Nothing in this article is meant to be medical advice. Please consult your own healthcare provider.
Some info below taken from: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2832199/
For years, I’ve been fascinated by what is called “the placebo effect,” thinking of the benefits in consciously harnessing and directing this phenomenal capacity.
In the 1970s, when I was trained as a registered nurse, nurses were encouraged to value the placebo effect as normal and positive. Placebo was not a dirty word for us. We regarded it as a powerful ally and our very manner of bedside nursing was meant to enhance placebo effects.
Truth is, all of us are elegantly designed to self-heal. It isn’t mumbo-jumbo, it’s just the way it is; a scientifically demonstrable fact. Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Ted Kaptchuk states that brain-imaging studies bring “…good preliminary evidence that describes the hardwiring of the placebo effect--that is, the impact of symbolic treatment, and how it’s mediated through the neurobiology of the brain to produce physical effects in illnesses.” And “… it’s a real physiological effect, so people are not crazy by being a placebo responder. Placebos cause measurable changes in neurobiological signaling pathways.” Those pathways are the naturally occurring opiates, plus a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Heard of “endorphins”?
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine (see above for URL) defines the placebo effect as “… a beneficial health outcome resulting from a person’s anticipation that an intervention … will help them. A clinician’s style in interacting with patients also may bring about a positive response that is independent of any specific treatment.”
At least one study has found that the effect can be created by cues that are out of the range of our everyday consciousness, subliminal cues. And a placebo effect can be brought into play even if the individual knows he/she is using a placebo.
The placebo itself is increasingly recognized as much more that a “sugar pill.” Medical researchers suggest that it has more to do with the patient’s experience of compassion and caring from the practitioner, as well as the individual’s trust in the practitioner and expectations for the treatment or interaction. Thus, we can say that the placebo effect can be activated through the act of compassionate caring for another in distress. And here, the qualities of being a good listener, showing warmth and empathy, become medicinal, if you will, reminiscent of the style of bedside nursing some of us nurses were taught in the 1970s.
But are we dependent on another for the placebo to take effect? Personally, I think as research continues it will show what millions have already experienced for eons: this is entirely under our own conscious control. (see traumaresourceinstitute.com/ichill-3/). I believe there are zillions of effective means by which we can bring about the placebo effect and enhance our natural capacity to heal and be well: the intentional use of mindfulness meditation, prayer, yoga, tai chi and resiliency skills.
What self-healing needs above all is dependably committing to a routine of self-care. Find that good fit and practice.
Callie Wight is a California state-licensed registered nurse with a Master of Arts in psychology.