The next time you’re going through your medicine cabinet to look for a remedy, close it and look in the mirror. What you see looking back at you could be the best—and most overlooked—natural health remedy around. I’m talking about your mind…and it comes down to the placebo effect.
Now, I don’t want to sound like one of those people who say health is all about mental state. It’s not, sometimes people need treatment—but sometimes how you may feel about a particular treatment, regardless of what science says, can make all the difference in the world.
In fact, there is even science that shows how the power of the mind can influence the effectiveness of placebo and overall health.
What is the Placebo Effect?
The true placebo effect is when a fake treatment—usually an inactive pill or remedy consisting of water, sugar, or saline solution—actually causes a person’s health issue to improve. When a placebo is given, often in a medical study environment, the patient taking it doesn’t know it’s a “fake.” This technique has been a very common practice in medical studies over the years. It’s how researchers have measured the effectiveness of an actual treatment; by comparing it to the effects of a placebo, which isn’t expected to have any real effect on the body. However, the placebo phenomenon emerged: when some people taking a substance are told it will have a certain effect, like improving their blood pressure, for example, their symptoms have actually improved. Even though the placebo doesn’t have any ingredients that should work to cure that condition! It’s pretty amazing. It doesn’t work on everyone though. Nevertheless, it does demonstrate the healing potential of the mind-body connection.
Placebo Effect: My Story
Let me tell you a little story about myself. About five or six years ago, I was busting myself up in the gym trying to get stronger. A friend of mine suggested a supplement called L-arginine that would apparently help. I took it, and saw an instant difference in my lifts. I continued to use it for three months and made all kinds of gains. But guess what? It was actually all in my head. Science has shown L-arginine to have virtually no effect on strength or long-term muscle growth whatsoever! So I’d been really just improving on my belief that L-arginine would work: the placebo effect.
How to Take Advantage of the Placebo Effect and the Mind-Body Connection
What I’m saying is that if you believe something is working for you and you feel good, continue with it. As long as you’re not taking too much of something to the point where it’s toxic or you’re dependent on it, then I think it’s safe to continue. Belief is a powerful thing and science, although I usually stick by it, might not be applicable to everybody all of the time.
At the end of the day, you know what’s working for you. A good friend of mine has a grandfather who’s nearing the century mark; he attributes his longevity to eating dinner standing up. He won’t sit down with his wife or family when they come to visit. But, because of his belief—as odd as it may seem to us—he keeps on living a healthy, happy life.
The Mind’s a Powerful Healing Tool
I definitely don’t want to say you should ignore science, but at the same time you have to look at what’s really happening in your life. The mind is a powerful thing and you shouldn’t waste that, so use it to feel your best.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Shmerling, R., “The Placebo Effect: Amazing and Real,” Harvard Health Publications web site, November 2, 2015; http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-placebo-effect-amazing-and-real-201511028544.
Rimer, S., “Happiness and Health,” Harvard School of Public Health web site, Winter 2011; http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/magazine/happiness-stress-heart-disease/, last accessed December 10, 2015.