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 You are now reading PART 1 of The Placebo Effect

Link to PART 2 | What About The Homeopathic Interview? Case Taking Techniques 


Please see link to video on HWC where you can comment about your response to this short interview clip.

Alan G. Phillips recently asked me:

Has anyone ever done, or can somebody do, a "study" that compare the success rate of clinical homeopathy with allopathic studies looking at the success rate of actual placebos? If homeopathy can be shown to work at a rate significantly above known placebos, that should dispel the placebo theory pretty quickly.

I think if we start with the definitions we can begin to sort out some answers. It seems that there are leanings in the definition about the effects being positive or negative; about whether the people who feel better are delusional in their sensations or that they are really improved in their medical conditions. There is no connection between mind/body states in the medical definitions. 

So, it may be even more important to define and base reactions and results upon the definition of health, healthy mind, healthy body. 

Perhaps a chart could be constructed with the different definitions. 


Placebo effect: Also called the placebo response. A remarkable phenomenon in which a placebo -- a fake treatment, an inactive substance like sugar, distilled water, or saline solution -- can sometimes improve a patient's condition simply because the person has the expectation that it will be helpful. Expectation to plays a potent role in the placebo effect. The more a person believes they are going to benefit from a treatment, the more likely it is that they will experience a benefit.

To separate out this power of positive thinking and some other variables from a drug's true medical benefits, companies seeking governmental approval of a new treatment often use placebo-controlled drug studies. If patients on the new drug fare significantly better than those taking placebo, the study helps support the conclusion that the medicine is effective.

The power of positive thinking is not a new subject. The Talmud, the ancient compendium of rabbinical thought, states that: "Where there is hope, there is life." And hope is positive expectation, by another name. The scientific study of the placebo effect is usually dated to the pioneering paper published in 1955 on "The Powerful Placebo" by the anesthesiologist Henry K. Beecher (1904-1976). Beecher concluded that, across the 26 studies he analyzed, an average of 32% of patients responded to placebo.

It has been shown that placebos have measurable physiological effects. They tend to speed up pulse rate, increase blood pressure, and improve reaction speeds, for example, when participants are told they have taken a stimulant. Placebos have the opposite physiological effects when participants are told they have taken a sleep-producing drug.

The placebo effect is part of the human potential to react positively to a healer. A patient's distress may be relieved by something for which there is no medical basis. A familiar example is Band-Aid put on a child. It can make the child feel better by its soothing effect, though there is no medical reason it should make the child feel better.

People who receive a placebo may also experience negative effects. They are like side effects with a medication and may include, for example, nausea, diarrhea and constipation. A negative placebo effect has been called the nocebo effect.

What Is the Placebo Effect?

By , Guide
Updated February 01, 2010 Health's Disease and Condition content is reviewed by the Medical Review Board

Definition: A placebo, as used in research, is an inactive substance or procedure used as a control in an experiment. The placebo effect is the measurable, observable, or felt improvement in health not attributable to an actual treatment.

When a treatment is based on a known inactive substance like a sugar pill, distilled water, or saline solution rather than having real medical value, a patient may still improve merely because their expectation to do so is so strong. To eliminate the effect of positive thinking on clinical trials, researchers often run double-blind, placebo-controlled studies.

Fast Facts About the Placebo Effect:

  • The word placebo literally means "I will please" in Latin.
  • The first known double-blind placebo-controlled trial was done in 1907.
  • The FDA doesn't require that a drug study include a placebo control group, however, the placebo-controlled trial has long been the standard.
  • The NIH is funding several studies related to the placebo effect.

Sources: Placebo Effect, Robert Todd Carroll, The Skeptic's Dictionary,, The Mysterious Placebo Effect, by Carol Hart, American Chemical Society, Modern Drug Discovery, July/August 1999: The Healing Power of Placebos, by Tamar Nordenberg, FDA Consumer magazine January-February 2000

Also Known As: placebo, placebo response, power of suggestion
Common Misspellings: plasebo, placeboo, placebo affect

The autonomic system controls the respiratory, circulatory, digestive, urogenital systems, and the action of the glands and hormone production and consists of two divisions known as the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. 

placebo effect
The beneficial effect in a patient following a particular treatment that arises from the patient's expectations concerning the treatment rather than from the treatment itselfThe American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

placebo effect
(Medicine) Med a positive therapeutic effect claimed by a patient after receiving a placebo believed by him to be an active drug See control group
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 6th Edition 2003. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

placebo effect - any effect that seems to be a consequence of administering a placebo; the change is usually beneficial and is assumed result from the person's faith in the treatment or preconceptions about what the experimental drug was supposed to do; pharmacologists were the first to talk about placebo effects but now the idea has been generalized to many situations having nothing to do with drugs
consequenceeffectresultupshotoutcomeeventissue - a phenomenon that follows and is caused by some previous phenomenon; "the magnetic effect was greater when the rod was lengthwise"; "his decision had depressing consequences for business"; "he acted very wise after the event"


Discussion Continues~> PART 2 | What About The Homeopathic Interview? Case Taking Techniques 

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Dear Dr.Shore and Dr.Sachdeva,

I am seeing that you guys are on something great here.

May be placebos act as catalyst while remaining neutral in any said reaction between homeopathic remedy and the changes that happen to bring back the equilibrium?

May be they facilitate the second messenger system so that the desired changes are brought in?

I am looking forward to your posts


Manoj, good to hear from you.
Here is a quick response

Drug and Placebo: Study Redefines Placebo Effect as Part of Effective Treatment
ScienceDaily (Dec. 23, 2009) —

Researchers used the placebo effect to successfully treat psoriasis patients with one quarter to one half of their usual dose of a widely used steroid medication, according to an early study published online in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine. Early results in human patients suggest that the new technique could improve treatment for several chronic diseases that involve mental state or the immune system, including asthma, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain.

The other question concerns the belief of the practitioner as opposed to the belief of the patient

I will summarize one set of studies using dental analgesia.

The dentist was given a box containing the analgesic vials
The vials were divided into 3 labeled groups:
1] Saline
2] Analgesic
3] Some saline, some analgesic - Dentist could not distinguish which

The degree of pain relief was greater when the saline came from group 3 as opposed to group 1
This indicates that when the dentist thought that there was a possibility that the vial could be real analgesic this thought and expectation was transmitted unconsciously to the patient and influenced their response.

I have not actually had to address these issues academically for some time and so am having to search through all kinds of old records for references etc. Bear with me

Some additional homeopathic research attached
As this conversation moves deeper into the realm of "unbelievable" or "believable" possibilities of the mind's power, I begin to wonder whether "placebo treatments" can be a integrative form of medicine.

For instance, most likely homeopaths and doctors already have a thought and belief that their treatments will work. And, the patient, may or may not really have a belief the treatments will work.

When going to a homeopath with faith in their treatments, based on past success, they impart that intention, feeling, or mindset to the patient.

Now, if the patient has often been disappointed and let down in their past treatments for incurable or difficult diseases, how much does that affect the outcome? Can it be the homeopathic interview, which is taken at length, in depth, with a listening ear and good quality of guidance to awareness makes a shift or change in the belief of the patient?

It is so delicate yet full of possibilities.

Can we say that, Similimum and “Placebo” both are potential catalyst of healing.

Similimum does the job when it matches with the core, causation, uniqueness etc of the malady. Let us say, we have a working algorithm to find the similimum. Though, by no means, we have yet discovered the ideal way to the similimum. Because, the day we know this secret, we will be able to affect rapid, gentle and permanent healing in every case.

Placebo as a catalyst of healing is a different realm altogether for us. Not for skeptics. They are pitching against homeopathy saying that it is just placebo, and, no more. What we are saying here is that placebo effect is evidence of body’s own healing potential. Homeopathy augments that.

So, we are recognizing body’s innate healing capability that may express in spontaneous healing. When this healing pathway is catalyzed by a non-medicinal intervention by an outside agency, we may call it the placebo effect.

In fact, we have been using placebo traditionally when we don’t want to do something. And, yet, we want to meet the felt need of patient. We use it as deception to not to interrupt the good work of similimum.
And now, we are finding so much evidence that placebo effect can be much more substantial. Beliefs, expectations, intentions, chemistry of encounter – all these, and probably many other, can make placebo therapeutic.

I wonder, as homeopaths, as holistic physicians, how we can make more creative/therapeutic use of placebo? Can we find synergistic strategies where similimum and placebo both complement each other? Can placebo ever substitute similimum?

I know that now I am just rambling. But I am curious.
Jonathan, how will you like to explore from here?

Well here is another side to this discussion which I feel might have run its course

I don’t think we want to confuse the idea of placebo with that of the similimum.

As homeopaths all our energy and focus needs to be directed towards finding the remedy. After all this is our craft, the matching of substances to symptoms, and nothing should come between us and the striving towards this goal.

The direction is really quite simple: the patient is a pattern, each remedy is a pattern - when we put the two together the person gets better. If this does not happen it means our prescription was not accurate enough - there can be no other reason. This is the Law.

Of course there may be many reasons - karma, fate, destiny, astrological influences
and so on. Personally I include all these under the rubric of inaccurate prescription. If its the patients karma or whatever not to get better at this time, then they come to me because I will not be able to find the remedy for them. In the end, the fact is that the remedy is not right.

So what is the value of all this information about placebo? All these questions?
My sense is that it is just here, in this area where we have to admit that we do not know, that something is taking place and we do not really know what it is - it is here that we have a possibility of becoming more human, more sensitive to each other and to our patients.

We are not so ready to criticize others for their crazy methods, nor to dismiss data just because it does not fit into our world view. And this affects our attitude, our theoretical constructs, our ideas about what constitutes a homeopathic symptom and what is or is not possible in provings etc etc

Also an appreciation for the incredible power of suggestion, especially in the hands of an authority, may allow us to understand that every word spoken to the patient is an intervention which may have both intended and unintended consequences.

Of course this does not minimize the value of a placebo as a therapeutic gesture
Nor does it negate the question of intention - of the great psychic discipline required for the search for the right remedy and of what role this may play in energizing a field of interaction with the remedy.

Actually I think the idea of intention, especially in relation to setting up a field of receptivity (which is seen so clearly in provings,) might be a fruitful topic of discussion if any were interested.
Yes, I think what you have said is a reasonable summary of the possibilities.
The question which you raise in the last paragraph is a very interesting one which I believe needs to have its own thread under a Case Taking Technique discussion
Okay... onto Part II...
Move to ~>>> HERE for Part Two
the definition of placebo effect has to change..

placebo effect
(Medicine) Med a positive therapeutic effect claimed by a patient after receiving a placebo believed by him to be an active drug

Here the following questions arises....

1. Patients on conventional or treatment by modern medicine fail to improve on long term basis..

so along with the effect of the compound isn't placebo effect also in place then why do the patients fail to improve...???????
inspite of the fact people believe modern medicine will work faster and more definite....most of them turn to modern medicine don't they
then why is there no placebo effect..

these very patients when they come to a homeopath all of a sudden placebo effect takes place???(remember there are homeopaths who hardly take deep histories and still they have results)
This is very true. I have heard this stated before. The placebo effect is in place with all modalities. It is a common parameter when a treatment is administered.

Whether it is done intentionally, accidentally, mechanically; or whether it is or is not measured or taken into account.
Quote from Debby:-

"The animal studies proved the efficacy of homeopathy using double-blind clinical trials with excellent results on sick animals?"

Dr. MAS: Yes

And, please tell us were scientists, veterinarians, field researchers, university professors the ones determining which remedies to use in each condition?

Dr. MAS: No, a simple formulation (single or double it is secret) was provided. That forumulation was sent at NARC (The most modern and govt recognised lab) for chemical analysis. The reports says: Only alcohol is found. After testing the medicine through other techniques and verification, that single formulation was handed over to researchers. The trial was conducted on disease base (although against homeopathic philosophy). For trial that disease was selected that is very common in livestock. What I remembered that about 167 camels were treated or used in double blind controlled studies, efficacy test and COMPARISON WITH ALLOPATHIC MEDICINES USED FOR THE TREATMENT OF SAME DISEASE.

Were animal trials enough to satisfy authorities that homeopathy also works on humans?
Dr. MAS: Yes, the reason is being that they also conduct research studies on animals first.
Here is the proforma of studies so for carried out

If after that even then somebody does not accept then I have no other option left just to say ........... :) but I have not experienced any objection from any office in Pakistan. Even Brook Hospital (Funded by Germany) also carried out tests on that formulation.


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