The Placebo Effect

‘It’s just a placebo, really.’ This is usually said by people who’ve been dragged along to the herbalist by their nearest and dearest. They arrive with their scepticism at the ready, and there’s one thing you can be sure of: the placebo effect certainly will not work for them.
Which is a great pity, because it is a wonderful thing. It’s got nothing to do with the actual virtues of the herbs, and those same sceptics are likely to play down any useful effects in any case; even if they felt marvellous, they’d find it hard to admit. When you’re trying to eliminate it from clinical trials, you have to set up a double-blind situation. It’s not enough to give identical-looking remedies to your control group and your test subjects. The people giving the remedies must also be unaware which is which.
What that tells us is that something happens between the practitioner and the patient, a kind of contract that healing will happen. It requires willingness on both sides, and we know that if that is in place, there is a greater likelihood of good results from any kind of treatment. So of course, outside of clinical trials, nobody wants to eliminate the placebo effect. On the contrary, we want to maximise it.
So if you’re debating whether to undertake a course of some treatment or other, one of the biggest considerations is whether you really want it to work or not. And if you don’t, then apart from scoring points off your nearest and dearest, you’ll be wasting your time and money.

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