The Enigmatic Placebo

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Mind, Matter, And Self-Healing

When considering historical findings and recent revelations, every example of placebo effectiveness demonstrates an extremely powerful influence within us that is beyond our ability to define. There is little comprehension of what lies beneath the extraordinary capacity of the human mind to affect the body. Although this facility is observable, research has yet to understand the process.

This void in knowledge has engendered a resistance to accepting the immeasurable force of conscious or unconscious intention. Denial drives an illogical devotion to a materialistic view that humans function only as material, biological beings. All evidence contradicts this assertion.

Most medical analysis is constrained by a framework that denies anything beyond the means of measurement in the known physical realm. A dysfunction that can't be understood in current physiological terms is dismissed as psychosomatic or deemed a syndrome. Failure to comprehend any disorder is rarely admitted, while the human spirit continues to be marginalized.

This limited ideology suppresses an individual's potential to impact homeostasis. Appreciating and supporting human self-healing would end the monopoly on the treatment of disease.

The misunderstanding and dismissal of placebos -- and the windows they open into evaluating disease -- ensures the ever-expanding profitability of the medical and pharmaceutical industries.

Most modern research about placebos has had a limited focus on the reduction of pain merely because it is the easiest observable effect. Although some neurological responses have been observed, there is no full explanation of how thought can powerfully impact body functions.

With the combination of dominant mechanistic approaches to medicine and the dismissal of our innate ability to regulate health, it is difficult to imagine a transformation to a new paradigm. However, an examination of available information gives some indication there is potential for a revolution in this area.

Evidence Everywhere

Overt denial of the strength of the mind is relentless. Reviewing studies and news about placebos demonstrates an attempt to distract from a greater truth about our potential to self-heal.

The pharmaceutical giants who produced COVID-19 vaccines were so afraid of what a placebo might reveal, that they didn't use them in their trials. Instead of an inert placebo, so-called control groups received an injection containing the potentially toxic adjuvants and excipients without an mRNA component. Thus any comparison of innoculated patients was meaningless; most trials omitted a placebo because of the forces they are capable of demonstrating.

One true placebo was inadvertently used during the push for COVID-19 vaccination by a Red Cross nurse in Germany. Because she had concerns about the safety and effectiveness of the new technology, she gave saline injections to people who believed they were receiving an mRNA vaccine. Her attorney later defended charges of intentional negligence, claiming her actions were a mistake. Authorities insisted that over 8000 patients thought they were getting a vaccine when it was inert.

Although little data is available from this important case, in one report, a German Health Ministry spokesman said, "there was no indication that severe COVID-19 infections occurred as a result of the saline injections."

This revelation was ignored; it provided evidence that a placebo was vastly safer and more effective than the actual vaccine. There was no follow-up to this news that should have raised several important questions; including if any severe COVID-19 infections were occurring in those who received the real vaccine.

In the wake of pandemic madness, last year our protectors at the FDA made a rare confession about another mistake made by their friends in Big Pharma. They revealed that a commonly used antihistamine, phenylephrine, has no more effect than a placebo. A key ingredient of NyQuil, Dayquil, and Sudafed, now has the same status as products sold in a 19th-century medicine show, although snake oil had natural and herbal ingredients that gave some relief. The FDA continues to give assurances that phenylephrine is safe, so government regulators are not insisting it should stop being used in these fake potions.

This bizarre revelation came years after products were sold at pharmacies as a reliable means to open up the airways of those suffering from colds and allergies. Unwitting congested individuals were convinced their favorite cold medication helped them get through the day or night. No one seems to be asking how an inert substance has been improving symptoms for nearly fifty years.

Why wouldn't examining the details of this feat be a high priority?

Probing the intricacies of how placebos catalyze the mind into regulating our health would turn medical science on its head. Any powerful medication or procedure that can't be regulated or sold is consistently denied by a scientific establishment that continues to view the potential to heal ourselves as a threat.

Despite studies that demonstrate that thoughts and attitudes can diminish suffering without costly drugs or procedures, we are discouraged from doing so and asked to trust the science. There is building evidence that there is little science to trust.

Placebo Surgery

For those who do explore the available information, it becomes clear that the relationship of thoughts to metabolism goes beyond our scope of understanding human physiology. The results of experiments with placebo surgery defy explanation in modern biomedical terms.

In one of the first surgical studies using a sham procedure, a cardiologist in the early 1960s showed that placebo surgery was as effective as a commonly applied technique. Internal mammary ligation, where arteries were tied off in the chest, helped 90 percent of patients with angina -- but the trial proved sham surgery had the same results -- and the technique was quickly eliminated without much fanfare.

In another attempt to evaluate the viability of surgery for cartilage degeneration causing dysfunction and discomfort, a respected orthopedic surgeon in the 1990s experimented on a small group of veterans. In half of his anesthetized subjects, he performed a standard surgical procedure. In the other half, he made an incision that gave only the appearance that surgery had been initiated.

The results were stunning; placebo surgery was as effective as the full procedure with some indication it was superior; certainly, the healing time was reduced. This initial small trial was duplicated in a larger study where patients were followed over three years with the same outcome. Subsequent independent trials gave the same results.

Even though these findings were published by many medical journals and news sources, skeptics dismissed the results of the "sham surgery" as a "very subtle misinterpretation of the study's findings," and some scientists continue to claim the placebo effect is a myth.

The most telling result of knee placebo surgery findings is how little impact they had. Rather than initiating further investigation of the power of the mind, only the procedure came under scrutiny, and just for a short time. Despite dramatic data and broad coverage of the study, the same orthopedic surgery continues to be encouraged, applied, and supported by medical institutions.

The Mind And Medicine

The information we have about placebos is not generated because they are being studied. For the most part, they are merely a concept used in an attempt to justify selling pharmaceutical drugs. Despite this, evidence of an untapped phenomenon continues to appear.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in multiple trials and mega-analysis that show placebos are as effective or superior to anti-depressant medications. The difference in response between the actual drug and placebo is evident in assessing how the trials were set up. In particular -- as one important huge study revealed -- patients who showed initial improvement from placebos are not included in any final analysis:

Almost all antidepressant trials include a placebo run-in phase. Before the trial begins, all of the patients are given a placebo for a week or two. After this run-in period, the patients are reassessed, and anyone who has improved substantially is excluded from the trial. That leaves patients who have not benefitted at all from placebo and those who have benefited only a little bit. These are the patients who are randomized to be given the drug or kept on placebo.

The rejection of patients who improve immediately and dramatically with placebos and subsequent failure to do additional studies of this important group demonstrates minimal interest in understanding how the mind affects health.

Additionally, most trials using placebos inform all participants of possible side effects of any drug being tested. Analysts have confirmed that patients feeling these symptoms believe they are in the group receiving the actual drug, skewing any valuable results.

Some experiments are set up in defiance of these conventional standards to understand more about the characteristics of placebo response.

In 2023, a breakthrough study with opioid addicts in a methadone program provided more evidence that brain chemistry and subsequent activities of the mind are unpredictable. Two groups were created to assess the value of an open-label placebo. Some received standard methadone treatment. A second group had the same protocols but these patients also received an inert pill daily. They were told openly that it had no medicinal effect and that they didn't need to believe it would work. In agreeing to be part of the study, they were informed that even though it was a placebo, it might help them in the process of ending their addiction.

A significant number of patients receiving the open-label placebo had improved benefits from methadone treatment. They reported better sleep and were less likely to drop out of the program. Although these may appear to be subtle results, for the first time it was shown that the mind, in its ability to govern our bodies, does not require deception for a placebo to work. This defiance of accepted logic contradicts almost every analysis of the placebo effect in recent history.

What we can deduce from various studies is that something very powerful within us can regulate health. It is neither deception of any kind, the sole effect of believing in a pill, nor a mock procedure that accounts for the primary ability of a patient to heal themselves.

Intention And Focus

I have always felt that the only trouble with scientific medicine is that it is not scientific enough. Modern medicine will become really scientific only when physicians and their patients have learned to manage the forces of the body and the mind that operate in the healing power of nature.

René Dubos, groundbreaking microbiologist of the 20th century

The immense capacity of the mind to shape reality both internally and externally is not an esoteric concept. The process happens daily with thoughts and words that become real. We decide to visit a friend and make it happen. Or we imagine creating a delicious meal and the intent turns into reality. We can simply think, I will raise my arm -- and the thought becomes a body movement. Are these not all illustrations of the influence of mind over matter?

Science does not have tools or terms to explain the underlying dynamic in these simple demonstrations. Although we can measure neurons firing that send messages to flex muscles, little is known about the source of intention and the process of mindfulness.

Importantly, the course of negative or destructive thoughts and emotions is also unchartered. Self-harm is openly revealed in the linguistics of pain and suffering; as in my headache or I have cancer. The obvious clues about self-destructive habits in thinking are virtually ignored.

Awareness of dysfunctional thoughts can be applied to improving health. A much-maligned technique to support cancer patients was developed in the 1970s by an oncologist who recorded positive results. The Simonton Method emphasizes…

…how beliefs, attitudes, lifestyle choices, spiritual and psychological perspectives impact physiology and immune function, and how they can affect health, the course of disease, and overall well-being.

Although numerous articles and denunciations of Dr. Simonton's approach attack the assertion that mind and attitude affect cancer outcomes, there is not one study over fifty years that attempts to duplicate or fully evaluate his methodology.

The source of ambition, aspirations, desires, determination, direction, objectives, plans, principles, reasons, wishes, and dreams are probed by psychology -- although there is much to learn about how the mind is motivated -- particularly in the area of how intention and focus become reality.

Our lack of appreciation of thought processes is parallelled by the debate over how much of our brain is functioning. Many scientists and mainstream media insist that an estimate of 10% is a myth. This is countered by the most recent research confirming that neural dark matter that composes at least 60% of the brain is mostly dormant and has an unknown function.

Scientists are admittedly in the dark on this topic; estimates of the unused portions of the brain and their function remain in the domain of science fiction. Efforts to maximize the potential of our minds are negligible, relegated to the fringe of scientific knowledge. Meanwhile, the studies that confirm the mind's corporeal control are rarely cited or applied to practical use.

A ground-breaking experiment was done in 2002 with Tibetan monks who can dramatically regulate their metabolism, demonstrating an incredible potential for self-control of the highest order. A Harvard University medical team confirmed that several individuals were able to raise the temperature of their extremities by up to seventeen degrees at will -- and were capable of drying cold wet sheets on their bare shoulders.

The medical world does not know how to process findings such as these. Any miraculous changes in metabolism and health due to meditation, prayer, or attitude -- are considered anomalies or accidents.

A profound detailed testimonial of a catharsis that turned around a life-threatening crisis is Norman Cousins' Anatomy of An Illness. Cousins was a highly respected political journalist and author who describes being diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a debilitating condition where connective tissue of the spine disintegrates. His doctors said all they could do was prescribe pain medication -- and confessed they knew of no case where anyone had recovered.

In considering possible causes of his deteriorating condition, Cousins recognized some of the physical and mental stress that he had been under and eloquently described his challenge.

The inevitible question arose in my mind: what about the positive emotions? If negative emotions produced negative changes in the body, wouldn't the positive emotions produce positive chemical changes? Is it possible that love, hope, faith, laughter, confidence, and the will to live have therapeutic value? Do chemical changes occur only on the downside?

Essentially, he describes completely healing his untreatable condition with a change in attitude; primarily laughter induced by reading humorous books and watching the comedies he had enjoyed in his youth.

Although this enlightening story was well-received nearly fifty years ago, it did not initiate a thorough investigation into the power of positive thinking and emotions on health. This trend toward denial of the mind's potential strength has only become more entrenched.

There is a superficial acceptance of relaxation techniques, including meditation, yoga, tai chi, and self-hypnosis, with reluctant admissions they can be effective in maintaining good health and lessening anxiety, phobias, and insomnia. Traditional ancient medical methods are also tolerated. These techniques and therapies are considered secondary to standard treatment, and modern science has accordingly granted them a complementary role, relative to the central dominance of biomedicine.

Despite this repressive atmosphere, it is impossible to overshadow or deny the observable nature of human intentions and their outcomes.

Ultimately, we must take responsibility for the state of our being, but this doesn't negate the benefits of healthcare. In their traditional roles, nurses, physicians, and healers shared knowledge, kindness, enthusiasm, hope, and love; kindling a patient's ability to help themselves.

The renewal of compassionate care and further developments of mind-body control are required to initiate a new era in medicine. Placebos, as they are understood and applied today, are merely a vestige of dynamic catalysts that potentially engender good health.

Whether we are persuaded to make choices by external influence or implement change with our internal knowledge, it is ultimately the mind that drives our direction. Intention, action, and the sum of our decisions -- based on thoughts and feelings, conscious and unconscious -- are determining factors in maintaining good health.

The debate surrounding placebos has avoided facing this key deduction about the nature of our existence, yet truth and reality are irrepressible. When observed with clarity, we have an inherent, miraculous capability of entrancing ourselves; mind over matter is the primary force that drives our well-being and destiny.

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