Placebo or Nocebo?


Photo: Medical Pills by Vera Kratochvil

Placebo (Latin: “I will please”) Nocebo (Latin: “I will harm”)

Most people are familiar with the “Placebo Effect”, positive health benefits brought about purely by a person’s belief in the healing effects of their medication. A placebo, or “sugar pill” contains only an inert substance that has no independent healing properties.

It is purely the person’s belief in the medication, often coupled with the reassurance of a trusted medical professional, that kick-starts the healing process.

The effects of this process are so significant that it is commonly factored into the testing of new drugs, before they are released onto the market.

Less well known is the “Nocebo Effect”, where people receiving a placebo report negative effects – worsening of their symptoms. This is not through any chemical side effects, but purely through their belief that the tablet will not be effective in treating their condition.

The evidence shows that the key to our physical wellbeing lies with our mental attitude, brought about by our thoughts and feelings. If we don’t direct our thoughts, they may drift between positive and negative, or be predominantly one or the other.

We can choose our thoughts by practice and repetition. No matter what our current circumstances, the answer lies within us.

Which effect do you choose to nurture: placebo or nocebo?

11 thoughts on “Placebo or Nocebo?

  1. Thank you for your original slant on this subject, Steve. I had heard of the nocebo effect but never in the context of drug trials – very interesting. The more aware we become of the nocebo effect, the less power it can hold over us, so your post is especially valuable.

  2. Placebo every time! I have given my kids arnica, homeopathic beads to prevent bruising and heal trauma, since they were babies. We call them magic beads because they stop the tears and create instant healing in most cases.

    I suspect some of it is healing due to the homeopathic, and some is placebo effect. But it works either way, so…

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