A recent article defines a placebo as a 'therapeutically ineffective treatment used to deceive a subject'. It's the standard against which treatments are scientifically measured for effectiveness. But far from being ineffective, placebos often have very clear therapeutic effects. This is put down to the patient's expectation and the benefits of receiving attention from the person who administers the treatment.
Is it really a surprise that healing can be stimulated by a positive mindset and caring treatment? There is plenty of research to indicate this, nurses know it well and their treatment, if not too numbers-driven by uncaring management practices, is based upon it. The power of hope is a field that has only been touched on but again, the evidence is there.
On the other hand, it is now well known that infants whose needs are met in an emotionally neutral, clinical way fail to thrive. Rene Spitz documented this in the 1930s but the information did not prevent the cruel conditions of Romanian and Russian orhanages damaging the lives of many children in recent times.
As I see it, the placebo effect is part of what makes us human. We thrive in an atmosphere of hope and warm personal connection which allows the miracle of healing to take place in our bodies and minds - which I must add are truly interlinked so that mind states such as hope and love affect us right to the cell level. Science can demonstrate this.
So three cheers for the placebo effect. And if you don't have access to sugar pills, stimulate it yourself through thoughts of gratitude, a warm smile to whomever you meet and loving actions in your community.