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Placebo – but it Works

Posted by terrepruitt on February 26, 2011

I believe teaching Nia in the San Francisco Bay Area allows me to be exposed to a lot of different things. Recently I was able to experience or try two different things. Regarding one of them, I was showing a friend after Nia class, a product that a mutual friend sells. I was explaining what it was for and she said, “It’s a placebo.” This past week I asked a question on Twitter about a healing technique and I was told it was a placebo. These instances make me chuckle. I believe that if one is in a medical study and is told that they might receive the actual medicine or they might receive a placebo, that is applicable. When someone purchases a product or a service completely open to the idea that it might work and then they feel it does work, how can it be called a placebo? If it works for them in a positive manner, if they receive the help they were expecting, then how can it be called a placebo or just said to have the placebo effect? Could that not be said for a lot of things?

I once read a blog which has since been marked private so I can’t link to it, but it talked about all the “placebos” in everyday life. The blog stated that the buttons on traffic signals don’t actually work, they are just there to make people feel as if they have some control. The same with elevator call buttons and, if I remember correctly, thermostat controls in hotel rooms. Hmmm, I don’t actually know about the traffic lights and elevators, but I have had temperatures adjust in hotel rooms, so I think he might have been talking about some hotel rooms. Don’t we ALL press the buttons on traffic signals? And we all press elevator buttons? Do we do that because we actually think it does something? Yes. We might never know if it does actually help because eventually the light will change and eventually the elevator is going to come and by pressing the button it actual stops on the floor we are waiting on.

In regards to some products and some services for our bodies where we are left to decide if it works or not for ourselves, do you think that any of it has to do with what we think? Does any of it have to do with what we believe? I am somewhat talking about something that is difficult to measure. If you buy a lotion and you put it on you can somewhat tell if it is helped your skin. But what about a relaxation product?

Did you drink the tea believing it would help relax you and it did? Was that the actual tea or was it you believing that after you drank the tea you would feel relaxed? Did you believe that putting on cold wet socks (with dry wool socks over) would help your cold and you wake up feeling better? Was that really the wet sock treatment or your BELIEVING in the treatment?

If you feel is works is it a “placebo”?

10 Responses to “Placebo – but it Works”

  1. niachick said

    I’m not going to say much about this (I know you’re rolling your eyes…) — what I will say is this: if it is not part of a specific controlled medical research project, then I think it is playing with fire. People who sell products that claim to do something, but are actually a placebo and do nothing are playing with black magic. I’m not saying that the people to whom you refer to in your blog are of this ilk. But overall, playing mindgames is, to me, unethical. Personal opinion only.

    Now, for the big cannon: is religion a placebo? Think about it. It is because someone believes what someone tells them that they have faith. If there was no religion and people had to rely on their own inner strength, how do you think the world would change? Placeo-food for thought.


    • Well, medicine and drugs are one thing, but what about an herbal tea that claims to calm you? Or essential oils that help your breathing? A lot of people would say that all of those things are placebos, but if I eat a flower that I believe will make me not sneeze and IT DOES, how can that be called a placebo? IT WORKED!

      Actually a “specific controlled medical research project” IS a mind game, yes? If you sign up for one you don’t know what you will get. Could get the medicine could not. Could be that the medicine really DOESN’T work, but people THINK it will so its gains are reported higher than actual. Both the placebo AND the actual medicine could have the “placebo effect”. I want to do a blog post about research too, but it is one of the post that tends to get out of control when I start to thing about it . . . . so I stop. I need to just pick a little portion and write and post.

      Yup, religion COULD be considered a placebo. We won’t really know until we die. If part of the religion includes an afterlife (in whatever form) we won’t really know until we actually get there. And again, it all depends on the religion I guess, because some schools of thoughts said to be religions are about one’s own inner strength. So I guess it all depends . . . .

      I have found that when I post I have a tendency to think of the same topic again so I could very well revisit this one. Topics are often much larger than I want my posts to be so sometimes I am just doing bare bones OR just a piece. I was just wondering how something that works for someone but not someone else can be called a placebo. But your thoughts are what comes up too, when “placebo” is brought up!


  2. Becky said

    I just heard a report that acai berries and supplements and all acai stuff has not been proven to have any of the nutritional benefits that are always associated with it. In fact, one doctor said it is fairly high in calories so you should adjust your diet for that. I just assumed that acai was this wonder type of thing, so… I stopped buying products that I was buying simply to get the benefit of the acai which I now know has little benefit.
    I will find something else to substitute for it I’m sure.
    The point is, we have to take the research in to account AND the way it makes us feel.


    • Well, I, personally would say that acai berries are probably really good for you as it is a fruit and it is a berry. And berries tend to be high in antioxidants. Also “they” say that color has a lot to do with nutrients and the color of acai berries is a good one. Flavonoids are found in colorful fruit. But since we don’t actually get the fruit itself, I am not surprised that the acai berry supplements and a lot of the products “containing” it are not what they say. That is the problem with supplements. They don’t have to actually have to do what they claim they will do. Or more accurately they don’t claim the product will do anything, they just carefully say that “acai berry” has been proven to . . . . . . (whatever). They never actually say THIS product will (whatever). Trickery in marketing.

      Yup! Good point! Love seeing you here. Thank you. XOXOXO


  3. Positive mental attitude, the love of a good soul mate and the companionship of a beloved pet.

    All of these are not quantifiable by a number cruncher yet I find each of these three quite necessary if I am going to remain ‘healthy’. When it comes to things that are just a state of mind let us not forget that our entire existence is equally such if ever an attempt was made to quantify said existence.


  4. SuziCate said

    I remember reading that post…was disppointed when his blog when private. I think the act of drinking hot tea relaxes me anyway but certain herbal ones increase the effect.


    • Ha, I probably found him from you. I think he accepts requests, but I don’t know. I don’t know why it went private. I am bummed because I liked his blog. It was interesting.

      Yeah, maybe just hot liquid helps relax the body because it makes it all warm and cozy. I am sure there are people who disagree about herbs. It could be that they don’t work for them. It is just amazing how things “work” and don’t!


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