The placebo effect is it only in the mind Liisa Halme in LivingNow.jpg

The placebo effect – is it ‘only’ in the mind?

In Health and Healing by Liisa HalmeLeave a Comment

Often the placebo effect is brushed off as being ‘only in the mind’. But hang on a minute – doesn’t it actually prove how incredibly powerful the mind is, and that whatever we believe in shapes our reality?

You’ve heard of the placebo effect, right?

A placebo (Latin for ‘I shall please’) is any medical treatment that is inactive, such as saline solution or a starch tablet. Around one third of people who take placebos (thinking they are taking medication) experience measurable, observable improvement in health or behaviour, or an end to their symptoms. This is called the placebo effect. It is one of the least understood phenomena found in human physiology and psychology. In all medical trials and studies about 30% of all drug effects are shown to be placebo effect, sometimes much greater.

The power of faith

Often the placebo effect is brushed off as being ‘only in the mind’. But hang on a minute, doesn’t it actually prove how incredibly powerful the mind is, and that whatever we believe shapes our reality?

It must be valuable to investigate further what makes a placebo so effective so that we can use the extremely powerful entity that is our brain to heal ourselves without the use of harsh pharmaceuticals with their multitude of adverse side-effects. If 30% of people find improvement to their health and symptoms merely by taking a fake medication that they believe to be real, imagine what we could change if we learned to intelligently harness this incredible power within us, the power of faith.

How does it work?

Doctors still have questions about how placebo effect works, but here are some ways it contributes to our healing. Some of it may be due to altered perception: our interpretation of our symptoms may change with the expectation of feeling better. For example, a sharp pain may be reinterpreted as an uncomfortable tingling. Expecting to feel better soothes the autonomic nervous system and reduces the levels of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, reducing anxiety. Faith we have in the placebo may trigger the release of the body’s own natural painkillers, the brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) known as endorphins, while altering brain state. The brain responds to an imagined or visualised scene in much the same way as it responds to an actual live one. A placebo may help our brain to remember a time before the onset of symptoms, and then bring about physiological change. This theory is called ‘remembered wellness’.

Some interesting facts you may not know:

  • Placebo effect also occurs amongst dogs and other animals

Pharmaceutical companies employ the same double blind procedures on dogs as they do for human medications. It turns out the canine placebo group also react positively to the placebos.

  • Psychiatric illness and physical pain have some of the highest rates of placebo response

Placebo drugs can have real, measurable influence on physiological changes in the brain, ranging from changes in heart rate and blood pressure to the brain’s chemical activity, particularly in cases of pain, depression, anxiety and fatigue.

Depression undoubtedly sucks, and there is no question about its relation to brain chemistry. In recent years the number of anti-depressants prescribed has risen sky-high. However, several high profile studies show that placebos basically do the same thing, minus the adverse side effects.

Even though the findings are being downplayed by pharmaceutical companies for obvious reasons, this is promising news for those who suffer from mental illness and chronic pain because it essentially shows these conditions can be reversible without the use of nasty chemicals.

  • Placebo still works even though you know it’s a placebo

It seems the whole point of the placebo effect is that patients who believe they are receiving real medicine, are cured. But it turns out that even when patients find out they are receiving a placebo, it still functions effectively. Go figure!

  • Faith heals injuries

Placebo surgeries are also effective in curing many injuries, which takes the effect to the next level. The best part is that fake surgery is much cheaper than real surgery…

  • You can placebo yourself into being drunk

Save your liver and get giddy without compromising your health.
Let us not under-estimate the power of the mind in healing illness and forming our reality. Miracles happen through faith, and it seems that in this century our faith in pharmaceuticals is stronger than ever – but how about cultivating our faith in ourselves and in the infinite wisdom that lies right here in the body’s natural ability to heal itself?

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