Research into placebo effects has usually been centered on finding what degree/percentage of an effect of a drug can be ‘dismissed’ as placebo, and what percentage of effects are the drug itself. But if the placebo effect is actually effecting a degree of healing, should it not be investigated. If the mechanisms of the mind’s effect on health can be tracked down, perhaps we can enhance the placebo effect – which might be better called the ‘healing power of the mind’.
The nocebo effect is similar. Here patients are told they are taking a medicine, that may have some side effects. It turns out that many patients go to experience those effects even though they were given a sugar pill. This is interesting to a meditator. If one set of thought (around the pill) can have a measurable effect on your health over a short period, how about the maelstrom of thoughts we all live with over a long period? Could some kinds of meditation have direct positive effects on the health when applied consistently over a long period of time? Or perhaps more relevant to the world at large, could a different thought pattern, which is really a ‘set of beliefs’ have a demonstrable effect, to the negative or positive?
Much too much importance has been given to that fake sugar pill, and not enough to the really relevant variable – the mind, thoughts and belief. Placebo or nocebo – it is the mind’s direct influence on the body.
In the article above there are promising signs that the placebo is at last being taken seriously, and not just treated as a disruptive influence on proper scientific data. Still though, the research is fixed on that sugar pill! Surely there are other ways to influence/train/manage the mind that can enhance the effect?
Just as a last note though …. while we meditators like to congratulate ourselves on our mental management, ask the question – are people who meditate more or less healthy than others who dont? Is any difference due to the meditation, rather than say, a better awareness of diet? And is the spectrum of disease/illness different for a meditator than a regular person?