Pharmacy: Where you Buy Placebos

FavoritePlaceboHave you visited your local pharmacy lately? I recommend it as a bit of a reality check. Check out the stuff for sale near the cash register – that’s the stuff they want to catch your eye as you pay, hoping you’ll ‘pick up something extra’. The stuff with the highest profit margin.

But before you head out, a few words about placebos.

There are many different kinds of placebos. When most people think of a placebo, they think “sugar pill“. Mosby’s Medical Dictionary defines placebo as: “an inactive substance, such as saline solution, distilled water, or sugar“. Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine defines placebo as: “a supposedly inert substance such as a sugar pill or injection of sterile water“.  

Now, back to the pharmacy. What’s on sale next to the cash register? Soda pop. Sugar water; Bottled water: sterile water; and energy drinks: saline water.  And how are they advertised? Refreshes, energizes, revitalizing. Feel good placebos.

“Wait a minute,” the critic intrudes, “don’t some of of those soda pops and energy drinks contain caffeine?  Caffeine is a drug, not a placebo.”

Well, actually there are two types of placebos.  Passive placebos, with no real effect, and active placebos – that have real physical effects.  Active placebos are, according to scientific studies, more effective than passive placebos. Caffeine, in sugar water, turns a passive placebo into an active placebo. Of course, if you check the immediate physical effects of sugar, you’ll find that a high amount of sugar, as in soda pop, is also an ‘active placebo’. Adding caffeine just makes it ‘more active’.  Sugar and caffeine both have ‘side effects’ as well, just like a real medicine. A short time after your sugar rush, you might get hit by a sugar crash.  And the morning after your caffeinated party – you will feel dehydrated and fuzzy.

What else is for sale by the door.  Sugar tablets.  They’re not even disguised. Some are white tablets, coated in sugar. Some are multi-colored sugar tablets – there are even serious competitors and advertisers in the field of multi-coloured sugar tablets. Some are flavored with spices, herbs, or even nuts.

If you have symptoms of halitosis, you can pick up a pack flavored with a herb – mint – to make your mouth sweeter. Of course if your bad breath is caused by illness, or unhealthiness – these pills won’t improve your health.  They’re just placebos.  They just make you ‘feel better’.

Next?  Chocolate bars. Some of them are still marked out in squares, so you can break off one tablet in the morning, and one in the evening, just like a medicine. Like anyone actually does that? Fry’s original chocolate pastilles, were small squares of chocolate that “in the most concentrated and agreeable form, all the virtues which are so justly attributed to the pure vegetable product of the Cocoa tree; it is a fine stomachic, producing a healthy reaction on the biliary secretions, and a fine and clear complexion.” Today’s chocolate advertisements don’t make those claims. The FDA would shut down sales if they did – even if the claims were true, they have not been approved by the FDA. Today’s chocolates are designed to make you feel like having more chocolate – that’s what’s best for sales. They have less chocolate, cheaper chocolate, and more sugar, fat, and salt, to tickle your fancy. In the past, chocolates were a medicine. Today – just a placebo. Feel good, mmm…. have another. When you are selling placebos, volume is they key to success. Make them big. Encourage the patient, oh – I meant ‘customer’ – go for the gusto. Get the two for one deal!

Then we see the potato chips. Finally, something that isn’t a placebo? Wait a minute, what’s the glycemic index on potato chips? Table sugar, according to, has a glycemic index of 58.  Potato chips have a glycemic index of 54. Potato chips have more calories in carbs than they have in fat. They also have salt, which, when you consume them with your soda, creates a ‘saline solution’ in your mouth. No wonder you feel so good when you satisfy the munchies! Potato chips are smooth, creamy, crunchy slices of salted pre-sugar. mmmm…

But don’t stop there.  Look closer. Many of the placebos for sale at your local pharmacy are: SUGAR FREE.  You can have your placebo, and feel good about your weight at the same time.  As long as you don’t actually check the scientific research on sugar free.  Want  a clue? Check the size of people you see, the cash register, buying sugar free – you’ll know in a minute how well it’s working.

When I leave the pharmacy, surrounded by placbos, it makes me stop and think. I wonder  how many of the other products for sale in the pharmacy are “no better than placebos”?

to your health, tracy

Note: there is another, very different definition of a placebo, a clinical placebo. This post is not about clinical placebos.  Clinical Placebos are a very special class of placebo because the patient is deliberately not told that they will provide benefit.  These are placebos without the marketing, placebos without the lie. You cannot buy clinical placebos anywhere, you have to sign up to a ‘clinical study’ to receive them. Clinical placebos are “fake placebos”.  

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Free Book, Healthicine: The Arts and Sciences of Health and Healthiness

amazonBookImgeOn Tuesday, Oct 14th the book Healthicine: the Arts and Sciences of Health and Healthiness, can be purchased for FREE on Kindle – for 5 days. At the same time, I will have reduced the price of the printed version of the book, from $20, to $8.99 on If you who don’t have access to Kindle, or who want a book you can hold in your hands and make notes, this is for you.

This 5 day sale, ends on October 18th. It is not a ‘preview’, if you purchase the book on Kindle – you will keep the copy in your Kindle library after the sale ends. You can, of course, buy the Kindle version for your Mac, your PC, your phone FOR FREE, and the paper version for cheap, so you can mark it up, loan it to friends, etc.

Healthicine: The Arts and Sciences of Health and Healthiness is the first of two books about Healthicine, the study of health. For centuries doctors, medical professionals and scientists have battled against illness, but there have been no studies of ‘health’, exclusive of illness. Today the concentration of force against illness has created an imbalance, an unhealthiness, that pervades our medical systems from top to bottom.

Medicine is blind to health.

Think of the last time you bought a medicine.  Did it ‘cure’ your illness?  Most medicines do not cure the illness they treat. Most of today’s medicines are ‘symptomicines‘.  They don’t actually treat the illness, they treat the symptoms.

If you have ‘high blood pressure’, you can get four different types of medicine that treat your high blood pressure. Each works in a different way, but none, not one of them, addresses the cause. Not one of them ‘cures’ high blood pressure – they are ‘subscription medicines’, or perhaps we should use the words ‘addiction medicines‘. High blood pressure is ‘treated’, but not cured. Why is it not cured? Because the only cure for high blood pressure is HEALTH.

Health is also the best preventative. The only way to prevent high blood pressure is through healthiness.   But we don’t know, because we don’t study health.  We cannot distinguish between an ‘illness’ of high blood pressure and an ‘unhealthiness’ of high blood pressure.

This same scenario arises for many illnesses. Diabetics, arthritics, MS sufferers, and even cancer patients are advised to ‘learn to live with your disease’, because even cancer is never ‘cured’, the patients ‘survive’.

If you check the list of top selling 100 prescription medications of 2013, the first 70 medicines, by sales – do not cure – they only treat symptoms according to DRUGS.COM. Of the top 100, four have potential to cure. 96 percent of the top selling medicines of 2013 do not cure anything.

How can this happen? Are so many diseases ‘incurable’? Have we cured all of the easy diseases – such that the only ones left are incurable? Or is it possible that some illnesses cannot be cured with medicines, and can only be cured with health?

What illnesses cannot be cured with illness – but only with health? Actually, there are lots of them. We just don’t think that way, because we’re stuck in the medical paradigm. Scurvy cannot be cured with medicine. You can treat the symptoms, as the patient gets sicker and sicker. But medicines will not help. The only way to cure scurvy is to treat it with healthy foods. So, the medical paradigm treats Vitamin C, a nutrient essential to health, as a ‘medicine’, because it cures scurvy.

Vitamin C does not cure scurvy.  It healths scurvy. Water does not cure dehydration, it healths dehydration. Vitamin B1 does not cure beriberi, it healths beriberi. But our medical systems do not study health – so health is not a verb.

What if you are suffering from lead poisoning, because your food is contaminated with lead? Can a medicine ‘cure’ your disease’. No. The only cure is to ‘health’ your diet.  And the longer it takes for you to recognize this truth – the more damage will be caused by the poison.

How many illnesses can only be treated with health? We can cure some simple diseases with health – each Vitamin, each essential nutrient, has a corresponding ‘illness’ when deficient. Many have a corresponding illness when ‘excessive’.

The simple truth is that we don’t study health. We don’t measure healthiness. Our medical systems are blind to health. As  result, we have no systems, not tests, no science of healthicine – no way to determine which illnesses are best treated by healthicine, and which by medicine. We have no name for such an illness, no distinction between illnesses cured by medicines and those cured by health.

Healthicine: The Arts and Sciences of Health and Healthiness is the first step on our journey – the study of healthicine.  Healthiness is bigger than illness. There are more healthicines than medicines – and they really do work. The study of healthicine includes studies of illness, but it is much larger.  Health is whole, the earth and the sky. Illness is just a hole in your health.

Starting Tuesday, October 14, 2014, pick up your FREE Kindle copy of:  Healthicine: the Arts and Sciences of Health and Healthiness, or head over to CreateSpace right now, and order the printed copy, at the low price of 8.99 .  You can also preview and purchase the printed book on 

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Healthicines, Symptomicines, Medicines, Sickicines, Deathicines, and Placebos


Healthicines make you healthy and healthier. Healthicines come from nature, because we come from nature. Healthy foods, healthy exercise, healthy thoughts, and healthy communities. Healthicines fight and prevent disease by making you healthier. When you are sick, many healthicines can be medicines. When your diet is deficient, many healthicines – essential nutrients – can cure diseases that a patent medicine cannot touch.

Symptomicines hide symptoms. Symptomicines hide negative sensations, that make us uncomfortable or unhappy. If the symptoms are a result of a minor illness, a symptomicine can help your body to heal. If the symptoms are a result of serious illness, symptomicines can hide the illness and allow it to grow. In a serious illness, the use of symptomicines must be paired with healthicines, because. symptomicines cannot cure. They are often ‘subscription medicines’, paired with suggestions that you learn to ‘live with your disease’. Symptomicines are often recommended when doctors give up on your illness. The top 50 best selling medicines of 2013 are symptomicines. None cures any disease.

Healthicines/Symptomicines: The shaded area between healthicines and symptomicines encompasses healthicines that can sometimes treat symptoms. We feel an upset stomach, so we have some calming tea, and our stomach is soothed.  But when we become dependent on anything, even a healthicine, to treat symptoms – we can progress towards illness. Drinking sugar water (soda) to calm your stomach, can easily lead to dependency and disease.

Medicines fight illness and disease, so you can recover. The goal of medicine is to make you well. If you are well, not sick, you don’t need a medicine. Some medicines are also healthicines: “let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food” said Hippocrates. But most medicines are not foods. Most medicines are designed to fight illness – and they often fight your health at the same time. They are based on the concept that once your illness is weakened or defeated – your health will recover. Often they work, but sometimes medicines fail to cure, fail to function as intended.

Medicines don’t come from nature, they are man made. Medicines are often designed to ‘trick’ illness, to trick nature. Health is true and honest – you can’t ‘trick’ health. Most medicines are medicines all of the time. Antibiotics and prescription drugs don’t stop being medicines ‘depending on use’. They are medicines by design.

Symptomicines/Medicines – the shaded area between symptomicines and medicines, contain symptomicines that can help to cure.  A cold medicine doesn’t cure, but relief from symptoms helps you perform healthy activities – that result in faster recovery of wellness. Some medicines also fight symptoms, but often medicines create more symptoms, or side effects, because they are designed to fight life, not to help life.

Sickicines are medicines that make you sick. They fail to cure, fail to make you well, or fail in “making you healthier”. One group of sickicines are simply the “wrong medicines”.  You might get the wrong medicine in many different situations.  A mistake in your bathroom, taking the wrong pills when you are tired or confused. A mistake in the hospital, where a staff member gives the right medicine to the wrong patient. A diagnostic mistake in the doctor’s office, resulting a prescription for a wrong medicine. A mistake in design and testing of medicines, resulting in the sale of a product that sickens more than it cures.

Many ‘subscription medications’ – symptomicines, are actually sickicines. Sickicines are hard to count, although there are some statistics. A report by the Institute of Medicine in the USA estimated over one million injuries due to medical errors – one group of sickicines. Most prescription medicines sold are symptomicines, which have potential to become sickicines.

Medicines/Sickicines are medicines that actually make you sicker. Because medicines fight health (the health of your illness), they have negative health effects. Medicine designers dismiss these by using the name ‘side effects’. Side effects are decreases in healthiness, often leading to sickness, and sometimes the sickness is worse than the cure.

Deathicines kill. We kill with lethal injections, hangings, firing squads, and electric chairs, hoping that we are making our society ‘healthier’, or ‘well’. We kill after we give up on our ability to health with healthicines, or to cure with medicines.

Medicines/Deathicines are medicines that kill when they try to cure. The Institute of Medicine report, in 2000, estimated that between 44,000 and 98,000 preventable deaths were caused by medical errors. It is very difficult to count or estimate the number of deaths by medical deathicines. It’s all to easy, intentionally or simply in error, to attribute a death to an illness – rather than document a death due to a deathicine. We don’t intend for medicines to kill – except on death row or in murder movies. But they kill.

Unintended Effects

Healthicines create healthiness, and as a result, they prevent and cure illness.
Symptomicines dull symptoms and allow illness to grow undetected.
Medicines kill illness, but the side effects can range from mild to death.
Sickicines are entirely unintended.
Deathicines kill and often destroy the truth and abandon the search for health.

Creation of

Healthicines are created by nature.
Symptomicines are created by discomfort, and by salesmen.
Medicines are created by searching for cures.
Sickicines are created by error.
Deathicines are created by negligence and disaster.


Fake-icines are things that pretend to be healthicines, or pretend to be medicines, but are actually neither.  Think diet soda.  It pretends to help you lose weight.  It does not increase your healthiness.  It does not fight your illness, even if your illness is obesity. And the latest scientific research confirms – it actually makes you fatter, and less healthy. Think ‘energy drinks’, that pretend to give you energy. They actually create imbalance, jangling your nerves with a burst of energetic feelings, which seldom lead to energetic activities.  Then, the rebound effect leaves you tired and fuzzy headed, prompting you to take some more. The perfect addiction. Fake-icines might have some natural ingredients, like water, but they are not from nature, they are created by man. They are created to ‘sell more’.


Our world is full of toxins.  Toxic chemicals, like pesticides, herbicides and other-cides.  Toxic thoughts, like the seven deadly sins: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. Toxic communities, that teach fear and hatred. Toxins are often wrapped up in false clothing, pride can be a positive emotion, but it can quickly become excessive and toxic.


The name placebo comes from Latin, meaning ‘to please’. Placebos are given to please the patient. However, today there are two kinds of placebos.

True placebos prescribed you your doctor are ‘intended to heal’, and in many cases – they work, although there is lots of confusion about why. Placebos are medicines by intent. The intention of the doctor is to make the patient healthier.   We need a distinction between true placebos and false placebos:

False placebos are administered in a medical study. They are designed to ‘not heal’ and are administered without intent to heal.  They are not true placebos. They are not intended to please the patient, nor to heal the patient. False placebos are designed to test medicines in clinical studies, through a comparison with a ‘not medicine’.

Illegal-icines are healthicines, symptomicines, and medicines that are illegal. It is unfortunate that many medicines are illegal. Illogical that many natural symptomicines are illegal, and ridiculous that many healthicines are illegal. That’s the state of our laws of medicine today, but that’s complicated enough for a post of its own.

to your health, tracy

downloadTracy is the author of Healthicine: The Arts and Sciences of Health and Healthiness, and Introduction to Healthicine: Theories of Health, Healthiness, Illness and Aging. 

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How MERCK views Health and Disease

The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy is a concise and complete medical reference for doctors, medical students, and healthcare professionals.” according to the MERCK webpage.

How does MERCK view health? How does MERCK view disease? We find the answer on the pages titled: “Overview of Complementary and Alternative Medicine” (CAM). In this section, MERCK describes their view of Conventional Medicine and Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM).  What does MERCK say?


Conventional medicine defines health as “Normal function (ie, absence of specific disease or dysfunction)“, while alternative medicine defines health as “Optimal balance, resilience, and integrity of the body, mind, and spirit and their interrelationships“.

Which definition do you prefer? In healthicine, health is whole, healthiness is wholeness. Normal function is simply the ‘normal’ occrance of health. We can do better. We can aim for optimal health. Continue reading “How MERCK views Health and Disease” »

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Why We Can’t Cure

IMG_2862Do you have an illness that can’t be cured? Do you have arthritis, Parkinson’s, or asthma? Diseases for which there is no cure. Do you have a cancer – and you are hoping for a ‘remission’ due to treatments of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, which even the doctors agree do not ‘cure’ cancers? Do you have a chronic headache, or any other chronic condition? Chronic diseases, by definition, cannot be cured. Why can’t we cure some illnesses?

When I researched the top 10 best selling drugs of 2011 – none of them claimed to ‘cure’ the disease.  Of the top 10 best selling drugs in 2008, none were promoted as a ‘cure’ for a disease.  I recently did a follow-up study of the top 100 best selling medicines of 2013. Of the top 70 best selling medicines in 2013, none cured the disease they were designed to treat. Of 100 medicines, only 3 actually cure the disease being treated, and only 5 attempt to cure the disease being treated. Those three medicines are all antibiotics.  Why do most medicines not cure? Why are the best selling medicines designed to ‘not cure’? Continue reading “Why We Can’t Cure” »

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Placebo Paradoxes

When you research medicines, alternative medicines, even medical treatments that do not involve a physical substance, you will see reference to the “placebo effect”. Statements like:

X is no better than a placebo.
Y is probably just a “placebo effect“.
Treatment X is just a placebo.
Medicine X failed to beat a placebo in controlled clinical studies.

What is a placebo? What is a placebo effect? Are they real, fake, or something else? Is the placebo effect magic?  No, but placebo effects are a paradox. Merriam Webster defines placebo effect thus:

improvement in the condition of a patient that occurs in response to treatment but cannot be considered due to the specific treatment used

Placebo effect is a real effect in response to a treatment that cannot cause the effect.

A paradox.

Each instance of “placebo effect” contains the theory that this instance of the effect “cannot be due to the action of the medicine identified as a placebo”. Theory is impossible to, prove. It can only be disproven – by proving what caused the effect. But, when you prove that the effect was caused by something, it is no longer a placebo effect.

Placebo effects are real. They really do exist.  The dictionary and medical textbooks agree. But, a placebo effect, as currently defined, is a  logical paradox.

Maybe we should look at the definition of a placebo? Merriam-Webster defines a placebo:

medicine : a pill or substance that is given to a patient like a drug but that has no physical effect on the patient

However, this is not precisely true, as evidenced by their further definitions, which say:

a usually pharmacologically inert preparation prescribed more for the mental relief of the patient than for its actual effect on a disorder

In the first definition Webster’s says “has no physical effect”, but in the second it says it is prescribed for the ‘mental relief” (a physical effect no doubt) of the patient. Medical authorities have problems defining physical things having a ‘spirit’ effect, while brain and mental effects are within their scope.

Webster’s also describes a different type of placebo: “an inert or innocuous substance used especially in controlled experiments testing the efficacy of another substance“.  We will come back to this type of placebo later, but for now, we will simply name it differently, as a ‘clinical placebo’, because it is a very different case. I will refer to the first type of placebo as ‘placebo’, because it matches the origin of the word placebo, which is Latin for “to please”. A clinical placebo is not created ‘to please’ the patient. It is simply a “fake medicine”.

Why would a doctor give a patient a drug that has no physical effect? A placebo is:

 placebo: a lie from your doctor. 

or, in dictionary lingo: a usually pharmacologically inert preparation prescribed more for the mental relief of the patient than for its actual effect on a disorder, because the doctor believes the lie it will have a positive effect on the patient” 

Doctors prescribe placebo medicines, which they believe have no effect – in full anticipation of a positive effect. A placebo is created when a doctor lies to a patient, and possibly to themselves. White lies, useful lies. Statistical surveys have shown that most doctors ‘admit to’ prescribing placebos some of the time. The words ‘admit to’ are used because the prescription of a placebo is a lie.

What do we call it when someone does something, in full belief that it cannot work, expecting it to work, and it actually works?

A paradox

Placebos are paradoxical.  Doctors ‘know’ that the placebo they prescribe cannot work. They prescribe them, and they tell the patient they will work – or might work, and sometimes,  ‘magic happens’ – they actually work. Some doctors are quite good at knowing when “something that doesn’t work” will actually work. Are they magic?  Are these doctors ‘witch doctors’?

Of course calling it ‘magic medicine’, or ‘paradoxical’ is not considered scientific, so instead, it is called a placebo. Placebo sounds scientific. In medical research, placebos are used in clinical studies – so they must be scientific.

Placebos can have placebo effects. Placebo effects are real. Thus, placebos are real medicines, even though they are lies.

Summary so far:

Placebos are lies. Your doctor prescribes something that cannot directly help your illness. 

Placebos can have placebo effects. 

Placebo effects are real. 

Placebos are real medicines. 

Is the naming of placebos, and placebo effects done under the theory that these are real effects, caused by something else? No. The word placebo is Latin and it means ‘to please’. The doctor ‘pleases’ the patient. What happens when the doctor pleases the patient? Does it help the patient’s body?  Does it help the patients mind?  No.

It helps the patient’s spirit.

The Hierarchy of Healthicine rises from genetics and nutrients, through cells, tissues, organs, systems, body, minds, spirits, and communities.  Medicine, in theory, treats the body – which includes the mind, but not the spirits, and not the communities.

Placebos arise from the community.  Your doctor, part of your community, provides a prescription for hope. Placebos treat the spirit. A good doctor can treat the spirit of the patient, sometimes by providing hope, and sometimes even with a lie.

The positive effects of a medicine are not limited to physical effects, they can also include spirit effects. Are all non-physical effects as spirit effects? If not, what are they? Note: Not ‘spiritual’ effects. Spirituality is a small part of our spirits. Spiritual effects are a small part of spirit effects.

Spirit effects have physical effects. So a medicine that does not have physical effects, and only has effects on our ‘spirit’, leads to physical effects.  This makes measurement and distinction between physical effects and spirit effects difficult. If a medicine lifts only your spirits, and when your spirits are lifted, you feel better, take your other medicines on time, change your diet, get out and walk the dog – and your health improves.  Did the medicine have only a spirit effect?  No, the first effect was on your spirit.

It wasn’t the ‘medicine’ that caused the placebo effect. It was the doctor’s hope. The dictionary definition of a placebo is actually incorrect.. A placebo is something the doctor recommends when he has no solution to sell. It is a recommendation of hope. Prescribing a placebo is the act of prescribing hope.

Placebos lift the patients spirits. What we call ‘placebo effect’ is actually the of lifting the patient’s spirits.  It is not the medicine that the patient takes, it is that the patient believes in the medicine. Belief has real, powerful effects.

Of course there are medicines that can depress or lift the spirits, like alcohol and caffeine. But none of these are placebos. These typically result in rebound effects, often called ‘side effects’ as your body recovers from them.

We can now define placebo, placebo effect, active placebo and medicine, to remove all of the paradoxes.

A placebo is a prescription given to lift the spirits of the patient. It often contains a medicine recommendation that the doctor does not believe will have any direct physical effect on the body of the patient. The spirit lift often results in positive physical effects on the patient. 

– What’s different about that definition?  It feels right. And there is no paradox.

 – The medicine prescribed is not a placebo. Nothing is a placebo in itself. It becomes a placebo only when it is prescribed by a doctor. The act of giving a prescription, creates a placebo and the placebo effect.

Placebo effects are the effects of a placebo, on the spirit of the patient, and the subsequent effects on the patient’s body.  Placebo effects are ‘spirit effects’. The strength of a placebo effect is determined not by the substance recommended, but by the sincerity of the doctor, and the belief of the patient. 

Note: Placebo effects are not effects of the actual medicine. They are the result of the patient’s belief in the doctor.

An active placebo is a prescription that contains a something that has an effect on the patient’s body, not related to the illness.  It does, as a placebo, have an effect on the patient’s spirits, often a stronger effect, because the patient’s spirit is lifted by the physical sensations.. 

A medicine has an effect on the patients illness, the patient’s body. To a certain extent, medical prescriptions are also placebos, even if the doctor is absolutely certain they will work. If the doctor believes, the patient’s spirit, the patient’s “will”, is more likely to believe in, and to take, the medicine. Medical prescriptions also have spirit effects on the patient. 

Medicines that are prescribed are also placebos. They have medical effects and also placebo effects. Even the wrong medicine might have a positive effect, due to the strengths of the placebo effect. Medicines can have positive medical effects, when the doctor is wrong.

Once we correctly define placebo and placebo effect, there are no paradoxes.

Even self-medication can have a placebo effect. A patient chooses a self-medication because of a belief that the medication can have a positive effect. The act of choosing and using the medication lifts the patient’s spirits. Self-medication can be based on previous experiences, or it might come from other people in the patient’s community.

There is an interesting technical issue.  The prescription of a placebo is still a lie. A white lie. If the doctor tells the patient what he believes to be the truth, then the ‘placebo prescription’ will not work. The doctor doesn’t tell the patient he is prescribing a placebo – he says “I’m prescribing a medicine.”, knowing himself that it is a placebo.  The nurse, the pharmacist, and others might not know that it is a placebo, or a spirit medicine.  They don’t need to know for it to work. And if they know, and they tell the patient, it might be less effective.

Placebos are not ‘physical things’.  They can lift the spirit, because they are imaginary things – rising above the physical realm. Placebos are real aspects of medicines, they have real effects and they can even have side effects – effects that were not intended by the doctor. All medicines have the attributes of placebo, when they are actually prescribed.


To this point, we have not discussed Clinical Placebos.

Clinical placebos have a different definition, and should not be confused with the real placebos. Clinical placebos are null medicines, not real placebos. They could be named ‘fake placebos’, but I believe the term ‘null medicine’ or simply Clinical Placebo is more accurate.

Clinical placebos only exist in a clinical trial, and only when a ‘test medicine’ is being tested in a clinical trial.

Clinical placebos do not require the doctor to lie to the patient.  When clinical placebos are used, the doctors are not allowed to lie to the patient, rather – they tell the patient that the doctor does not know if the patient is receiving the ‘medicine being tested’, or a clinical placebo.

Clinical placebos are not designed, nor delivered, to improve the spirits of the patient.

Clinical placebos are actually designed to eliminate the real placebo effects from the mathematics of clinical studies. However, this theory is weak and problematical, because, even though clinical placebos are not real placebos -they sometimes have placebo like effects.

Clinical placebos are not ‘prescribed’, they are ‘administered’.

Clinical placebos are not given in the best interest of the patient. They are administered to assist medical scientists gain knowledge for future use.

Doctors who administer clinical placebos want the clinical placebo to fail. If the clinical placebo fails, and the ‘medicine being tested’ works, then the clinical trial has been a success.

Clinical placebos are very, very different from a placebo from your doctor,  A placebo from your doctor is an honest attempt to provide effective medicine for your condition.  A clinical placebo is an attempt to determine if a specific medicine provides some statistical benefit.

Clinical Placebo Effects – are still a paradox. We can understand that a normal placebo lifts the patients spirits, and results in better health. But clinical placebos are not designed to lift the spirits of the patient. But the fact is that clinical placebo effects also exist. Why? Because we don’t understand. When we do understand, this paradox will also fade away.

So…When you read statements like:

X is no better than a placebo.
Y is probably just a “placebo effect“.
Treatment X is just a placebo.
Medicine X failed to beat a placebo in controlled clinical studies.
Ask “Are you talking about a real placebo, or a clinical placebo?”

to your health, tracy

This post was first published on the blog for Personal Health Freedom.

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10 Reasons to Love your Homeopath

Lots of people swear by homeopathic medicines, but a small group thinks they should be banned. In the book “Think Like a Freak”, authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner tell us that the three hardest words in the English language are “I don’t know.” These three words are the reason for arguments against homeopathy.

We know homeopathic medicines work. We don’t know why. We don’t know how. We often fear what we don’t understand. Fear can lead to anger and accusations when we simply don’t know. Homeopathy is a bit like acupuncture, vaccinations, and prayer. They don’t seem logical, but we know they work sometimes. We don’t understand.

Why should you love your homeopath? There are lots of reasons: Continue reading “10 Reasons to Love your Homeopath” »

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