Healing thoughts

Jan
19
2011
by
Lynne McTaggart
/
38
Comments

The biggest headache for any drug-company executive is the placebo. A placebo, or sugar pill, is used in controlled drug trials precisely to show that the drug in question works.
One of two groups of patients is given the active drug, while the other group is given the placebo, but neither knows who got what.  The assumption is that far more patients will show improvements on the drug than on the placebo.  Upon this assumption is built the entire edifice of modern medicine.
Nevertheless, in practice, so many patients receive the same relief and even the same side effects with a placebo as with the drug itself that a placebo often is not a true control.
Placebo power
The power of the placebo was best illustrated by a group of patients treated for Parkinson’s disease, a motor system disorder in which the body’s system for releasing the brain chemical dopamine is faulty. The standard treatment for Parkinson’s is a synthetic form of dopamine.
In a study at the University of British Columbia, a team of doctors demonstrated with PET scanning that, when patients given placebos were told they had received dopamine, their brains substantially increased the release of their own stores of the chemical.
In another dramatic instance, at Methodist Hospital in Houston, Dr Bruce Moseley, a specialist in orthopaedics, recruited 150 patients with severe osteoarthritis of the knee and divided them into three groups.
Two-thirds were either given arthroscopic lavage (which washes out degenerative tissue and debris with the aid of a little viewing tube) or another form of debridement (which sucks it out with a tiny vacuum cleaner).
The third group were given a sham operation: The patients were surgically prepared, placed under anaesthesia and wheeled into the operating room. Incisions were made in their knees, but no procedure carried out.
Over the next two years, during which time none of the patients knew who had received the real operations and who had received the placebo treatment, all three groups reported moderate improvements in pain and function. In fact, the placebo group reported better results than some who had received the actual operation.
Raising the game
The placebo problem has been raised to another degree of complexity after Harvard’s professor of medicine Ted Kaptchuk decided to run a trial in which participants with irritable bowel syndrome were given a placebo but told that they indeed taking a sugar pill, while the other half of the group were given nothing  at all.  The placebo group were also told that placebos have been shown to create powerful mind-body self-healing. 
Kaptchuk found that nearly two-thirds of his placebo group reported improvements in their symptoms — even more than had improved on a powerful new IBS drug called alosetron in a recent trial.
Drugs or thoughts?
This raises the very basis question I’ve wrestled with for a long time:  do pharmaceutical drugs ever work? Is it ever the chemical itself that heals, or is the mental expectation of healing enough to marshal the body’s healing mechanisms?
Other research bolsters the idea that the healer, or even the healing ritual itself, may be more powerful than any actual medical agent. A recent study of 83 rheumatoid arthritis patients attended by a homeopath concluded that the consultation with a sympathetic practitioner—rather than the remedy itself —was the cause of physical improvements noted by the patients.
Sometimes the expectation of healing can be a large factor in positive results. In one healing study of patients suffering from clinical depression, all the patients improved, even the control group, which did not receive healing, largely from the psychological boost created by the possibility of healing.
Healing rituals
There is also the power of healing rituals – the idea of ‘taking something,’ even if that something is known to be fake. In a recent analysis of 46,000 heart patients, half of whom were taking a placebo, the patients taking a placebo fared as well as those on the heart drug. The only factor determining survival seemed to be belief that the therapy will work and a willingness to follow it religiously.
Those who tended not to survive were those who had been lax with their regimen, regardless of whether they had been given a placebo or an actual drug.
Studies like these suggest that what we take doesn’t matter; the connection with the healer, the healing words and practices, the expectation of healing  — in other words, our thoughts about healing — are always what turns out to be the true healer.

Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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38 comments on “Healing thoughts”

  1. If our expectation of healing, our own thoughts about healing, are what turns out to be the true healer, then if we believe or are told by a physician or healer that we are sick, ill, incurable and so on, will we dutifully make ourselves sick? Then, deciding we don't like this as much as we thought, we permit ourselves to be treated with a cure and we get well. Then perhaps we're not sure we were cured so we go to another professional, who assures us that in fact the treatment failed and that we're really sick as a dog. Is this what's known as a dog chasing its own tail?

  2. "This raises the very basis question I’ve wrestled with for a long time: do pharmaceutical drugs ever work?"
    As a microbiologist I can assure you that certain antibiotics may cause certain bacteria to stop their multiplcation in vitro. Most clinical information indicate that they have also this effect in vitro, but the question may indeed be whether this is a placebo effect or not! I tend to believe that the story people receive with any treatment will be very important for its success. In the case of the treatment of babies it is clearly the mother or care-taker who should be the one who should believe the benefit of the drug and "send" this to the baby if one does not believe in the in-vitro activity of antibiotics.

  3. correction: last sentence of my comment should read "in-vivo" activities instead of "in-vitro", my apologies, I was to quick with hittting the submit button 🙂

  4. Abraham Maslow discovered the hierarchy of needs and took us to his notion of a pinnacle which was SELF-Actualisation.
    The NEXT level hierarchy BEYOND Self, has BLISS at the lowest rung.We evolve our intellect through the levels upwards to a pinnacle of SELF transformation.
    My point, related to placebos and intention is that BLISS which is TOTAL health is the condition we will NEED at the very bottom of the transformation hierarchy BEFORE we reach the pinnacle.When our intention takes us into the company of THE creator, which is where BLISS STARTS, ascending the heirarchy is a challenging joy. BEING sick certainly does NOT call for the ingestion of man made "cures" Staying BLISSFUL cures. We may, of course die.

  5. Do pharmaceutical drugs ever work? !!!!!!!!!! I was thrilled to read this question. As a 20 pharmaceutical industry veteran, I have asked myself this question MANY times over the years and people always look at me like I am the one who is crazy. Thank you Lynn just for asking. It is a great question to see it in print, and a relief to feel less alone with the Question. I personally am far more interested in the placebo effect than the pharmacologic effect of any particular drug. I try to console myself with the knowledge that pharmaceuticals and surgery are the paradigm of healing in the culture in which I live, and that I do help contribute to healing, just by a different mechanism than most people realize. I love biochemistry and the physiological details of the body but as I get older I long to work more directly with what I believe to be the real healing factor, our minds, and then what's bigger than that, of course – god/source/oneness.

  6. The obvious pink elephant in the room is the big $$$$$ that are at stake in the pharmaceutical field - and the faith that folks in the white coats know best. I'm still amazed that in 2011 that the vast majority of people still subscribe to the status quo....and are closed to alternatives, more natural remedies....and modalities such as Reiki.

  7. Drugs are real, and they have effects. They also have side-effects. But they are real.
    That said, the power of intention, healing touch and prayer to mention but a few are also real.

  8. Lynne this blog post is very very useful for most of us. To extend it further, the above scientific facts can be used as references to harness the power of our thoughts through self-hypnosis. Expect good things, good things will happen 🙂

  9. The Bible stresses many times "If Ye believe," and Old and New Testament (Yshua) Christ conveys that "We are gods and Children of the Most High." Think We trying to be TOLD

  10. I understand that the success of the placebo (or our thoughts) is subverted by the money backing the pharmaceutical industry. My wonderment, however, is when will the over-the-top overwhelming evidence outweigh (metaphorically speaking) the money that feeds pharmaceuticals?
    There has to be a tipping point somewhere in this scenario. I just hope that we are really close to the tipping point... and that in the next few years, healing by thought will become something that is generally accepted by public opinion.
    With Love and Gratitude,
    Jeremiah

  11. Some drugs heal. Some drugs don't.Some create co-dependency problems that create other health issues. Big Pharma is a sinister industry.
    Meditiation is free. Anyone can learn. It can be done anywhere. The physiological effects on the body can assist almost every condition and prevent the development of disease.It is empowering, creates optimism and improves quality of life. All these are proven.
    The power of the human mind is the greatest healing mechanism known. Loving , caring and nurturing are essential in maintaining a 'will' to thrive and survive, and that attitude in a mature human being begins with loving and nurturing self.We are heading in a direction in which we will be able to harness the power of the mind and give it a little bit of help with valid scientific discoveries that can help some people in some cases in some conditions. However, we are not immortal and prolonging life when death is inevitable and when there is no quality of life is another questionable medical practice. Death is feared and a taboo subject in most modern cultures, and is another subject that needs a cultural shift in attitude in order to allow the mind to deliver the most powerful healing possible. The state of fear must be overcome and replaced with optimism for the greatest healing effect. A good healer understands this, what the mind expects the mind will create. Either way, at some point we will take our final breath.

  12. I seem to remember Ram Dass saying that he watched his Guru gulp down large numbers of LSD tabs and they had no effect on him whatsoever. This gentleman was in full possession and control of his mind and so was able to resist the 'agreed upon' effects of this 'real' drug.

  13. I have remarked to my doctor that I often improve when I visit him - sometimes while I am still in the waiting room.
    I am currently taking a blood pressure medication at half the smallest dose available mainly to keep my Doctor happy. My cardiologist says that the dose is too small to be of any value and yet it is apparently controlling my blood pressure.

  14. Abdu'l Baha, the son of Baha'u'llah (the founder of the Baha'i Faith), said that "The reality of man is his thought, not his material body"
    I think he got it right.

  15. Would the question: do pharmaceutical drugs ever work? in essence be similar to the question: do vitamins/supplements ever work?

  16. Lynn,
    As you know, there have been 1000’s of experiments where patients were duped by a placebo, yet were later unexplainably cured.
    They were cured because they believed it to be true.
    In one study, sufferers of Parkinson’s disease were told they would receive an injection of stem cells to assist with the reduction of tremors associated with this disease, while the control group actually received a saline solution (salt water) injection.
    The outcome was astounding.
    The neural activity which caused the tremors was reduced, and the patients in the control group actually produced dopamine in their brains; where previously the production of this chemical had been lacking. - The Spiritual Brain by Mario Beauregard and Denyse O'Leary
    The results were because they expected, and believed, that real medication had been given to them, and that it would have the desired effect.
    I do have to add though, that there is a big difference between expectation and intent.
    You can intend for something to happen, but if you truly expect the opposite to occur, by speaking about it and thinking about it, which outcome do you think will be your experience?
    Write On!

  17. The Use of EFT is my basis to believe that healing comes from inside, the patient can heal himself by doing the procedure or initially with the help of the practitioner but then each individual can proceed on his own without need of ingesting, nor injecting any drugs at all.

  18. How could we make placebo/sugar pill medications widely available and prescribed, and utilize this knowledge??

  19. Have a wonderful birthday, Lynne. Puppies, kittens young kids and so on are such a delight. I think it would be fun if grownups having birthdays could spend some time getting in touch with this level of delight as they celebrate their births each year.
    What I missed on first reading of your current blog topic was that of the placebo group not only getting cured but picking up the same side-effects as those ingesting the pharmaceuticals. I would like to see more attention devoted to this phenomenal phenomenon.
    Are placebos going to be the trainer wheels some of us need prior to coming to trust that we can maintain good health throughout our lives? 🙂

  20. While belief is probably the most important factor at all, it can be seen that drugs do have real effects at least part of the time. I'm certain of this because when I had a life-threatening degree of insomnia, most of the drugs didn't work at all even though I strongly expected that they would. Only Ambien and Halcion had any effect, and only Ambien worked well. Even now when I take my occasional doses of Ambien, very much expecting it to work because it normally does, there are times when it fails to put me to sleep.
    I've also had various homeopathic remedies either work brilliantly or completely fail, and in both cases I was expecting to get a good effect. If it was all placebo it wouldn't have mattered which remedy I took.
    We can also see that animals respond to drugs, even when they have no idea what they are taking, or whether they are taking anything at all. The asthma medication that we ground up and hid in our old cat's food was tasteless and she never knew it was there, but her breathing improved with it.
    It's fascinating to see that Ted Kaptchuk is involved with this research. He's a leading light in Oriental medicine, and acupuncture is an area in which it's particularly difficult-- ridiculous, really-- to design placebo-controlled studies.
    Research continues!
    Elene Gusch
    Doctor of Oriental Medicine

  21. Hiyaa.
    I visited this website only because i read about it in Dan Brown's book, "The Lost Symbol", i felt pretty interested.
    I read your blog and all the comments , it seems like it is a thing to think about.
    I lost to my relatives this year, i always felt that it is fault of medicine and wrong diagnosis.
    I think if you only believe , intend yourslef to cure , you can try to heal yourself from anything.
    The greatest mistery in life for me is that our brain functions only on less than 10%, I wonder what will happen in year 2100, when probably people will learn how to use at least half of it.
    I'm not very into this whole theme, but i read a lot about it, and i'd like you to continue your debates , it's massive.
    Cheers from Latvia, Riga

  22. Great article & comments. How does one keep the placebo effect from also operating while taking the "real" drug? No one can answer this question. Whether a patient is given a "dummy" drug or not...what is stopping this effect from happening according to the receiver's expectations. Dr. Larry Dossey has some interesting thoughts on this in his writings & blog.

  23. As a nurse, I once witness, in an ER, a patient in a full blown asthma attack, receiving an I/v drip & the drug had not been added to the I/V, by mistake, & the patient, within minutes was breathing just fine. The nurse later found the vial of the expected drug, still intact on the counter . Told what happened to the physician , in charge. Since the patient was all better, the drug was never administered.

  24. I wish to add, as an Anesthetist, I can vouch for the fact that drugs DO work, but we have yet to fully understand the power of the mind. While in Anesthesia school, we operated, an open gall bladder patient, under hypnosis, only; no drugs. That is the power of the mind also

  25. While I am attending college I work as a companion/setter for people who have a “terminal” cancer or cancers. I am working for a gentleman who will be 94 in March. His memory is sharp, he was driving up until last year; he cooks, cleans, goes online to research things he wants to know more about, and has a new girl friend. He worked himself up from a mechanic at a Chrysler dealership, to managing dealerships, and retired financially abundant.
    This gentleman smoked for 45 years; welded lead onto weld seams for 10 years; scraped asbestos off of brake drums for 10 years without any protection. He is a practicing mason for 67 years and was married for 70 years.
    I find him to be remarkable human being. I am curious why he has lived so long with his cognitive skills working perfectly. Every day I ask him to tell me how he thinks about his life and life in general, because according to society, he should be dead already from either cancer from smoking, lead and/or asbestos exposure. But, he is very much alive and happy even though he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year.
    He has told me he lets go of problems because he usually cannot do anything about them and trying to fix them only adds to them making them worse than they really are. His motto is; “We can’t solve all the problems today.”
    I believe we can take the placebo effect and use it in our everyday lives as this gentleman has. He knows he is going to die. Like he says, “I’m 94 and I cannot live forever, so I accept that I am going to die sooner than later, because my body just won’t last forever, so I am going to enjoy every day.” And, he does with a smile.

  26. Fascinating subject. And why do meds seem to help animals, children, unconscious adults? Perhaps our universal consciousness?

  27. Osvaldo, you have certainly stated a very well known fact.......in Jesus' words...........'and the TRUTH will set you free!'

  28. Having read a previous blog on this site about the potentially detrimental effects of heart drugs (and others) to mental health, I think this raises the question, that being prescribed these drugs is a form of negative suggestion. Being told our bodies are failing, and we need to become drug dependent means we start to give up, and not take responsibility for our selves, the expression of this mental break down in a variety of forms.

  29. read more about this ,by punching into google search PLACEBO EFFECT AND CONSCIOUSNESS VADAKAYIL.
    consciousness , propounded in 9000 BC , by vedic sages with 12 strand DNA and a king sized pineal gand -- is the core of quantum physics.
    consciousness affecting reality is indeed the placebo effect!!
    CAPT AJIT VADAKAYIL
    ..

  30. I do love the Placebo Effect - I know it is a pesky nuisance to scientific studies, but what a brilliant ability that our organisms possess! The real challenge is for us to harness this ability and use it to free ourselves from our over-reliance on external interventions. I agree with several of the comments above, that drugs and nutritional supplements do have effects, but we will have far less need of them when we learn to fully use our innate healing abilities.

  31. Lynn,
    What are Your thoughts on the importance of LANGUAGE in making the placebo selfhealing happen?
    Sinc. Roel

  32. LIRA MURPHY
    I was diagnosed of Parkinson disease 2 years ago at age 63. Symptoms were tremor in right leg, loss of handwriting ability, and soft voice. I also have difficulty rising from a seated position and have balance issues. I started out taking only Azilect, then Mirapex, and last 2 month Sinemet. Several months ago I started falling frequently, hence the reason for Sinemet.My first son was in search of permanent cure because he spent a lot of money on my medication,so he check online and saw good testimonies about Parkinson disease cured with the help of herbal medicine purchased from perfecthealthherbalmedicinehome,so we decided to give it a try,we contacted perfecthealth through email perfecthealthherbalmedicine @ gmail .com and purchased the herbal medicine for Parkinson disease,we received the herbal medicine at our door step after two days of purchase ,the shipping was so fast.i used the herbal medicine for a month and 2 weeks,all my symptoms disappears,and my doctor confirmed am Parkinson disease free now ,i promised to tell the whole world about perfecthealthherbalmedicinehome.please contact perfecthealth to get your own cure , website :www perfecthealthherbal . weebly com.

  33. She was also "freezes" on trying to stand from a sitting position. She speaks so quickly and "gabbles" that we are unable to decipher what she is saying. She is now very steady on her feet after we bought the Total cure herbal foundation natural herbs ,she has fallen several times before using the herbal formula;we have to give a try on natural herbal products which really work perfectly on her.
    The herbal remedies helps her body to return to its normal position after using it for several weeks, we are obviously very concerned about other lives out there so please do not hesitate to contact this email address (totalcureherbalfoundation@ gmail .com) to get your Parkinson disease (PD) bottles or for other diseases.
    Lallana

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