The efficacy of medical treatment is primarily attributed to surgical and/or pharmaceutical interventions. It is, however, widely accepted that positive patient outcomes may also be attributable to inactive therapies, such as inert drugs and the psychological support afforded to the patient via ‘the treatment’: ‘the placebo effect’.
Placebo explores the potential that knowing a treatment has an organic, plant-based origin renders it more acceptable, tolerable and, possibly, more efficacious.
The placebo response is a complex but little understood phenomenon. Not all conditions are placebo-responsive. However, pain is placebo-sensitive and significant research has been undertaken into pain relief. An injection of saline can relieve pain. How? It defies logic. Saline is not an analgesic.
Not everyone responds to a placebo. Further, some people have a negative, or ‘nocebo’, response: an adverse response to an inert substance, such as experiencing side effects.
Merely visiting a health practitioner can incite a response, placebo or nocebo.
Visiting the doctor as a child may have instigated and cultivated your current disposition; conditioned by the pain relief ‘dispensed’ via a jelly bean.
There is strong evidence that the placebo response plays a significant role in the treatment of depression. Unfortunately, possibly due to ethical concerns, research in this area lags the inquiry into in analgesia and the placebo response. However, the available research suggests there are areas of correlation: medical imaging of the brain and genomics will significantly assist in expanding knowledge of the placebo response.
The problem with natural: ‘natural’ does not necessarily = ‘safe’.
St John’s Wort is a mildly therapeutic natural treatment for depression. However, it also has multiple drug interactions and should not be taken with many prescribed medications, including antidepressants. This concern is relevant to many other natural remedies.
Evidence indicates that ‘sham’ surgical procedures can elicit a placebo response, while colour can change the perception of the effect of a ‘medication’.
During the testing of a new drug, a placebo is used to help determine the efficacy of the medication. However, research suggests that a random control double-blind trial may not adequately quantify the real impact of the placebo response.
How and why do we respond? As suggested above, our response to placebo may begin when, as a child, we receive a reward following treatment by a doctor: we are conditioned to believe that receiving treatment will be beneficial. However, it is far more than this, as not everyone responds to placebo: evidence suggests there is also a genetic predisposition.
The undisputed: for it to work … you must believe.