I would like to take you into the world of the placebo and show you how powerful a thought or a belief can be in making you feel better.
Imagine participating in a surgery trial where there is a 50% chance that you will receive a fake surgery. You are made to believe that your surgery is real and that an actual surgeon performed the surgery on your spine. Miraculously, you feel better after the surgery despite the fact you were in the fake pool, but you don’t know it.
“It appears that the mere belief that patients had received a potent treatment was enough to ease-and in some cases banish-their symptoms,” says Joe Merchant about this real spine surgery study in her book Cure.
This is one example of the placebo effect and the power of belief to improve and make our health better. The Italian neuroscientist Fabrizio Benedetti, who is the biggest expert on placebo in the world, thinks that placebo can be applied in all areas of life from sex to music, writes Merchant. Maybe just by believing that the music is wonderful, its effects on us will be more powerful in terms of positive emotions and experience.
Beneditti’s team in Italy is conducting real studies on the placebo effect, and measuring the role belief plays in improving symptoms. Let’s say you take a drug and you feel better after taking it. The kind of questions they would be asking are: Is the improvement due to the medication you took or your belief that you took the medication? And it looks like this can be measured through clinical trials, according to Merchant’s research.
The placebo has been proven to work for a variety of psychiatric disorders like anxiety and depression. The more we know that we are taking the medication, the stronger the effect. For example, Joe Merchant says that Benedetti has discovered that Valium, which is an old drug for psychiatric disorders, has no effect unless patients know that they have taken it. Studies show that some painkillers are effective only if we know that we have taken them. If we don’t know that we took them, they don’t work.
When scientists discovered endorphins- the brain’s natural painkillers, it became natural to inquire if taking a placebo triggers the release of endorphins in the brain. And they have discovered that it does. This is how the science of the placebo was born. There is a mapped out neuro-chemical mechanism occurring after taking a placebo.
A study at the University of British Columbia discovered that when a placebo medication is given to patients with Parkinson’s, physiological changes do occur in the body, as dopamine levels increase significantly. In some trials involving Parkinson’s disease patients, the placebo effect has been shown to have the same effect as a response to a real drug.
So something interesting is going on in our bodies, and probably by extension, to our external realities, when our minds are focused on sending a positively charged belief and thought. At least scientifically, the placebo effect has been proven to reduce symptoms of patients and improve the quality of their lives. So let’s ponder on that, and when you feel down, think of the placebo and how you can apply it to your own life to turn things around. Hmm, something to consider today for everyone. As I’ve heard Joe Dispenza say, we are the placebo effect.
Source: Jo Merchant, Cure: a journey into the science of mind over body, 2016