Both the placebo effect and its opposite nocebo effect are sources of fascination for students of mind body healing and medical researchers alike. Likewise, the healing power of the mind is often a bane to those studying the effectiveness of new drugs and surgery because it cannot be predicted or controlled.
Placebo means "I will please". When your subconscious mind accepts a suggestion and completely believes it to be true, it acts to make it a reality.
Because we are programmed to believe what authority figures such as doctors, tell us, healing may occur even if our treatment was completely bogus.
The brain is responsible for directing many functions of the body. Perhaps one of the most interesting is how your powerful subconscious mind can bring about either spontaneous healing or illness. Either way, it appears that the subconscious mind must first hold the belief. It then directs orders to the DNA and the cells of the body to create according to what it believes or is programmed to do.
Whether a mind body healing happens coincidentally or as hoped, stories of miraculous instantaneous recoveries demonstrate the powerful connection of body and mind. Even though we may think otherwise, this type of healing is so common, that drug researchers are required to have a control group of participants receiving placebos, usually sugar pills or saline solution, instead of the drug being tested.
At the end of prescription drug commercials, listen for the list of possible side effects and how many study subjects improved due to the placebo effect alone. That number is usually around one-third, or 33%. I was stunned to hear a recent urinary incontinence drug commercial stating that 50% of subjects on placebos showed improvement. That means half of the people experienced the same good results that people on the actual drug had, without the negative side effects.
Some studies suggest that even when people are told they are receiving a placebo, a percentage of them improve. There is also evidence that the color and size of the pill influences how many people improve.
Blue tends to be associated with calming down, while a red pill suggests speeding up.
As the following video demonstrates, a few fascinating studies have even shown the positive effects of realistic, but fake surgeries. This well-known placebo surgery study was conducted in Houston in 2002. Researchers at the Houston VA Medical Center and Baylor College of Medicine found that a common type of knee surgery was no more beneficial than the placebo effect. As you will hear, Dr. Bruce Moseley of Methodist Hospital in Houston was astonished by the result of his carefully crafted placebo surgeries.
Modern medicine is not alone when it comes to the placebo effect.
A recent study showed that people treated correctly with acupuncture had just as much back pain relief as those who were treated with needles placed randomly.
A similar effect happens when people under deep hypnosis accept the suggestion that they have a rash, so a rash develops right before their eyes. Then it instantly vanishes with another suggestion.
Shamans and faith healers take advantage of the healing power of the mind by using elaborate rituals to build up belief and the emotional state of patients before a healing. Emotion and belief together is a potent combination for getting the subconscious to act. Note, however, that this is not always the case. Some people experience spontaneous natural healing without evident emotion or belief involved by either the healer or the one being healed.
I had this happen to me. When the chiropractor hired by my insurance company wrote in his report that my whiplash would be all better in six months, I laughed. My chiropractor and I would joke about it during my appointments. How could he possibly know how long it would take? At the five month mark, I was in more pain than ever. So much for his prediction, I thought, wishing it were true. But by mid-January, almost six months to the day, the joke was on me. The pain miraculously disappeared. Somehow, my subconscious mind accepted his prediction and the placebo effect worked for me.
Trying to fully understand, tap into, and master this creative and healing power of the subconscious mind is a popular are of study for individuals seeking to put it to work for mind body healing, manifesting abundance and achieving a variety of personal goals.
Although it is not fully understood, the placebo effect and its opposite nocebo effect are, without a doubt, real powers of your mind. Hopefully in the future we will understand how to harness this power and use it on command. In the meantime, we can only marvel and be thankful when we get to experience our own personal miracle healing.