The word “placebo” is the Latin term for “I shall please.” And the phrase “Placebo Effect” refers to an interaction which is psychological in nature.1 The Placebo Effect is a term used by doctors and scientists for the seeming anomaly that often sugar pills can produce effects similar to the beneficial effects of drugs or pain pills. Jeffrey Mogil, a pain researcher at McGill University, says that the Placebo Effect is “the most interesting phenomenon in all of science….” He believes with a growing number of scientists that “It’s at the precise interface of biology and psychology.” In other words, the positive effect produced by a placebo is due to the beliefs of the patient and/or to the environment/context in which the pill is administered.2
Thomas Jefferson is said to have been amazed at the mysterious effectiveness of the Placebo Effect. He remarked that “One of the most successful physicians I have ever known has assured me that he used more bread pills, drops of colored water, powders of hickory ashes than of all other medicines put together….” He is quoted as having written of the placebo effect in 1807, “It was certainly a pious fraud.”3
A growing number of modern scientists do not believe that there is anything fraudulent about the placebo effect.4 Bruce Lipton PhD, an internationally recognized scholar in the field of cell
biology, argues and demonstrates in his acclaimed book, The Biology of Belief that one’s thoughts have a significant impact on outcomes. In fact, “…all the cells of your body are affected by your thoughts,” notes WEB MD in addressing Lipton’s work.9 The site goes on to say that Lipton “describes the precise molecular pathways through which this occurs.” “Using simple language, illustrations, humor, and everyday examples, he (Lipton) demonstrates how the new science of epigenetics is revolutionizing our understanding of the link between mind and matter, and the profound effects it has on our personal lives and the collective life of our species.”,5
Deepak Chopra MD, FACP writes of Lipton’s work, “I read The Biology of Belief when it first came out. It was a pioneering book and gave a much needed scientific framework for the mind body spirit connection. Bruce’s insights and research created the basis of the epigenetic revolution that is now laying the foundation for a consciousness based understanding of biology. We are all indebted to him.”6
Researchers are showing more and more interest in the placebo effect and their findings are drawing attention to the implications of their research for understanding the seemingly positive effects of alternative modalities such as yoga, healing touch, qigong etc.
Researchers are also noting that the placebo effect appears to be increasing in efficacy in the USA. Jeffrey Mogil of McGill University along with others discovered this trend. “When researchers started looking closely at pain-drug clinical trials, they found that an average of 27 percent of patients in 1996 reported pain reduction from a new drug compared to placebo. In 2013, it was 9 percent.”
The implication of such a trend may mean that one can look forward to less drugs being administered and more attention paid to how they are administered and to the emotional/mental framework and beliefs of the recipient.7
3.www.ncbi.nlm.nih.govPlacebos and placebo effects in medicine: historical overview. A J de Craen , T J Kaptchuk , J G Tijssen , and J Kleijnen Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Academic Medical Centre-University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
7.https://www.wellandgood.com/good-advice/placebo-effect(Placebo getting stronger)