Placebos, Nocebos, and Your Herbs

Placebos” and “nocebos“, describe how our brains comply with our health goals to generate rapid and profound changes.

The placebo response is a poorly-understood response by the body that generates temporary healing and/or the perception of progress in one’s health status. The key point is that there is sudden improvement (which is our goal) but the improvement wears off after a week. The nocebo response is the same thing, but instead of improvements, there are side-effects that arise, but do not last.

The conventional medical model considers the placebo response to be largely in one’s head. After all, your brain can secrete some very potent pain-relievers and other substances that promote healing. However, your brain also has a say in your body awareness. So you may notice immediate benefits from your herbs, but if it isn’t really due to the herbs, that effect will wear off in a short time.

We’re always happy to hear from folks who have an extraordinary response to the herbs after one dose. There are a few formulas that can indeed produce that kind of response, but if that effect quickly wears off, it may have been a placebo response.

The Placebo Response:

  1. Your healing is quick: in as little as one dose, all your symptoms will go away.
  2. The healing response doesn’t last: usually, symptoms will begin to creep back into your awareness inside of one week. (Of course if your symptoms don’t return, that’s a desired outcome!)

The Nocebo Response:

  1. Side-effects arise quickly: in as little as one dose, your worst fears are all realized.
  2. The nocebo effect doesn’t last: usually, these issues will pass inside of a week.
  3. Some nocebo effects arise from hyper-vigilance and are imagined or sought out until they become more concretely perceived.

What if you’re not sure that your situation is a nocebo response or something else? There are some cases in which herbs cause some problems, and I don’t want to claim that all side-effects are transitory expressions of anxiety, because sometimes they’re not. It is really rare, though. If you have concerns, please contact us with your questions.

If you have a placebo or nocebo response, it’s okay. It doesn’t mean that you’re flawed or crazy. Even I have a placebo response now and then when using a new formula, and I know better! So don’t think that there is anything wrong if this happens to you.

The placebo response is truly one of the great unknown frontiers of medicine that I hope to see explored more deeply in the future.

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