On the Brain: When believing is healing
June 1st, 2011
04:54 PM ET

On the Brain: When believing is healing

If you're sick, it doesn't hurt to believe that you're getting better - in fact, it may actually help. And when it comes to many alternative medicines, such as herbal remedies and acupuncture, belief alone may be the reason that you feel a sense of comfort and healing.

The Economist has an overview of the truth behind alternative medicine and the power of the placebo effect. A placebo is basically a sham medical treatment that isn't supposed to have any effect on health. But if a doctor tells you that a particular pill is going to make you feel happier, it may not matter if the pill is made of flour; your belief in it alone may heighten your emotions.

Harvard professor Irving Kirsch says the placebo effect works best on conditions that are emotional and subjective. A recent study, reported by WebMD, suggested that the placebo effect is at work in many headache treatments. But it can also change your perception of pain as well as your heartbeat, blood pressure, digestion and other factors that you don't control, according to Karin Meissner of Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany.

And it appears that more involved fake procedures are more convincing than simple ones in healing your body and mind. Studies have found that people respond better to phony injections than pills, and a convincing pretend surgery is even better. Surprisingly, you might even see improvement from a placebo even if your doctor tells you that it's not real medicine, a 2010 study in PLoS ONE found.

Rigorous analyses of scientific studies have shown that much of what is known as alternative medicine is bunk, with a few exceptions such as St. John's wort for mild depression (Here's the low-down on this and other remedies for depression from Health.com). But the simple belief in a remedy carries a lot of weight, according to experts. And when you go to a practitioner of alternative medicine, you're likely to get someone who offers you more face time and greater sense of reassurance about a therapy than a regular doctor. The positive relationship you form with him or her may have a placebo effect in itself.

This is a point emphasized recently by CNNhealth.com's own mind and body columnist Dr. Charles Raison.  He wrote that a patient's strong emotional connection to a doctor seems to be a big factor in recovery. A recent study showed this effect in depression, and suggested that the doctor-patient bond was perhaps even a more important determinant of recovery than whether the patient received a placebo or a real drug.

Interestingly, although we have all kinds of fancy names for alternative therapies that probably act as placebos, many doctors shy away from the idea of prescribing good old fashioned sugar pills. But in some places, that may be changing. Dr. Raison mentioned also that the German Medical Association started advising doctors to give out placebos, which may make sense given the benefits described here.

soundoff (608 Responses)
  1. Your PalBob

    The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton is a great book to read if you want to explore this subject further. It's all about our perception.

    June 1, 2011 at 18:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bam

      all well and good but no matter what a woman 200% can not get pregnant without the aid of a mans seed

      June 1, 2011 at 23:17 | Report abuse |
    • Response

      Great book! Its amazing what the mind can do!

      June 1, 2011 at 23:33 | Report abuse |
    • Hugo

      Bam, why not? Scientists have cloned sheep.

      June 2, 2011 at 03:26 | Report abuse |
    • Aden Medina

      There's logic in everything. Have some. You apparently need it.

      June 2, 2011 at 05:50 | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      Also check out Thomas Cousin's book. None of this is new.

      June 2, 2011 at 08:00 | Report abuse |
  2. Peter E

    I think this is less a comment on how good placebos are, than how gullible Americans have become in believing that the cure for any ailment is to take more drugs.
    Also a comment on how big of a sham the 'legitimate' pharmaceutical industry has become.

    June 1, 2011 at 21:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • trace

      Very much agreed. Thanks for saying it so I didn't have to.

      June 1, 2011 at 22:44 | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      The "legitimate" pharmaceutical industry is required to prove that their drugs are more effective than the Placebo effect, whereas this "alternative" medicine is expensive for something that generally IS a placebo. "Alternative medicine" should be rather happy they're not required to undergo the rigorous test and proof of effectiveness that real drugs are required to undergo. That doesn't mean real drugs are perfect, but alternative medicine is still a blatant sham.

      June 1, 2011 at 23:18 | Report abuse |
    • Patrick

      When you get cancer you take a sugar pill and let's see how that works out for ya.

      June 1, 2011 at 23:26 | Report abuse |
    • Katherine

      I'm pretty sure the placebo effect occurs in other societies besides the United States.

      Purely as an observation, the people that are so opposed to the effects of the placebo effect are actually proving its validity. If a person does not believe in the "benefits" of the placebo then (s)he will not experience them.

      June 2, 2011 at 07:35 | Report abuse |
  3. Greg

    How much will it cost to get no real treatment?

    June 1, 2011 at 22:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Steve

      Just wait till the new health insurance law takes full effect.

      June 1, 2011 at 22:33 | Report abuse |
  4. Dennis

    I'm screwed then.

    June 1, 2011 at 22:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. X39

    And this might explain why all those homeopathy nuts are certain that their tap water remedies are actually working.

    June 1, 2011 at 22:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Here's the truth

      No, it shows that X39 is an idiot and knows nothing about homeopathy, bioenergies, or anything beyond his pill bottle. which does work, as has been shown in plenty of double-blind studies on both people and animals.

      The real placebos is the sheeple's codependency on Big Pharma's drugs that don't cure anything.

      June 2, 2011 at 01:24 | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      Can you cite a single study in any peer reviewed journal, other than the one thoroughly trashed Nature article, which shows homeopathy has ANY effectiveness? And what is this "bioenergy" you speak of, because, speaking as a physics major, I tend to find whenever anyone uses the word 'energy' in most contexts, they have no real concept of what the term actually means. "Acupuncture moves your chi energy around and blah blah" "what is chi energy" "it's your life force, your body energy", "what's your body energy", etc etc.

      You people can shout things like "bioenergy" all you want, but you never seem to provide any robust explanations when really questioned. If you did, you probably wouldn't be susceptible to the placebo effect in the first place.

      June 2, 2011 at 03:27 | Report abuse |
    • Alyssa

      Also, it's fairly ridiculous to say that drugs made by pharmaceutical companies don't cure anything.

      June 2, 2011 at 08:10 | Report abuse |

    Yes well I am sure a placebo will do nothing for cancer from your cell phone.

    June 1, 2011 at 22:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Todd

    Could not agree more, Peter E!

    June 1, 2011 at 22:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Bob

    This article is B.S. Roughly 30% of the positive effects of any therapy–whether eastern or western–is placebo. To imply herbal & acupuncture remedies are 100% or even mostly placebo is incredibly biased. But it is nice to see that western medicine is included in this though. But the main emphasis of the article is still biased against "alternative medicine" compared with western medicine. Perhaps much of the placebo effect with alternative therapies like chinese herbs or acupuncture is really about how little western doctors understand other modes of healing.

    June 1, 2011 at 22:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Andrew

      Real medicine requires clinical trials, and it must be tested to prove it is more effective than a placebo. Doesn't need to be much more effective, and yes the placebo might be a major contributing factor, but they still require proof that it is more effective. Alternative medicine does not do that, it has never been shown to be more effective than a placebo, thus, it deserves far less credibility.

      June 1, 2011 at 23:20 | Report abuse |
    • jake

      I agree with Bob. The author's language and tone make it apparent that he doesn't really understand the reasons seek what he calls 'alternative' medicine. Further, the author uses the article as an attack on these practices rather than focusing on the amazing healing ability of the mind. It feels like a commercial for Western medicine.

      June 2, 2011 at 00:56 | Report abuse |
    • Here's the truth

      "Perhaps much of the placebo effect with alternative therapies like chinese herbs or acupuncture is really about how little western doctors understand other modes of healing."


      June 2, 2011 at 01:26 | Report abuse |
    • Leon

      There is a lot of miss information in the article and an equivalent amount of ignorance in the responses on the subject. Acupuncture, as an example, has undergone clinical trials which demonstrated its effectiveness beyond a placebo effect. Unfortunately if something doesn't fit into the western scientific paradigm it is considered a sham even if it's effectiveness has been demonstrated over hundreds or more years.

      June 2, 2011 at 01:33 | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Just wanted to add to Leon's comment about Chinese Medicine having to undergo double-blind randomized control trial as well to prove that it works. One of the big differences between Western & Eastern medicine is that Western medicine normally treats with a "one size-fits-all" mentality while Eastern medicine's great strength is treating patients as individuals, i.e., how conditions manifest differently in different people. Typical clinical tests are much better for the one-size-fits-all approach.

      June 2, 2011 at 02:26 | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      According to the Cochrane Collaboration more than 2/3rds of medical trail results are questionable due to clinical trial design flaws, design implementation mistakes, biases, conflicts of interest, etc. Our news media's own biases and lack of understanding about the limitations of such testing create misleading news coverage about the results with overly simplistic headlines and just crappy reporting of the "facts." The Cochrane Collaboration came into being as part of the realization of the top experts in Western Medicine that the vast majority of Western Medicine is not evidence-based.

      June 2, 2011 at 02:40 | Report abuse |
    • sriram

      you are wrong Bob, a lot of allopathy doctors do understand the importance of alternate medicine..... they do prescribe physical therapies etc... atleast they did to me.... and also, I am a pharmaceutical science student, I am doing my PhD..... we also believe that some of the plants do have medicinal properties.... there is a subject named Pharmacognocy... which deals with medicinal plants.... i took this subject in my junior as well as senior years... we do know the importance of alternate medicine, but not all the alternate methods work for every disease.... we could also talk about vaccines, they are the immune boosters.... makes body resistant to specific diseases.... technically, this doesn't have to fall under allopathy, since we are manipulating the behavior of the human body.... yet vaccination is the major preventive technique of western medicine... see, we do think about alternate ways.....

      June 2, 2011 at 03:07 | Report abuse |
  9. Ryan

    I'm addicted to placebos. I tried quitting, but it didn't make a difference 🙂

    June 1, 2011 at 22:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rick

      i like it. in fact, i am going to steal it

      June 2, 2011 at 07:35 | Report abuse |
  10. Nancy

    And let's not forget the biggest sham treatment of them all: prayer.

    June 1, 2011 at 22:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • GetAClue

      Another amazingly ignorant comment. Shouldn't you be reading your Saul Alinsky book or something?

      June 1, 2011 at 23:29 | Report abuse |
    • Hugo

      Why is prayer a sham? Even if no deity is listening, the person praying could be helped simply because prayer could be relaxing to that person. (Could be like meditation.)

      If you get guidance from prayer, and there's no deity, then it's your subconscious. Listening to your subconscious is usually a good thing. (Usually.)

      What's the problem with prayer again?

      June 2, 2011 at 03:39 | Report abuse |
    • RR1White

      I've seen prayer accomplish some pretty amazing things. It would actually be very interesting to conduct a double blind study on the effectiveness of sincere and faithful prayer. I mean, if it actually makes a difference, and I don't mean just making you feel good, then there should be some way to statistically measure that effect. I don't know how you would actually design such a study, but if you could, you could potentially prove or deny the existence of God. Not that any of the religious people or atheists would accept results that were contrary to their beliefs, but still...

      June 2, 2011 at 05:39 | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      Not sure why it didn't appear... anyway,
      RR1, there are studies, the STEP project was the most recent offhand and showed that knowing people are praying for you certainly doesn't do you any favors, and not knowing people are praying for you when they are does pretty much nothing at all (as expected). Praying yourself though might very well have stress relieving properties.

      June 2, 2011 at 07:06 | Report abuse |
    • sumday

      prayer is the belief in something- this article just showed you that if you believe in something it has an impact! read the article again- just by believing it can change your heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, ect all things you generally have zero control of. SO if someone PRAYS and those things change then it DID HAVE SOME EFFECT! If it's stupid but works it's not stupid! So calling it a sham just means you don't understand what was just written. Believing -wheather through prayer or a fake pill has an effect on a person's body as the article just said so how can you say prayer is a sham when this article just proved that it has an effect on the human body?

      June 2, 2011 at 08:00 | Report abuse |
  11. bam

    a placebo works EXACTLY like religion, it u believe in it no matter how phony it is your mind will gitter done. well unless it is something your body couldnt heal in the first place by itself

    June 1, 2011 at 23:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Response

      Again, if any of you read the "Biology of Belief", you would understand the healing power of ones mind. Religion is not bad. It is good for many reasons, but that does not mean its "REAL". The mind likes to have positive energy. Its just like being in a room with a bunch of jerks. It may rub off on some. I could ramble on and on, but the book speaks a lot of truth. I am not religious by any means, but it def gave me a respect for people that are. They get positive feelings, which are good for them. As long as they dont come a knocken at my door we are all good.. 🙂

      June 1, 2011 at 23:39 | Report abuse |
    • cm

      Bam, I can explain it to ya, but I cannot understand it for ya.

      June 2, 2011 at 00:26 | Report abuse |
    • sumday

      the EXACT same thing can be said of government and the economy- As long as you believe the government things will get better because they have our best interst at heart, or the economy as long as we keep spending it will be ok- There really is zero difference bt religion and government as both are based of faith and obedience. Oh wait with religion there comes expected moral conduct with government their is no moral conduct unless they first borrow that concept from religion.

      June 2, 2011 at 08:05 | Report abuse |
  12. Star

    IA friend once asked me "have you ever noticed that "kissing a boo boo" actually makes it feel better. I thought it was such a funny question/comment, but have often thought back to it. Just in case, I kiss my kids' boo boos, and it often works 🙂

    June 1, 2011 at 23:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Alyssa

      I've always found it interesting that human touch often alleviates pain somewhat. In fact our first instinct after an injury is to touch the injury to control the pain.

      June 2, 2011 at 08:14 | Report abuse |
  13. anna s

    I so totally agree with peter E-maybe u should b a placebo doctor-im not joking

    June 1, 2011 at 23:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Here's the truth

      We have placebo doctors. They're called allopathic doctors.

      June 2, 2011 at 01:29 | Report abuse |
  14. anna s

    Also-to greg-GOOD ONE-LOL

    June 1, 2011 at 23:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. tstockt

    Make sure to add chiropractic to this list of placebo.

    June 1, 2011 at 23:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Matt

    I've always said that there is no such thing as the Placebo Effect. My belief is that sugar cures everything.

    June 1, 2011 at 23:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Jeremy Fritz

    it is the power of Jesus Christ thats healing a person! enough said. God bless you.

    June 2, 2011 at 00:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sriram

      faith is good...... medicine is better

      June 2, 2011 at 02:49 | Report abuse |
  18. Emancipate

    Funny how they continue to try and falsely claim alternative methods aren't real cures. My mother was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis, an incurable disease. Glad to say it's gone now, thanks to alternative medicines, actually just natural supplements. After being diagnosed with a stomach ulcer, being prescribed Nexium and some other chemical crap, I decided not to take them and go an alternative route, and here I am with no ulcer. After being fed so much propaganda from our own pharma companies and seeing how doctors, not all, but a lot of them, practice medicine for the money, alternatives are becoming the norm. Get used to it, especially with the high cost of medical care. Easy to believe that the highest health statistics and life longevity exists outside our country, thanks to alternative means and better nutritional diets. Can't deny the fact that those cures have been around for thousands of years. I've studied both Western and Eastern medicines and good has come out of both. Time to combine the best treatments of both so we can get some real healing going on. Continual blessings, one love.

    June 2, 2011 at 00:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SB

      "Certain types of pulmonary fibrosis advance more slowly than others. For example, pulmonary fibrosis associated with scleroderma tends to have a more benign course and responds better to therapy; it can often be put into remission permanently."

      You know how long it took me to google that? 6 seconds! Literally Just 6 bloody seconds!!! *I TIMED IT*. It's taken me longer to type this post than to find the information that directly refutes your claim that your mother's pulmonary fibrosis was cured with alternative medicine. The causes are unknown and certain types can go into remission. That's enough to call bull on your claim. But I'm glad your mother is doing well.

      June 2, 2011 at 02:41 | Report abuse |
  19. John

    The power of belief is a healing modality. I have personally experienced it and know people who have healed profound, medically diagnosed infections and physical injuries. The difficulty is in integrating and embodying the belief and overcoming the cultural beliefs that surround us. Look up Terry McBride and The Hell I Can't for a reference. Those on this site who deny placebo effects and the power of the mind are, in fact, demonstrating that power because they will manifest their belief in non-belief.
    Good Luck!

    June 2, 2011 at 00:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. GnatB

    Uhm.. duh? Isn't that why they do blind & double blind studies when actually testing medicine, just to compare how it works on patients that get the treatment vs. patients that don't but think they did?

    That's part of why those good old "head-on, apply directly to the forehead" commercials didn't say what exactly it was supposed to be used for. They legally couldn't. Hadn't passed any FDA trials demonstrating it did anything more than what a placebo does.

    June 2, 2011 at 00:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. P.

    CNN failed to mention an important point from the Economist article. The "rigorous scientific analysis" quoted in the Economist is actually from a meta analysis. Meta analyses are inherently weak because they combine results from several unrelated studies. These unrelated studies typically will have differing methodologies, data collection, sample sizes, and statistical significance– which essentially means meta analyses are often comparing apples and oranges. The fact that the Economist's article was based on this one study is concerning, and I find it quite dangerous to widely quote this one potentially weak study without pointing out its limitations. I don't think you can draw such a strong conclusion from the data.

    June 2, 2011 at 00:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Adelina

    If you're sick, repent first. It makes one better, cleaner. Then try every ethical medical method of healing that is available and that you can. Pray for healing. Listen to God and honor Him. Don't try to force Him to work for you.

    June 2, 2011 at 01:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Here's the truth

    "Rigorous analyses of scientific studies have shown that much of what is known as alternative medicine is bunk"

    Baloney. CAM works, whether allopathic junk science thinks so or not. Got bias, Landau, or is it simply that Time-Warner's Big Pharma ties compel you to be an idiot?

    Most of allopathic medicine outside of trauma treatment is bunk, cures few, kills more, and most of those cured are the actual placebos. Sheeple are simply blind to the truth that real healing comes from the body and mind, not from a Big Pharma pill bottle, which only addresses symptoms and not causes, and keeps people ill to make more money off of them and the government hellth care system.

    Those of us who have studied and use holistic medicine know better. Except for traumas, allopathy should be the last means of treatment, not the first.

    June 2, 2011 at 01:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sriram

      Really?... no offense to alternate medicine, they do cure few diseases and conditions, especially ayurveda, acupuncture, chinese traditional medicine etc... but calling allopathic medicine sham is a drag.... why don't you find mortality rate from injuries in world war one and how it was reduced in world war 2... find what was one of the greatest inventions of that century..... then we will talk...

      June 2, 2011 at 02:43 | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      Yes, you pay expensive sums of money for products which demonstrate no more effectiveness than sugar pills, or worse, homeopathic medicine which is demonstrably no more effective than what it is, pure water. You really make us consumers of 'big pharma' who use products such as those derived from willow bark seem dumb, yep yep.

      June 2, 2011 at 03:22 | Report abuse |
  24. Dave

    Jesus Christ was quoted in the Bible saying the same thing. Alot of folks forget that it's your faith that heals you.

    June 2, 2011 at 02:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Alyssa

      Really it's your optimism that heals you. Faith, in the religious context, is irrelevant. I just tends to fuel optimism.

      June 2, 2011 at 08:25 | Report abuse |
  25. This is common sense

    When you are at peace in your soul, clearly it will have a good effect on your over all health. COMMON SENSE. This however, does NOT disprove God in any way shape or form. Sorry, nay-sayers. Keep nay-saying your way to hell.

    June 2, 2011 at 02:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Alyssa

      People making an assertion that god exists are the ones required to prove it. You can't disprove a negative, as you are suggesting. For example, prove to me that microscopic gnomes don't live in my sock drawer? Just because something is impossible to disprove doesn't make it any more ridiculous than my gnome scenario.

      June 2, 2011 at 08:34 | Report abuse |
  26. This is common sense

    Conviction of guilt is one thing you cannot "believe away" no matter how hard you try. You have only one thing to do, seek the mercy of God in patience and humility. If not, kill yourself. because you will be a nuisance in the world for those who are seeking the Kingdom while it may be found. Once God closes the gates, it's over. Right now He still seems to be inviting us. Take heed people.

    June 2, 2011 at 02:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Andrew

      "Believe in my religion or kill yourself"
      Hum, what if a Hindu said 'if you don't seek the graces of lord shiva you should kill yourself', would you listen? Probably not, so why should I listen to you?

      June 2, 2011 at 03:16 | Report abuse |
    • sriram

      well said Andrew, I am a hindu as well as a Pharma. student.... I wouldn't ask patients to pray and not take medicine or vice-verse... I would definitely recommend patients to take medicine, I am not saying everything can be cured, but medicine works.... but if someone wants to pray to their God or Gods and take medicines, fine by me....

      June 2, 2011 at 03:30 | Report abuse |
    • Alyssa

      It's funny, I find religions (and a fair amount of their flock) to be the nuisance to the world. We'd all be better off if we relied on rational decision making instead of fairy tales.

      June 2, 2011 at 08:36 | Report abuse |
  27. John Doe

    Alternative medicine has either been proved not to work, or has not be prove to work. You know what they call a treatment that has been proven to work? Medicine.

    June 2, 2011 at 02:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SB

      From Tim Minchin's 9 minute beat poem. 🙂

      June 2, 2011 at 02:26 | Report abuse |
  28. SB

    Any condition that goes away on its own is perfectly suitable for alternative medicine. It gives you some peace of mind while your body heals itself, and the effect in some people may even speed recovery. But if you've got a serious condition, please seek real medical help! Okay? A placebo will never treat childhood Leukemia, or perform better than Metronidazole (a prescribed antibiotic) for intestinal tract infections, or anything like that. Remember that real medicine has to perform better than placebo in clinical trials or it's rejected.

    June 2, 2011 at 02:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. redplanet

    Nutcases. These people wouldn't know science if it came up and injected them in the ass. Medicine blocks enzymes and stops normal processes. Identified as having severe and crippling RA by Stanford board certified MD's they told me I would be toast without their drugs and hip replacement surgery. My hips have had so much fun with my protocol (the one they call "alternative" or "wishing makes it so") and my clawed hands are free of pain and deformity and I am one happy camper. But hey – if these nutjobs want to trust the pharmcos, go ahead. Luckily I was studying statistics when I became ill and was taught how to deconstruct medical journal articles. Maybe one day they might teach MD's how to think instead of Rxing what a hot sales rep tells them. Meanwhile, my vitamins and herbs (yes, those things) cured me. I don't expect to be believed by these nutcases but that is too bad only for their pts, not for me.

    June 2, 2011 at 03:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Andrew

      Wouldn't someone studying statistics be a bit more careful about providing an anecdotal account and claiming it invalidates claims of doctors? I can't help but think that seems a little bit insane. "Smoking doesn't cause cancer, I've been smoking for 60 years and have perfectly fine lungs".

      Seriously, if you ever studied statistics, you should understand exactly how little your anecdote amounts to. Which really makes me question how good a student you were.

      June 2, 2011 at 03:33 | Report abuse |
    • sriram

      @redplanet... ur assumption is doctors don't prescribe herbal medicine or vitamins..... u r wrong.... check for quinine, used to treat malaria, its a plant alkaloid..... also check for digoxin... all the western/allopathy doctors prescribe these..... about vits, many doctors prescribe vitamins as adjuvant therapy, vit B complex injections etc.... most of the herbal companies don't study the effects of herbs on drugs, but pharm scientists do study the effect of herbs on medicines and treatment... check for drug-herbal interactions.... many of the cancer hospitals have nutritional therapy departments.... search google for facts....

      June 2, 2011 at 04:12 | Report abuse |
  30. kkg

    Many of the expensive "approved" cancer drugs out there are less effective than homeopathy besides being outright dangerous. It's all a game of money. Statistics are twisted and misrepresented to get drugs approved and most clinical trials are horses#1t. What you cannot make money on is never liked by pharmaceutical companies or doctors.

    June 2, 2011 at 03:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. yackey

    I have a cronic condition and let me tell u that docs have tried placebos on me but they don't work. Neither does alternative med. Only true meds work.

    June 2, 2011 at 03:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. R Burns

    As the article states, this works best for conditions that are affected by emotional and psychological factors. Yes, the mind and faith can do wonders-even save lives. But there are some diseases for which real medicine is the only help. I can tell you that I've had a much better life emotionally since changing from a young, insecure doctor who wasn't "on the same page" over my autoimmune disorders to an older country doctor with faith deep enough to offer prayer in the office as part of an exam if it is requested. We haven't gone there, but just knowing his general take on things and being treated in a relaxed, confident manner has made all the difference in whether I can feel well cared for. The medical treatment (prescriptions, lab tests, etc) are similar-for me, the results are far different!

    June 2, 2011 at 03:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. yackey

    And prayer does help

    June 2, 2011 at 03:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Andrew

      Depends on the case, but prayer seems to help much like meditation. However knowing others are praying for you apparently hindered recovery. I guess it only helps when you're doing the reflection, but stress relief is well known to help a vast number of ailments. Not a great cure to rely on, but it can't really hurt.

      Although seems kinda pointless for me when I don't believe in a god, guess I could meditate however.

      June 2, 2011 at 03:51 | Report abuse |
  34. cocopuf2

    Acupuncture, however, is NOT the same thing (as many physicians believe) as giving a "placebo pill" or an acupuncture treatment to someone who is sick and make the person believe that he is getting better; although, in MUCH LESS serious cases, it probably does work.

    June 2, 2011 at 03:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Andrew

    For everyone saying "big pharma is just trying to shoot down the naturalistic or whollistic industry", please, explain to me one thing, why?

    What is the motive? You can say "they want money", but if these medicines have been proven effective, as you argue, then why won't big pharma just market them themselves? Why would they not produce "herbal remedies" and "homeopathic remedies" for all the ailments you claim they solve when they're A) Dirt cheap to manufacture, B) Research you'd argue has already been done to show their effectiveness (otherwise you are saying 'big pharma is trying to shut down something I admit hasn't been proven effective), C) There is clearly a large market for them in the first place.

    I mean the naturalistic industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, if 'big pharma' really was as evil and money seeking as you people tend to argue, then any CEO would be an idiot not to get their head into the game if this stuff was effective.

    "So there's this billion dollar industry market for products which we can manufacture just by having a bunch of water and a tiny amount of pathogens, or collecting abundant natural resources, etc, lets instead try to make no one want it so we can sell and market our expensive to develop products".

    You people are really telling me that this big evil profit seeking industry has that poor a business model? Big pharma isn't trying to say this stuff isn't effective, because if it was effective, big pharma would be in the industry themselves. At least, they would be if they're as greedy as you people claim they are.

    June 2, 2011 at 03:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • eeeeeeeee

      golf clap. 🙂

      June 2, 2011 at 08:57 | Report abuse |
  36. hilarious

    Can you speak EngRISH? hilarious slideshow!! http://losangeles.ibtimes.com/articles/156161/20110602/what-is-engrish.htm#page3

    June 2, 2011 at 03:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. u. R. Idiots

    Why aqe people so afraid of religion? If you choose not to believe that is your choice. Its up to the indivuaj. So back off. No one cares what you think.

    June 2, 2011 at 04:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Alyssa

      I dunno, it sure sounds like you do. Also, we're not afraid of your religion, only what effects it has on otherwise rational people who then in turn try to change things like my government into their religion. I think perhaps you're afraid that your belief isn't as strong as you suggest. It's actually okay to doubt things for which you have no evidence. I know it's probably engrained in your culture/family, but pretending to believe to fit it only harms you.

      June 2, 2011 at 08:42 | Report abuse |
  38. holycow

    I saw Placebo a few years ago in concert. Didn't do much for me.

    June 2, 2011 at 05:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Richard Edelstein

    There is nothing really new in this analysis of the placebo effect. Any "placebo-controlled" trial of a new drug for migraine, asthma etc.. will show that the placebo provides relief in around 30% of patients. If the new drug is to be deemed "effective" it has to be more than 30% (how much more depends on the number of patients participating in the trial). The problem is we don't really know how it works. We talk about "mind over matter" but that is unsatisfactory to a "scientific mind", so we label any approach using the placebo effect as "sham" 'bogus" or "quack" or at best "useless". There is plenty of scope for taking advantage of this effect, but the problem is how do you do it "respectably". There has been recent interest in the effect of "postive thinking" on the outcome in cancer patients and many trials have shown, for over 20 years, that cancer patients who "believe" they will recover do much, much better than those who are overcome by helplessness and hopelessness.
    The intelligent way to approach the issue is not to oppose "real" treaments" and "placebos" but to be more inquisitve and ask how we can optimize the best aspects of Western medicine using what we broadly term the "placebo effect". A reassuring, compassionate humane surgeon is likely to get better results than a simple body-part mechanic – don't you think ?

    June 2, 2011 at 05:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Waida Liu Godfrey

    While I was growing up in Hong Kong, my dad [a family doctor] hired someone to work with him from mainland China. Because the "then" British goverment did not "recognize" that doctor's mainland Chinese diploma, he could not have a practice by himself. He ended up being more popular than my dad & dispensed his "free samples" of vitamin C [some white, round pills] for each patient without telling him or her what they were. Well, he even had some "really grateful" patients returned, bearing gifts. We nicknamed him DOCTOR C .

    June 2, 2011 at 05:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Nola girl

    This was the premise of Dan Brown's (yes, DaVinci code Brown) that God exists as man in the potential of the human brain. Man should "worship" himslef and harness the power of the brain. However, man has a limited capacity with it's brain and keeps us in the pecking order of stupidity. It's a very powerful read forfiction.

    June 2, 2011 at 05:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Jeff Spangler

    Are placebos addictive? Like, can you get strung out on belief?

    June 2, 2011 at 06:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Alyssa

      What do you think religion is?

      June 2, 2011 at 08:43 | Report abuse |
  43. Ann Thomas

    In fact 40% of clinical studies on anti-depressants–the ones hidden by the drug companies and later revealed-showed that the placebo effect was GREATER than the anti-depressant. (thus the hide out in drawers).

    Another study revealed that many of the clinical trials , the ones actually revealed to the public, were essentially reversed years later on repeat. Very slight shifts in information gathering were to blame. All studies were of course funded by the drug companies. Even double blind has room for biased.
    Another theory was that the difference between placebo and anti-depressant was so slim that there could have been a placebo effect with the anti-depressant. This is because side effects of the drug are well known and the patient could gather from the side effect that he has the real drug...thus placebo effect.

    June 2, 2011 at 06:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. light seeker

    The pharmaceutical industry is just one of the multi national corporations that are controling our govt. Their able to put false information into circulation because they have an agenda; to stay in business, making billions of dollars per year at our expense.
    How can we as commoners fight a giant like this? They seem to have The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by the throat.
    What's the answer?

    June 2, 2011 at 06:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Andrew

      Again, if this were true, and they really are distorting information, WHY? What motive do they have? Wouldn't they stand to make substantially more by providing the so called evidence you say is being covered up, and enter the "naturalistic" and "whollistic" field themselves? It's also a multi-billion dollar industry, with tiny expenses and you'd probably save a lot of money in research costs if you apparently need to fake a ton of research while blocking other research. What possible motive could the drug companies have to not enter the natural remedies market? Or the homeopathic market? I mean homeopathic medicine pretty much requires trace amounts of pathogens, and water, it's cheap as hell to make and yet people pay a fortune for it. It's not like the whollistic market is small even without drug companies trying to market it, so if it actually was effective, they'd be able to make a killing.

      So if they're really as greedy as you seem to make them out to be, why don't they have their pockets in a highly profitable industry?

      June 2, 2011 at 06:57 | Report abuse |
  45. someoneelse

    If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.
    –Isaac Asimov (1920 – 1992)

    June 2, 2011 at 06:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Guest

    Our bodies can heal with proper nutrition. Get the book " Juicing for life."

    June 2, 2011 at 06:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. L

    A placebo does NOT work with a migraine headache; nor does "believing" it does not exist.

    June 2, 2011 at 07:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. DougieT

    Benny Hinn has done very well with this principle but if it helps people then that's all that matters.

    June 2, 2011 at 07:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Apeman

    Oh cool, so if you keep on believeing you will live forever? Isn't that the goal? But then again, only Mericans are allowed to believe, or else 3 kids a minue wouldn't be starving in Africa. Self loving clowns

    June 2, 2011 at 08:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. DougieT

    Love is the drug that floats my boat. Although, some righteous weed and some good shrooms will do in a pinch.

    June 2, 2011 at 08:01 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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