, if we keep a positive attitude, we are likely to heal sooner as well.

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