The placebo effect, or the body’s innate ability to heal

Although it has been known about since at least the 1500s, the placebo effect was first demonstrated in 1799 by the English physician John Haygarth. He experimented with a medical procedure of the time that used metal pointers called “Perkins tractors” that were supposed to “draw out” disease. He carried out the procedure on two groups – one group had the real metal pointers applied, while the other had a cheap wooden device applied instead. The devices were applied in the same way and the patients given the same information about the treatment. Both devices had the same efficacy in healing the patients; although it’s arguable as to if either device did anything beyond facilitating the placebo effect!

American medic Henry Beecher was the first scientist to quantify the placebo effect during World War II. While treating wounded soldiers, Beecher ran out of morphine and instead started using a saline solution, while still telling the soldiers he was using morphine. 40 per cent of the soldiers receiving the saline solution reported a reduction in pain!

The placebo effect

Today, drug trials have to prove that their treatment is more effective than the placebo effect in double blind studies – often it’s not. But the effect goes well beyond just drugs and archaic medical procedures.

An experiment was carried out in 2002 on patients with knee osteoarthritis. 180 patients were randomly assigned to receive either arthroscopic surgery or a placebo surgery. Patients in the placebo group received skin incisions and underwent a simulated procedure without insertion of the arthroscope. The groups that underwent surgery had the same improvement in knee pain as the placebo group! (Read about the full experiment)

We can’t talk about the placebo effect without addressing the “nocebo” effect. This is when the patient develops negative side effects due to their expectations from a drug or treatment. There are studies that have been carried out in the same manner of placebo studies, but instead the patients were told about the negative side effects of the drug they thought they were taking. These patients report a significant increase in the side effects they were told could occur, even though they didn’t take any drug at all! (Read the full meta-analysis of these studies)

If a doctor tells a patient that their condition is improving, the patient often does get better. If the doctor conveys confidence that the treatment will work, the likelihood of the patient getting better following the treatment increases. Or like the above, if a doctor tells a patient they may experience side effects, it increases the likelihood that they will. Every healing modality has a placebo effect, but that doesn’t discount the role of the person carrying out the treatment. They are still helping the patient to heal, be it via physical (drugs, surgery, chiropractic, nutrition), mental (psychology, hypnotherapy, counselling) or energetic (acupuncture, reiki/energy healing) routes. But in the end, the patient still has to heal themselves, even if it’s taking place on an unconscious level.

The placebo effect gets a bad rap in the west, we say “it’s just the placebo effect”, but the healing takes place nonetheless. Don’t discount the power of your own mind and belief in yourself to overcome illness and injury – you’ll be amazed at how powerful a healer you can be. Talk to your body - tell it you want it to heal and use visualisation techniques to show your body what to do. This sort of visualisation has been used by many people, including myself, to speed their rate of recovery. I’m sure you’ve heard stories of someone who had suffered a serious spinal injury and was told they’d never walk again, only to prove the doctors wrong through sheer will and determination. One such person is Dr. Joe Dispenza – you can hear his story on youtube.

If you’re struggling with dis-ease, illness or injury, seek out any healing modalities that resonate because they can all help. And somewhere along the way, you might just find the key to unlock your own healing potential.

And if you feel like some energy healing could help you, you can book a session online. Energy healing is essentially about giving you additional high vibrational energies to help you heal yourself, be it for physical, emotional, mental or even spiritual issues.


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