Alternative Medicine & the Placebo Effect

I’m going to have to give Alternative Medicine a bit more respect – in an important sense, they really know what they are doing. This is, for such a science focused person as myself, an astounding comment. This is a very worthwhile article on the physiology and psychology of placebos. And no, they shouldn’t be dismissed as some kind of “psychology” of the easily fooled. The important quote from Benedetti is:

the take-home message for clinicians, for physicians, for all health professionals is that their words, behaviors, attitudes are very important, and move a lot of molecules in the patient’s brain. So, what they say, what they do in routine clinical practice is very, very important, because the brain of the patient changes sometimes… there is a reduction in anxiety; but we know that there is a real change…in the patient’s brain which is due to… the ‘ritual of the therapeutic act.

Does this prove the validity of alternative health practices? Of course not. However, it does point out an issue too often dismissed by science based medicine.

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