It is a remarkable phenomenon in which any substance having nonmedicinal properties like sugar, flavored water, or herbs — can sometimes improve a patient’s condition only because the person has the expectation that it will cure the disease.
There is a little history behind it. On the North African battlefields of WWII, wounded soldiers were plentiful, but morphine was often in short supply. Army doctor Henry Beecher needed to operate on an injured soldier, but had no drugs to give him for the pain. A desperate nurse grabbed a vial of saltwater, filled a syringe, and magically the soldier’s pain went away.
When Henry Beecher returned to Harvard University after the war, he found that a range of ailments, from gunshot wounds to the common cold, could be treated with “fake” medicine. It’s known as the placebo effect, from the Latin for “I shall please.”
The effectiveness of a placebo is tied to our perception of how sophisticated the treatment is. A placebo capsule works better than a placebo tablet, placebo injections work better than placebo capsules, and placebo machines work better than placebo injections. Even having a nice long talk with a doctor before taking a placebo can increase its effect.
Pill color can also make a difference. Placebo sleeping pills work best if they’re blue, red placebos are better as stimulants or pain relievers, and yellow placebos make better antidepressants.
After medicine intake, the placebo effect can cause the brain to release its own natural pain-killing chemicals, and the sufferer starts believing in medicine.
Some placebo effects are easy to explain. Sometimes people just get better. However, Placebo medicines can lead to very real chemical changes in our bodies. They can cause the brain to release its own natural pain-killing chemicals and they can even improve symptoms in Parkinson’s patients by releasing dopamine.
It seems like where placebos do work, our higher-order brain functions are in play, like when they relieve pain, reduce stress, or even change our moods. But they have limits, they can’t shrink tumors or cure infections.
Good Branding can enhance medicine’s placebo power
All that marketing has increased our expectations of what drugs can do, by shiny packaging of medicine, the involvement of big brand names, etc. This growing placebo effect is making it harder to figure out which real drugs really work.
How the Placebo Effect works
Clearly, the critical ingredient in placebo is the expectation. If they ever work, they work because we expect them to. In fact, a sugar pill can also make a patient feel worse if that’s what they’re expecting.
There’s a lot we don’t understand about how and why we sometimes get better. But in addition to all the amazing medicines we’ve got, it’s nice to know the brain has some quality medical care built-in. Next time you get sick, maybe you can find a little relief in knowing that the doctor is always inside your head.
The same thing happens in the homeopathy too, a doctor gives sugar pills with german brand-name to their patient and they experience improvement in their symptoms.
Placebo and cultural association
Placebo is strongly affected by culture and our cultural associations. Therefore, a placebo that works well in China may have less effect in Europe.
The placebo effect is actually everywhere. Intelligent people use it to manipulate normal people for their gain. This is one of the methods the Jews use to gain control over the world. But if you are constantly dubious and aware and go deeper into the knowledge of things you will not be a victim to the placebo effect.
Until quite recently, it was commonly thought that the placebo effect was limited to “less intelligent” people. This proved to be very wrong. Placebo works for everyone!