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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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I find this a very facinating subject. I wonder then If homeopathy was working as a placebo why then do we need to search for the correct remedy? Example we know many remedies work for Headaches, but really only the one that is indicated in the individual case will work, if given the wrong remedy there is no relief. Even if we belief we got the right remedy and even if the client beliefs its the right remedy, it will only work if it is the right remedy for that individual. I thought a placebo would give relief regardless of correct or incorrect. So I think homeopathy works and its not a placebo effect Does this make any sense?
For producing placebo effect there should be brain and central nervous system. In plant bodies, where homoeophathy produces more profound effects, there is neither brain nor central nervous system. Please refer the research article entitled 'Management of Genetic Activity through Homoeopathy' published in "International Journal of Pharma and Bio Sciences" which explains how homoeopathy works.
@Barbara and others
My sense is t hat the views expressed here are in a sense too simplistic, its either black or white.
Life is actually a vast spectrum of shades of gray.

What is of interest in this discussion is not whether homeopathy is ALL placebo or whether it is NEVER placebo. This idea that homeopathy is only placebo is a discussion for allopaths not homeopaths.

The discussion for us could be along the lines of: OK so the placebo effect almost always plays SOME part in the prescription, at least in humans and almost surely in animals.
I would not rule out plants either as even though they do not have a nervous system they have been shown to respond to human emotions.

Can we understand better the part that placebo action contributes and could this understanding be useful in our daily office routine: what we say, how we say it etc etc.

Also for those who have an underlying question in their life about the nature of reality these issues raise interesting points.
Dear Jonathan ~ my sense is that the new people who have entered this thread have not participated in the continuum of thought from where it began. Thus, they are coming in from different points of view, or just a different point and interjecting new thoughts.

Whereas, Manoj and others have been moving in a stream of thoughts together, and developing a progressive theory regarding placebo. Perhaps if everyone who enters this thread starts on page 1 and reads through all the comments they will catch up to our position here. There is a tremendous amount of information to absorb. That is simply my personal thought on this matter.
Dear Jonathan,
Yes I agree it is not that simply. I try to quote how I would explain, how homeopathy works to people that have absolute no understanding of homeopathy, I need to make it simple. I always feel a need to explain to the public how it works as hopefully they will try homeopathy, and they will spread the word. But I have no intention to convince science as this would be totally out of my reach. The public wants black and white answers we homeopath have the knowing that life is not black and white this is why we have such a passion for homeopathy as it takes us on this incredible journey of many shades. Sorry I guess I put my 2 cents worth in when the discussion was not about how to explain to the public, rather then the discussion between great homeopath.
Thank you
Dear Barbara - we welcome ALL comments. We want all TWO-CENTS because they all add up to a lot of change. That is GOLD in our pockets!

We just stepped back to answer your question and give you a lead where to turn to find the answers.

It is true that the public want a black & white answer that is quick and easy. They do not have time to THINK more deeply into the whys and wherefores. However, here in our little community, we are pressing forward to clearer understanding. Curious minds want to know.

Dear Debby,
thank you I do understand. All these comments and thoughts of every one are just wonderful I feel like a sponge soaking it all in.
I am curious too and wonder if Kirlian photography had been tried in seeing if the picture of the water would change when made into various homeopathic potency's. Ain't we in some way matching the vibration of a substance with the vibration of our client. With this it has an effect on the auras. Any substance has a aura or vibration that may be able to be seen with kirlian photography? In homeopathy the vibration of the water changes with dilution and succussion.?
Just a thought.


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