Mind Healing the Body: Amazing Placebo Effect on Your Brain

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The scientific community, the medical establishment, has been proving for over 50 years that the mind can heal the body.  We call it the placebo effect! – Lissa Rankin, MD/Author, Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself

The definition of the placebo effect is a beneficial effect, produced by a placebo drug or treatment that cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself, and must therefore be due to the patient’s belief in that treatment.

It is interesting to note that the placebo effect is often considered to be the thorn in the side of medical researchers, desperately hoping the prove the effectivity of a particular drug or treatment – especially for those researchers receiving millions of dollars in grant money to ordain such proofs.  How can they miss the obvious reason for a celebration of the placebo effect and see it as a call for redirection of their research?  Should they not be asking themselves, “What are the implications of the placebo effect, and thus the implications of the power of belief and the human body when someone believes in something enough that it has an effect?”

Before pondering that question ourselves, let us take a deeper look into the placebo effect and how it works in the brain and the rest of the body. In one experiment led by Professor Tor Wager of Columbia University, scientists applied a neutral cream to the forearms of the participants in the study, who were told it was a pain reliever. The scientists then put actual pain relieving cream on another part of the forearm, but told the participants it would have no effect on pain.  The researchers then placed a super-hot pain stimulus, something equivalent to a hot cup of coffee, on both areas. Using positron emission topography (PET) scans, researchers could see that the placebo treatment actually caused the brain to release more opioids, our body’s endogenous (natural) pain reliever, and the volunteers, of course, reported better pain relief in that area!

In another study by the Institute of Noetic Sciences called the Spontaneous Remission Project, it was revealed that there are more than 3500 documented cases, in over 800 journals, and in 20 different languages of the spontaneous remission of disease and illness. And not just the remission of any old simple diseases, but full-blown remission in big-daddy diseases such as stage IV cancers, severe heart disease, auto-immune diseases, and HIV positive patients.  In addition to the self-healing of disease, there has also been reported drops in blood pressure, ulcers and warts disappearing, and the dilation of bronchi.

And to be crystal clear, the definition of spontaneous remission is the disappearance, complete or incomplete, of a disease or cancer without medical treatment or treatment that is considered inadequate to produce the resulting disappearance of disease symptoms or tumor.

If you haven’t yet put it together, all of this is as close to definite proof as you can get of the mind/body’s ability to heal itself, something which has profound implications.  One of the most amazing documentations was from the classic New England Journal of Medicine knee surgery study.  First some background.  Every year, about 650,000 people in the US get arthroscopic knee surgery for pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis, a surgery which costs about $5,000.

The 180 participants in the study were randomly assigned to have the operation or to have placebo surgery in which surgeons simply made cuts in their knees so the patients would not know if they had the surgery.

The results of the study?  The patients who did not receive the surgery, but thought they did, reported feeling just as good afterward as the ones who did receive the surgery.

And one last placebo effect result that cannot go without mention: men who thought they were getting Rogaine actually grew hair!

That same beautiful self-healing power can also harm you. Negative thoughts can adversely affect your health. Related to the placebo effect is the nocebo effect. It works by the same mechanism as the placebo effect.  In one study it was reported that after being told of the side-effects they would experience from taking a certain test drug, 25% of patients who received the sugar pill reported severe adverse side effects.

Those treated with nothing more than placebos often report fatigue, vomiting, muscle weakness, colds, ringing in the ears, taste disturbances, memory disturbances, and other symptoms that shouldn’t result from a sugar pill.

There are countless reports of self-healing. They are not few and far between. What this tells us is twofold: that the body has innate self-repair (and self-destruct) mechanisms and these mechanisms can be engaged by perception and belief.  Perhaps these healing mechanisms are related to the good-feeling/self-healing neurotransmitters and hormones which are released when we have positive thoughts and emotions. If so, the more you can bathe yourself in these positive thoughts, the healthier you will be.

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