In praise of the placebo effect | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

The placebo effect continues to puzzle medical researchers and neuroscientists in the west. How can something that has no therapeutic content effect a cure or healing? And yet, trial after trial, the placebo is often able to effect a positive and verifiable cure of a disease. How this happens, nobody can yet satisfactorily explain.

I have written about recent studies on the placebo and the body-mind connection in a previous column (April 2018). Now, further studies are showing there’s really something more to the placebo than meets the eye.

What is a placebo? It may be defined as an inert or harmless substance with no therapeutic value (for example, a capsule containing nothing but distilled water or maybe sugar). It is given to a patient who is told the capsule contains medicine that is being tested.

If the capsule given shows no more than 40 percent effectiveness, compared to another drug given to a control group of patients, that capsule is considered medically useless. The 40 percent cured is considered a placebo effect.


But what accounts for the 40 percent that gets cured despite being given a placebo? How does the mind, or maybe the anticipation of a cure, have a positive therapeutic effect on a patient’s body?

Edward Kelly, a neuroscientist at the University of Virginia, in his book “Irreducible Mind,” notes, “Most scientists avoid the problem of how our subjective mind, or consciousness, could act on the objective physical body. This cannot be answered within the materialist framework or paradigm of mainstream western science.”

The result of the above research and other studies led another neuroscientist, Marjorie Woollacott, to say, “Our beliefs can have a significant effect on our health and well-being. Studies from my own lab and those of other scientists have shown the positive effects of meditation on our mental ability, including improvements in both attention and immune function.

“Brain areas positively affected by meditation include the hippocampus, which affects learning and memory, and the amygdala, which controls the fight or flight response.”

The placebo effect, which used to be regarded as something negative, if not useless, is now getting a second look and unexpected respectability among a growing number of medical researchers and neurologists.

Mental imagery

I have seen the powerful effect of the placebo in my own personal experience and research in paranormal healing and mysticism. I have, for example successfully healed several persons using only either thought, subtle energy or mental imagery.

There was a well-known Filipino TV personality and comedian who suffered from severe toothache and swollen gums. Another was a Frenchwoman suffering from an impacted molar, another a female former assistant of mine who had severe stomach pain despite having taken medicine from the company clinic. There was also a college student who was bitten by jellyfish in a beach in Cavite. His chest had many red, painful rashes.

I wish local medical researchers, neurologists and medical anthropologists would study the so-called miracles of healing that have been reported at Lourdes, and also in the clinics of local healers. I consider the healing that happens in these places the result of the placebo effect.

Woollacott believes that “the placebo effect will eventually be explained within a scientific framework, but first, that framework must be expanded to include the possibility that something as intangible as one’s belief can directly alter the structure and function of the body.”

By popular request, we are resuming our three-hour seminar on self-healing through visualization or mental imagery on July 13, 3-5 p.m. E-mail, tel. 0998-9886292 or 8107245.

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