“Ohhh, it’s just a Placebo and has literally no therapeutic value”. You might have heard of the Placebo Effect one way or another. From sugar pills and saline injections to the mysterious faith healing and psychic surgeries. But what makes it interesting is the innate capabilities of our body to heal.
The Placebo Effect is a phenomenon observed for centuries by scientists and religious groups. As strange as it may sound, some people cure themselves from a sugar pill (fake drug) and the strong belief that they will heal. Others are said to heal incurable diseases due to their faith in God. There are also shamans or priests that claim to have supernatural abilities to cure people.
But what causes the Placebo Effect? Is the sugar pill really a cure? Or is it a symbol of the possibility of grand self-healing?
#1. Understanding the Placebo Effect
The value of this phenomenon isn’t the fake drug with zero therapeutic value. The real value is the mechanism that triggers the Placebo Effect.
The common observation by most researchers is that the subjects need to be “fooled” or “deceived” that they are being treated. A patient having a strong belief in the “treatment” will exhibit measurable therapeutic effects. If the patient is aware that he or she is taking a placebo, then there is no observable therapeutic effect.
This is very similar to the concept of “faith healing”. The “treatment” is more effective the stronger the belief of the patient is in the “treatment”. Although few, there are terminal stage cancer cases that heal spontaneously because of psychic surgeries.
But the big question is… do we really need to be deceived first in order for the placebo effect to take place? People who go to modern doctors put their faith in the hands of science. Those who go to shamans or priests put their faith in their God. But how are all of these any different from putting your complete faith in yourself?
Most drugs are synthetic chemicals designed to work with your body. It means that these chemicals can be naturally produced by your own body too. Your body can produce these chemicals based on what you eat, drink or even breathe.
So is it merely a matter of belief? Or are there other variables in play that can increase the odds of the placebo effect?
#2. Placebo Effect in Modern Medicine
Antidepressants vs Placebo
For several decades, the placebo effect has been a thorn in the side of pharmaceutical companies. Why is that so?
You’re familiar with antidepressants that are marketed to people with depressions, right? But what if I told you that most of its effects are because of the placebo effect?
An unbiased research study was conducted in 2014 comparing antidepressants and placebos. It is crazy that 82% of the effects of psychotropics are due to the placebo response. About 57% of the clinical trials failed or showed negative results. And only the remaining 43% showed statistically significant benefit over placebo. But worse is that these drugs are clinically insignificant.
This means that perceived benefits of antidepressants are just from the placebo effect. Healing of depression was highly linked to the desire of the patient to get better. Our body is capable of producing the necessary chemicals to help the mind get better. Isn’t that amazing? 🙂
These findings lead to questioning the FDA approved drug treatments given to people with depression.
But how about surgeries? Surely all of them have a definite therapeutic effect, right? I mean, why would you risk your life on the surgery table if it didn’t have benefits?
Well, I’ll let you decide on your own after presenting what I found.
Like it or not, there are placebo surgeries. It was shocking for me when I read a 2016 scientific research paper about it. Their results suggested that 8 out of 10 of the surgery types didn’t produce significant effects compared to placebo. And because of this, the study suggested that a reevaluation of surgical procedures be done.
Let me repeat it in case it didn’t leave an impression on you. Results showed that 8 out of 10 modern surgeries are no better than placebo surgeries!
Of course, this created an uproar because this is a major blow to the established medical society. But for us normal people, we should be aware of the treatments that we undergo.
Modern Medicine vs Alternative Medicine
For decades, many modern doctors have criticized any kind of alternative medicine as being JUST A PLACEBO. But interestingly, the same can also be said for many methods of modern medicine when compared to placebos.
As crazy and shocking as it is, unbiased research studies showed that most modern medical treatments rely heavily on the placebo response too. Being aware of this can shake your very belief in modern medical science.
#3. Placebo Effect in Faith Healing or Psychic Surgery
For decades, faith healing has been labeled as a fake treatment by scientists and skeptics alike. It shouldn’t work based on scientific theory but it does. This phenomenon has been linked by some people to the placebo effect.
Some psychic healers believe that they have supernatural powers granted by their God. Other patients have a strong belief that psychic healing can help them after years of failure from modern medicine.
So is it really supernatural? I don’t think so. I think that your body is capable of accelerated healing on its own. The inner workings of it is still a struggle for modern science to explain. But a clue for this might be in the belief of healing. Or it could be the chemicals produced by your body when you think that you are healing.
I think that the “rituals” done in faith healing are just triggers to activate the accelerated healing of people. But because it is based on faith, you can say that its consistency is questionable compared to modern medical science. But then again, even modern medical science unknowingly relies on the belief of patients too.
#4. Consistency of Self-healing using the Placebo Effect
There are hopeless cases of cancer patients that suddenly heal without any kind of remission. Spontaneous healing such as these baffle medical doctors as they don’t understand how it happened. Statistically speaking, it is almost sure that these patients will die. But these patients literally healed overnight for reasons that doctors and scientists can’t explain.
Placebo Effect in Clinical Trials
From the clinical trials, it would seem that the Placebo Effect is very varied. Some can have zero response to it and some can have better effects than the drug being tested.
Scientists still question its practical applications even though it appears in any kind of drug trial. But this is due mainly to the lack of consistency of results. And yes, this is indeed a valid concern.
The Placebo trials are evidence of how our bodies can create chemicals on par with the drug being tested. A living human is like a mini drugstore that produces chemicals that affect our functions.
Clues on Making your Placebo Effect Stronger
The Placebo Effect is wonderful and I believe we can all agree to that.
Interestingly, there are clues on how to make this effect stronger or more consistent. These clues can be found from practices such as Qigong, Yoga, meditation, etc. The best evidence of consistency so far is Wim Hof who practices a variation of Tummo Yoga.
Wim Hof was injected with an endotoxin that makes any person very sick for a few hours. The guy just did his deep breathing exercises and he didn’t get sick at all. Wim Hof showed that he can control his endocrine system. Having control of the endocrine system means that you can also control your immune system response.
I hope I was able to open your mind about the Placebo Effect. This is a mechanism in our body that helps our survival but isn’t well understood by modern science. Good thing is that there are clues on how to tap into it using ancient practices like Qigong, Yoga and meditation.
Hopefully, you no longer think of it as a “fake treatment” but rather your own body’s accelerated healing mechanism.
If you want to tap into the power of the placebo effect, then I recommend that you do Basic Deep Breathing Exercises. After that, you can start practicing advanced breathing exercises like Wim Hof Method, Qigong and Nadi Shodhana. Not going through the basics will only result in disappointment and disbelief.