Placebo or the Power of the Mind

The leading UK publication The Economist recently ran an article called Think yourself better, where it was claimed that rather than alternative medicine, it is the power of the mind or the placebo effect that helps to heal and cure people.

For a long time there has been a hue and cry about the British National Health Service funding homeopathy, with many in mainstream medicine calling for the stoppage of this funding. Those in mainstream medicine and pharma want this funding to stop because they supposedly think it is a waste of public money.

Placebo EffectAnd yet those that use homeopathy and other alternative and complementary medicines will swear by the efficacy of the treatment that they use; which have often worked when conventional medicine has not.

So when the nay sayers argue that it is merely the placebo effect and the power of the mind that is supposed to yield results – as in the cited article, then how do they explain the fact that the placebo effect did not kick in with conventional or main stream medication.

Many who use complementary or alternative therapies do so after having tried and tested other pharmacological options which have not worked for them.

The placebo effect on the human system, where the person thinks they are getting better and therefore they do get better, cannot be denied. The mind is a very powerful thing and in many cases we can ‘think’ ourselves better so it is not the placebo effect that is being denied here.

But to say that all complementary and alternative treatments are placebo (described by the article as “sham medical treatment… pharmacologically inert sugar pill, piece of pretend surgery”) is shortsighted and rigid to say the least.

Another point that the article largely ignores is the fact that alternative therapies, have far fewer side effects when compared with mainstream pharmaceutical medications.

There is a claim made that homeopaths are permitted to make claims about curing problems such as malaria when there is no evidence of this working.

Certainly there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that homeopathy is effective against this and a host of other ailments – and even if it is not, it has still not caused any harm or side effect so why the mainstream medical community is up in arms against alternative and complementary treatments is really a mystery.

If people do benefit, even if it is only from the placebo effect which works for them, they have still done it by the power of their mind and without putting chemicals in their body.

The bottom line is, that each one of us is uniquely different and the one size fits all approach of mainstream medication is limited in its view. This limited view is expanded by complementary therapies which alter to suit the person, and this is the reason for their success.

Posted in: Alternative Medicine

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  1. David Batencourt D.C., M.D. says:

    The allopathic medical community and the pharmacological corporations have protested against alternative medicine for hundreds of years. In fact these organizations have a very strong propaganda machine that churns out stories against alternative medicine on a regular basis. You are almost guaranteed that once a year there will be a 20/20 show that talks about how risky it is to be manipulated by a chiropractor or the significant side effects of herbal medicine.
    Why does this occur? Because alternative therapies work and when something works there are always those that are threatened. The threat then evokes a response and the response is disinformation and scare tactics.
    Bottom line is this that the western medical world will always oppose or try to merge, take or steal the therapies of the alternative medicine world. An example of this is the use of B vitamins for carpal tunnel. For years chiropractors used B vitamins for the treatment of carpal tunnel symptoms and for years the western medical world said it did not work. Then one day there was an article published by a major medical journal citing that western medicine had found that B vitamins could reduce carpal tunnel syndrome. What? Exactly, the success had been so significant that the western medicine docs could not reject it any more they had to claim it.
    It is time that we as alternative providers stand up, speak out and educate the public about what is available. We need to use the internet to educate people about how well therapies work and produce more research that validates our therapies. It is then that the general public can make informed decisions and tell their elected officials what they want for health care.
    Do not be discouraged by an article that says there is a brain body connection. We have known that for years. The mind has the wonderful power to heal. Look at this article as more publicity for the alternative medicine world and use it to educate.

  2. Melrose says:

    The placebo effect is very powerful and may mimic the effectiveness of a therapy. Scientific research aims to sort out placebo effects from the effects of a potential treatment, such as a new drug or supplement, in placebo-controlled trials. However, it is unlikely that all of the positive outcomes observed from homeopathic therapies can be attributed to placebo effects. Scientific studies do exist that compare homeopathic therapies to placebo treatments. compiles the evidence and makes it easy to read.