Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Placebo Effect

Well, I see I've been lazy about posting to the blog the past month. I've been doing a lot of traveling and I tend to get preoccupied with other, offline, things when I venture from home.

While at a conference in Washington, D.C., I read an interesting article in the free newspaper they left on my doorstep.  It's titled "A New Way of Looking at Placebos" by Tara MacIsaac, from the Epoch Times, and it discusses the placebo effect in healing, something that has puzzled people for quite a while.

A placebo is basically a fake treatment--something that is simulated or is medically ineffective--which is given to some patients in medical testing to create a control group to compare to the people actually getting the real treatment. But sometimes the people given the placebo have a perceived or an actual improvement in their condition. In fact, sometimes patients who know that the treatment they're getting isn't genuine, but a placebo, will still do better than other patients who aren't given anything at all.

It's been assumed that the placebo effect is caused by the relationship between the mind and body in healing and that it's the person's thoughts that must affect the body in some way. But according to the article, the effects of placebos have been increasing over the past decades, to where this phenomenon now accounts for as much as 70 percent of an effect in a medical trial.  Two researchers who have been studying this effect, Dr. William Tiller (Ph.D.) and Dr. Nisha Manek (M.D.), have begun considering the idea that human intention physically changes the placebo in some way, causing it to have the beneficial effect. Tiller has conducted various experiments to test this idea, such as a study that has shown that intention  may be able to change the pH-levels of water. The two published some of their findings in a paper titled, "A new perspective on 'the placebo effect': Untangling the Entanglement (Medical Hypothesis, 2011).

I find this a really interesting idea from a magical perspective, because it suggests something that many practitioners have already experienced, that we really can shape reality through ritual and magic.

(Yes, this is the kind of thing that goes through my mind at library conferences, what can I say--the afternoons are long and those darkened rooms make the mind wander...)

P.S. If you want to take a look at the article yourself, it's at: