Scientists are finding a growing number of ways placebos appear to bring about real health benefits in patients.
The research could someday lead to increased use of placebos—substances that have no apparent pharmaceutical effect—in treatments for common diseases.
Studies have shown that administering placebos reduces pain and symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome and migraines, even when patients know they are taking a placebo. Scientists are exploring if they can get the same result in chronic back pain and cancer-related fatigue.
Parkinson’s-disease researchers discovered that stopping patients’ real medication and substituting a placebo continues to ease their symptoms, likely because the body is preconditioned to trigger the same response.