Few medical terms are as well-documented as the “placebo effect” … people often feel better after being given what they believe is a drug treatment that will help or heal them, even though what they’re taking doesn’t actually contain any medication.
A team of university researchers recently demonstrated that even when people are told in advance that their treatment isn’t real – known as a “nondeceptive” placebo – believing that it may still have healing properties immediately reduces markers of emotional distress in the brain.
In a series of experiments involving a saline nasal spray, people who were told in advance about the placebo effect and also informed that the spray had no active ingredients – but could help reduce their negative feelings if they believed it could – experienced immediate and measurable reductions in emotional distress after using it.
“Placebos are all about mind over matter,” said Jason Moser, co-author of the study and a professor of psychology at Michigan State University. “Nondeceptive placebos were born so that (healthcare professionals) could possibly use them in routine practice … Rather than prescribing a host of medications to help a patient, you could give them a placebo, tell them it can help them and chances are if they believe it can, then it will.”