Is the Placebo Effect Real?
How many times have you heard or read about someone who was sent home with a little-to-no chance of recovery by their doctor and …
Still made a complete recovery?
I am willing to bet you may even know of at least one person who chose to do no treatment or went against the conventional grain and is alive and well years later.
Have you ever wondered why that is, or, how that “miracle” happened?
Here is another question for you:
Have you ever wondered how two people with the exact same condition can undergo the exact same treatment and only one of them survive?
The answer is two words: placebo effect.
The placebo effect is defined as:
"A beneficial effect produced by a placebo treatment that cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself, and must, therefore, be due to the patient’s belief in the treatment"
I am sure you have heard this term, and like most people, you may associate it with something fake or negative. The truth is that …
The placebo effect is by far the most powerful medicine in the world
There is no drug, herb, superfood or nutrient that even comes close to the power of the placebo effect.
The best part about the placebo effect is that it’s all about what you believe, and if you believe strongly enough, this cascade of healing will turn on like a light switch. Modern science, drug companies, and even religious institutions have proven how powerful the placebo effect really is.
Here is one specific example using pain tolerance of how powerful the placebo effect can in fact be. This study showed how brain conductivity has the potential to predict placebo response across chronic pain clinical trials. The evidence found in these studies were consistent in that clinical placebo responses may have biological underpinnings and show that resting-state functional MRI’s can reveal that “active treatment in some patients diminishes placebo -related analgesia”. (1)
According to an article published in Harvard Men’s Health Watch titled, “The power of the placebo effect”, it was stated:
Your mind can be a powerful healing tool when given the chance
The idea that the brain can convince your body a fake treatment is a real thing- the so-called placebo effect-- and thus stimulate healing has been around for millennia. Now science has found that under the right circumstances, a placebo can be just as effective as traditional treatments”.
Professor Ted Kaptchuk of Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center stated “The placebo effect is more than positive thinking--believing in a treatment or procedure will work. It’s about creating a strong connection between the brain and body and how they work together”. (2)
Let’s back up for just a moment. If you have ever been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, chances are you were told that you are going to have to fight hard in order to get that pot of gold at the end of the tunnel, otherwise known as, “a second chance”.
Here is a dose of reality for you: The fight in you and treatment are only two small parts of the equation. The most important part is your belief in the path you have taken.
How is it possible that two people with the same illness and the exact same treatment can have different end results?
This happens all the time and the answer lies in their firm belief in the path they took.
There are many factors at play for why people survive or die from dis-ease like age, constitution or how much quality muscle tissue they have. The one factor that has the most profound effect on their ability to survive is their belief in the treatment. A person’s belief system is what leads their fight for survival.
If you don’t believe, you most likely don’t have the will or desire to fight.
When you are faced with a life-threatening illness, you must feel good about your decision and how you will move forward to deal with the issue. That feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you have decided on a path determines if you will thrive.
About 8 years ago, a very good friend of mine was diagnosed with a very aggressive illness and was given less than a 5% chance to live. He made the choice to undergo an aggressive treatment which was very, very hard on his body. After a period of time, his doctors put him into a medically induced coma. They did this because his level of suffering was so extreme they didn’t think he would make it if he continued the treatment in a conscious state.
The story ended well because he survived the brutal beating on his body.
To be clear, there were several close calls where I was told to come and say goodbye to my friend. While it took some time, his immune system did kick back in and
now he is “healthy” and dis-ease free!
A lot of people say, “well, the treatment worked!”.
I say, it only worked because my friend believed in the choice he made. Because of that strong belief, coupled with the will and desire to fight (yes, that is correct, even in a coma). He told me later, that his desire to survive was because not only did he not want to leave his son fatherless but his belief in the treatment itself.
Do we fight or embrace?
I have mentioned several times in this article the idea of “fighting an illness” or “fighting for your life”. A very important question to consider, do we fight it, or, do we embrace it? In the sport of powerlifting, we use the term “grit” to describe if someone has the “fight” in them. The truth is, you either have it or you don’t. It is not something you can force.
Last year when
One of the things I had the honor of seeing was a female lion kill a wildebeest. As the male lion was eating the wildebeest, a thought went through my mind:
Do you “fight” a force that you know from the start will kill you, should you fight it, or, should you embrace and outsmart it?
That same day I was taught that if a rhino is chasing you, you should take a hard right or left. The reason is that rhinos only see straight ahead, a simple hard right or left will outsmart them. If we are smart enough to know it is not a good idea to fight that lion or rhino because the odds are not in our favor, then why not entertain the idea of embracing and outsmarting the illness in order to beat it?
I want to remind you, it does not make you any less of a fighter if you embrace and outsmart. As a matter of fact, it means you are working smarter and not harder to reach your goal.
One of my favorite quotes from Hippocrates is
“It is far more important to know what person the disease has than what disease the person has.”
Fear can be your greatest asset or your biggest obstacle. I think most of us would admit that at some point in our lives we have made bad decisions. When we look back at those decisions, I am sure you would also agree that they were made out of fear. Those fears could have been brought on by a variety of different things.
For example, losing friends and family because your choices were not aligned with what they thought was in your best interest. Have you ever taken the time to ask yourself what kind of a person turns their back on you simply because your beliefs didn’t align with their beliefs? It is not uncommon that we take a bad path due to an overwhelming pressure to make a decision, and, because of that pressure, you didn’t think it through well enough. Based on your belief, that path can either produce the most powerful medicine known to mankind, the power of positivity, or, the most deadly medicine known to mankind, the power of negative thoughts.
One last “food for thought”. If you make a decision based on what someone else thinks is in your best interest, a doctor or family member, and if things don’t end well do you think they are going to take responsibility for that? I think you know the reality of how that ends. Most often they will justify it and think they did the best they could do. Considering most people’s reductionist way of thinking it is the only way that can justify the guilt that they feel. The sad part is they are correct in saying, that “they” did the best “they” could do.
Take home message:
Frankly, I don’t care whether you decide to use conventional or alternative medicine if you or a loved one are ever forced to fight for your lives from a deadly illness. What I do care about is your frame of mind when you make the decision about your path and throughout the journey itself. Your choice must be aligned with your beliefs. Negative thoughts are so powerful that they will take out any potential positive action. It will be as easy as shooting ducks in a barrel. What
Something to think about...
About Michael Stuchiner
Michael Stuchiner is an experienced Master Herbalist, the Head of Education for Z Natural Foods, a teacher, and an accomplished author. With an 18-year specialization in medicinal herbs, Mike also has a vast knowledge in tonic and adaptogenic herbalism. Mike has enjoyed a 25-year career as an elite-level competitive powerlifter where he learned to heal his ‘mind and body’ as an avid user of herbal remedies.
As an “in-the-trenches” herbalist, Mike has done more than 85 speaking engagements, consulted with clients ranging from young to elderly, worked with athletes in virtually all sports and with clients who have “dis-ease” states of a wide variety. Mike also mentors student Master Herbalists and will continue to teach the next generation to grow a deeper wisdom of the human body through appropriate herbal remedies.
ZNF Mind and Body Restorative Program (Instant Download)
If you are new to the world of herbal remedies or want to sharpen your skills, Mike is the author of the ZNF Mind and Body Restorative Program. This 78-page, easy-to-read eBook is $9.99 (Immediate download). For more information visit the Z Natural Foods store, or click here to see a list of the important topics.
1) Tétreault P1, Mansour A1, Vachon-Presseau E1, Schnitzer TJ2,3, Apkarian AV1,2,4, Baliki MN2,5. 2016. “Brain Connectivity Predicts Placebo Response across Chronic Pain Clinical Trials”. Pubmed.gov accessed 6/8/18 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27788130