Placebo on Your Mind

photo by Brooks Elliott

A placebo is a substance containing no medication and prescribed or given to reinforce a patient’s expectation to get well.  They can be a look-alike pill made of milk sugar or another inert substance.

A study at McGill University found that 20 percent of Canadian physicians hand out placebo pills to patients.  There is ongoing discussion about the role of placebos in medical treatment.

The Montreal Gazette recently commented on an article in the New Yorker entitled ‘The Power of Nothing’ – about new work on placebos.  The Gazette author wrote that ‘you don’t have to be a member of the alternative medicine movement to find yourself absorbed by the idea of placebos. Truth is, almost everyone – patients and doctors alike – is surprised by what new studies are teaching about these little bits of nothing and their role in healing’.

Research continues to investigate how placebos encourage the mind to heal the body.

Dr. Kaptchuk, Director of the Program of Placebo Studies and the Therapeutic Encounter at the Harvard Medical School has found that his work on the effect of placebos has led him to the conclusion that for some people simply believing in a treatment can be as effective as the treatment itself.

Even CBS Television News magazine, 60 Minutes, dove into this stir in the medical community and, in a segment last month, interviewed the associate director of this same Harvard school. His research has been the study of the placebo effect where the fake pill creates an expectation of healing that is so powerful, symptoms are actually alleviated.

The fact that taking a faux drug – the placebo – can powerfully improve some people’s health is uncovering more of the role of the human mind in caring effectively for one’s health and well-being.  Will it continue to prove that the human mind governs our bodies more than we know?

Mary Baker Eddy, Founder of Christian Science, was a health researcher herself.  She experimented with various complimentary and alternative methods to restoring health, including an experiment in homeopathy with the placebo effect.

She successfully  treated a case of typhoid fever using salt water as a placebo.

She writes:  “The highest attenuation of homoeopathy and the most potent rises above matter into mind. This discovery leads to more light. From it may be learned that either human faith or the divine Mind is the healer and that there is no efficacy in a drug.”

Can the role of our mind/thought governed by a higher power – a growing sense of man’s spiritual nature – be far from today’s health care discussion?


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