placebo pill
Physicians and scientists have known about the placebo effect for well over 50 years. Studies have shown that placebos -- dummy or sugar pills-- are just as effective as medication with active ingredients. Yet the mainstream study of placebos as a first line treatment gets little attention. Today on the Health and Wellness Show we talked about the placebo effect and take it a step further. Do humans have an inner pharmacy that can be tapped into at will? What if you can become your own placebo and experience healing through the power of your mind alone? Can you change your genetic expression through thoughts? And if this is possible, how does it work? Joining us, as always, was Zoya with a pet health segment on placebos and pets.

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Here's the transcript of the show:

Jonathan: Welcome everybody to the Health and Wellness Show! Today is Friday, March 25th, 2016. My name is Jonathan and I'll be your host for today. Joining me in our virtual studio on the SOTT Radio Network from all over the planet, we have Doug, Erica, Tiffany, Elliott and Harrison; hello everybody.

All: Hello

Jonathan: So today should be a pretty good show. We are talking about an interesting topic, the placebo effect. So physicians and scientists have known about the placebo effect for well over 50 years. There are plenty of studies that have shown that placebos are just as effective as medication with active ingredients, yet the mainstream study of placebos gets very little attention so today we are going to talk about the placebo effect. We are going to dive into it, what does it mean? What can it do? And a number of different topics or sub-topics around that topic.

We will also be focusing too on a book by Joe Dispenza which is quite interesting and we will be talking about some of the material from there. So I think let's start off by defining placebo. I'm sure that most people have heard that term and are familiar with what it means. I pulled up the online etymology dictionary for "placebo" and in doing some reading about this I learned that it's actually technically pronounced "plachebo" because it's a Latin word but you know, we won't try to do that because it's more commonly known as "placebo".

"In the early 13 Century, it was the name given to the rite of Vespers in the Office of the Dead, so called from the opening of the first antiphon, 'I will please the Lord in the land of the living', from Latin placebo "I shall please," future indicative of placere "to please". In the medical sense it is first recorded in 1785, referred to as "a medicine given more to please than to benefit the patient." I think this is interesting because a lot of studies have shown that it does not only please the patient but it actually does benefit the patients.

So placebo can be anything from dummy pills, sugar pills to automatic suggestion, hypnosis; a whole number of things fall under the realm of the placebo effect but it's more generally considered as anything that is not a pharmacological medicine, that appears to have the same effect that the said medicine would have.

To start off our discussion I'd be curios to hear if you guys have had any experience with the placebo effect. I have not had experience specifically with dummy pills or anything like that but I have had cases where I got a cut or a scratch that hurt pretty bad and I was able to concentrate on it and reduce the pain just by focusing. Nothing like Wim Hof like we were talking about last week but just more like a general reduction of pain by concentration. I've never actually been in a straight-up placebo situation where somebody gave me a pill and said "here, this will fix you" and I said "oh, ok." And then it did. Have you guys ever had any experience like that or anything similar?

Erykah: I have. Actually 20+ years ago when I was pregnant and I read a book called Shakti Gawain's Creative Visualization, and at the time I had no idea what placebo meant or the idea behind it but basically I read this little book and then I went into labour. In the book they had talked about visualizing what you wanted and so you have a focus object, and so for me it was the sprinkler head in the hospital ceiling. And I just focused on that with all my attention and essentially I left my body. They offered me copious amounts of drugs in addition to what they call an epidural or a saddle block so that you don't feel pain. I refused all those and then basically with my mind, I was able to essentially leave my body and go through 12 hours of labour without any pain.

I shouldn't say "without any pain". There's definitely pain but it was actually pretty life-changing to go through such an experience at such a young age too and realize that the power of your mind can really affect your body. So I had the baby with no drugs and then I had a second child 2 years later and did the exact same thing and it worked!

This is spoken about a lot in midwifery literature and whatnot. Women had been doing this for thousands and thousands of years and the whole medical intervention in labour is that they tell you that you are weak or you can't handle it. Really [you have] the power of the mind to go through something like that and I think for me, the most important thing was that this was going to happen whether I wanted it to or not; if that makes sense? And it just made the whole process that much easier. So yes, I definitely experienced it.

Tiffany: So before you read the book, did you have any kind of clue that that kind of thing was possible? Because we watch T.V. and movies and stuff and they show women in childbirth and they are always screaming and cussing and hitting people and it just seems like the worst experience ever.

Erykah: They call it transition in labour where it starts slow and then the pain gets more and more intense and really for me, just the creative visualization, focusing on something to ride out the intensity worked for me to calm myself down so I didn't get into a panic mode. Because I think what you are speaking of is that a lot of women are like "I can't do this, I can't do this".

I have one more little added note on that. I was at a birth two years ago with a close girlfriend and it was the same thing, they were offering drugs and the epidural. She was starting to go through that transition and the baby was coming and she was like "just give me the drugs! Just give me the drugs!" and I said to her "Oh, they already gave you the drugs, don't you remember? The doctor came in and they gave you the drugs and you're all good." And she had the baby. And afterwards she was like "Wow, I can't believe that! With the drugs I didn't feel anything!" And I said "Well I lied. They didn't give you the drugs". So just that suggestion, like what we were going to talk about today, that placebo effect, that suggestion in your mind: "Oh, you've already got the drugs. It's going to work", I've seen it happen.

Tiffany: Well they say that even with conventional drugs that do have active ingredients, the majority of their efficacy is because of the placebo effect. There have been articles on SOTT where they say that the placebo effects works not just because somebody believes that the pill that they are going to take works, it's the whole ritual of going to the doctor's office, having somebody in a white coat tell you that this medicine is going to be good for you, the whole ritual of taking the pill. All of those things tells you that you are taking steps to get well and that is part of the placebo effect too.

Harrison: The history of placebo is interesting because it wasn't really in the medical literature until a couple of developments in medicine happened. Even a 100-150 years ago when your local doctor or the person making the rounds and coming to your house, it was very common practice to take into account the patient's mental and emotional state of being at the time. So it was actually focused on. That was something that doctors paid attention to and noted in their notes and in their treatments. But as the scientific materialism philosophy started gaining ground in science, that went away because all of a sudden it became obvious to scientists and doctors that there was no such thing as a mind; that the so-called Cartesian dualism - the difference between body and mind - was a myth because there was no such thing as mind because everything was mechanical, biological or physical at the base.

So there was this total denial of the existence and efficacy of the mind; and by efficacy I mean that it can have any causal influence on anything. It's kind of ironic because as this happened, there developed this idea that the mind and the brain were exactly the same thing. Around the time that this happening pretty much all mainstream doctors were totally against the idea of what we know as a placebo effect or any kind of related phenomenon like hypnosis or faith healing or anything like that. So it was totally ignored, but because they were seeing the mind and the brain as the same thing, all of a sudden that kind of opened a doorway for accepting some of these phenomena because they started to think that if only the brain exists then that means if something changes something in the brain then the brain can have an effect on the physical systems in the body, like the nervous system and the immune system. So this is where we get what we call nowadays psychoneuroimmunology.

This is just the basic idea that something like stress has an effect on health. So in their minds, scientists think that they've got it nailed down and have found the exact chemical pathways and changes in the body that make this a case. So you have a heightened stress response and this increases your T-cells or something like that and it suppresses your immune system because of these known chemicals and biological changes. That's pretty much accepted in science nowadays, almost completely. But only because they were seeing the mind and the brain as totally the same thing, they could say "This is just a physical process affecting another physical process so they can understand it".

But there's more to it of course because psychoneuroimmunology isn't the only phenomenon and the placebo effect is a big one. Now the placebo effect came along mainly because of the scientific method that doctors and medical researchers started doing which involved double blind scientific experiments where they were doing actual tests on new drugs. What they found was that when they were using their so-called "control" they didn't call it a placebo at first. It was just a sugar pill or something like that, something that should have been totally inert and have no effect. In doing their statistical analyses on these first tests, they realized that it was having an effect. So nowadays, not everyone but a lot of people when they're doing their tests, still use the placebo as their control.

So that means that they know that the placebo effect works. They know that a certain number of people will get a positive response from this placebo and so then they just judge the drug that they are testing in comparison to that placebo. I'm just making these numbers up, but let's say that there are 100 people in each group and you give the placebo to 100 people and the so-called real drug to the other group. Let's say that the placebo affects 30 people positively in that group and then the drug affects maybe 35 or 40. So that means that those 5 or 10 extra people are affected by the drug and they can say "Okay, this drug works". But like Tiff was saying, often times a large part of those people who benefit from the drug are actually getting the placebo effect because there was that 30 people in both groups that are getting the effect but it's from the placebo. You take off that 30 and only 5 or 10 are maybe getting the effect from the drug.

I can't remember the statistics but I read some a while ago about the limits of the number of people that have to be positively benefited by the drug in order for it to get put into circulation and it's not very big. It's a really small number of people on top of the placebo effect that it has to be effective. So in those cases it is the majority of the effect that is due to the placebo, which is pretty crazy when you think about it.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Harrison: But even then, all these doctors and medical researchers will accept that the placebo is a real effect but they have no idea how it works and that's the big mystery. This is a very, very strange thing to be happening. Doctors will say that it's just placebo. Well they say "just placebo" but what is a placebo? They have no idea and it shouldn't work according to their basic philosophical principles and beliefs about the way the universe works, the way medicine works, the way the body works. They have no idea. They cannot explain it based on their current scientific understanding.

Doug: It kind of gets brushed under the rug in a lot of cases. Like you said it's "just the placebo". Well hold on a second, what exactly is happening there? What you are saying is that there is no active ingredient coming from outside yet these people are having a beneficial effect. It's almost like nobody wants to think about that. They say it's "just a placebo" so that they can brush it aside. Really, there is obviously something very powerful going on there.

Harrison: Absolutely.

Jonathan: I wonder of it's the body actually creating the substances themselves. Let's say you need dopamine in your body and you don't take dopamine, you take a sugar pill or you have some sort of suggestion, Does your body then create dopamine? Or does your body do something else? Is something else happening and there is really no dopamine in the picture at all?

Tiffany: There was an article carried on SOTT. It was very short but they were talking about a Parkinson's drug trial and they tested one group of Parkinson's patients and they gave them a precursor to dopamine and they tested how much dopamine they produced once they got the injection. They had another control group where they just gave them a saline injection and those people produced just as much dopamine as the people who got the actual drug. So the researchers concluded that dopamine does play a part in the placebo effect.

There was also another article that said something like if you had the genetics for producing greater amounts of dopamine than the average person then you are more likely to benefit from a placebo. So dopamine does play a role in it.

Doug: But it isn't just dopamine, because there was another study where they were doing some sort of pain study. What they noted was that the people were kind of creating their own pain reduction, like opioids. That by getting the placebo effect, their body was actually creating opioids to block pain. When they gave them a drug that actually blocked the receptors for those opioids, they would feel the pain again. The mechanism of action there is that it's not just that you're believing that you are not going to have pain so you don't have pain, you are believing that you aren't going to have pain and that creates those opioids or releases those opioids and those can be blocked just like any opioid drug can be blocked.

Harrison: There is a great book that I go to every once in a while. It's a giant book called Irreducible Mind. It's a book that's got all kinds of parapsychological things in it and it's written by a group of psychologists and other professionals and medical professionals; published in 2007. It's got a section on placebo and this psychobiological influence. But before I get to one thing, there is another aspect of placebo and it's called the nocebo and it's the same principle but it goes in the opposite direction. This will be a harmless agent that is believed to be harmful which then has a harmful effect. For example, they've done tests on people with asthma where they will spray a saline solution into their nose and tell them that it's some kind of allergen. Then, just like with the placebo, it will have an effect and these people will have an asthmatic reaction to this saline solution and then they will say "Here's the antidote", and they'll spray the same solution and the asthma attack will go away. I just wanted to bring that up.

Tiffany: There was another one about the nocebo effect that was in Joe Dispenza's book You are the Placebo. This guy and this girl were having a rough time and they argued and he said "forget everything, I'm just going to kill myself" and he happened to be in a medical study where they gave him some pills. I think the study was on depression, so the pills were anti-depressants; or so he thought. So he said "Forget everything, I'm going to kill myself, I'm going to take an overdose" and he took the whole bottle of the experimental pills and he started having all the symptoms of an overdose.

But he changed his mind. I think a neighbour found him on the floor and they called the ambulance and he went to the hospital. He didn't have any of the pills. He took them all but he told them that he was in this study so they called the people who ran the study and they found out that he was actually in the placebo group. All of the pills that he overdosed on were sugar pills! [Laughter]

Harrison: Back to the question of what's actually happening with the placebo, is it actually producing that drug inside the person's body? There are actually several different things going on. We've already mentioned two of the examples, the dopamine and opioids. Those are two of the biggest ones in the literature. The placebo can produce endogenous opioids in the body which have a pain dulling effect and also the dopamine in the case of Parkinson's disease research and medications.

According to the literature it's not that simple. In some cases, the placebo will mimic what the drug does and in other cases, it'll do something completely different which will have a similar effect however. So depending on what the drug is trying to combat, it will go about some kind of healing or something like that but using a different means and sometimes it's not entirely clear what that is. We just don't know. Some diseases are more susceptible to placebo than others, it's not like a one dose for every disease kind of thing.

I just want to read one thing here. There's also an aspect of conditioning. In some cases, the placebo acts like a conditioned response. So you could give a real drug in a saline solution, linked to a certain flavour, to a person and it will have a good effect. Then you take away the active ingredient and you just give them the saline solution and then that will continue to have the effect. So in an experiment like that, it looks like a classical conditioning, a conditioned response is what is going on.

In other cases, of course there was no previous conditioning, they just give a brand new drug and the response is there. So there is a contradiction there too. These researchers tried to determine what was what, going on here. So in the Irreducible Mind they write:
For example, Benedetti and his colleagues found that expectation seemed to be the primary factor in the release of endogenous opioids in response to placebo given for pain relief, whereas conditioning seemed more involved in the release of hormones such as dopamine in Parkinson's patients.
What's going on is actually pretty complex and that's just using two examples. We don't even know how many kinds of placebo effects there are. This is using pills or injections or even sham surgeries. They have had the same thing where they'll conduct a surgery that doesn't actually do anything and the people will have a positive healing response to that.

The weird thing is, after reading over the research on these sham surgeries, from all the studies that they have quoted, it sounds like the sham surgeries are often as good, or even better than, the real surgeries. From all these studies that they quoted, I didn't see one that they quoted that said that they actual surgery was better than the sham surgery. {laughter}

Erykah: They actually published it at Baylor's School of Medicine in 2012, an article in The New England Journal about knee surgery for people with debilitating knee pain. The patients were divided into three groups. The surgeon shaved the damaged cartilage in the knee of one group but in the second group they just flushed out the knee joint; a standard strategy for people with severely arthritic knees. Then the third group believed that they had the knee surgery but it was faked, they were sedated and an incision was made and it was splashed with salt water, then they sewed up the incision like the real thing and the process was complete.

All three of the groups went through the same rehab process with astonishing results. The placebo group improved just as much as the other two groups who had the surgery. Dr. Moseley, the surgeon involved in the study, made a bold statement emphasising that his skill as a surgeon had no benefit on these patients, that the entire benefit of the surgery for osteoarthritis of the knee was the placebo effect.

Harrison: This same study is quoted in this book and there was one more interesting thing about it. First they quote the same results. They say that "Overall there were no differences between the three groups. Patients in all three groups reported less pain and improved function." In the three groups there was the real surgery, the sham surgery and....

Erykah: Just a flushing out of the tissue.

Harrison: Yeah. So they said "More significantly, on the measures evaluated by physicians, objectively measured walking and stair climbing were poorer in the surgery group than in the placebo group."

Erykah: Wow!

Doug: Jeez! And the funny thing is that it gets even more complicated too, because we watched a movie called The Power of the Placebo in preparation for this show and they talked about a guy at Harvard University who is actually studying placebos and he did a study where he took IBS patients or IBS sufferers and he actually gave them placebos and told them that it was placebo. They even wrote on the bottle that is was placebo and said that "We are going to give you this placebo, but there are shown benefits to taking a placebo."

They interviewed one of the subjects in the study who suffers from pretty debilitating IBS and in something like 60% of the people who got the placebo, it actually still had an effect. The common thought behind placebos and how they work is that there is a belief there, that you believe you are getting an actual medication and there is some form of deception there; you are fooling yourself into thinking that you are doing something to get yourself better.

But this subject that they interviewed was absolutely amazed because she is sitting there saying "There is no way that this is going to work, it's just a placebo. There is absolutely no way" yet she completely benefited from it. Again it just complicates matters even more. It's like what is going on here? Is it just the act of taking a pill that convinces the body that they are going to get better? Is it a desire? Is it just having some sort of external validation in some way that you are doing something to help yourself?

The fact of the matter is it doesn't even require any level of deception. There actually can be an effect from taking a placebo when you know it's a placebo.

Tiffany: Another weird thing is that it happens in animals! The couple of studies I read they were actually conditioned with the real drug a couple of times so that they can know what the effect was and then they replaced the injection for pain with a plain saline solution and the rats or the dogs or whatever they were testing, actually experienced a relief in pain. They tried it again with dogs who had seizures and they conditioned them and they gave them a dummy pill and the dog showed a reduction in seizures. So it doesn't have to be of a higher consciousness. Maybe Zoya will talk about that in her pet segment.

I don't know, do humans or animals access something that is in the field? Or the universal mind that surrounds everything? Is that what is responsible for the healing? Even if they know that it's a placebo or have no idea like in the case of a rat.

Jonathan: One of our chat participants here says "What does the placebo effect tell us about consciousness/information and is there a difference in humans affected by placebos and those not affected?" I'm curious about that as well. We can talk about what we think it means regarding consciousness and information or information theory but I'm not sure if there is a difference between the different types of people who are affected. Is one person who's cured by placebo more or less advanced so-to-speak? That's a super subjective term but you know what I mean, is there some sort of different psychological, physical or genetic makeup between the people who are affected by placebo and those who are not?

Harrison: First of all, we just don't know at this point in time because the researchers haven't really gone that far but maybe as a direction in which this science should be headed is to take into account that first of all this is something that we don't understand totally yet, and then we can look at a field like hypnosis where it is another phenomenon where people seem to have different degrees of susceptibility to it.

One of the last times I was on the show here, or on The Truth Perspective, I think I mentioned the phenomenon of induced lesions or burn marks in hypnosis. A trained hypnotist can actually convince a person to produce an actual burn on their skin and some types of lesions like this, but those cases are even rarer so it's even harder to produce a lesion like that than it is just to hypnotise a person.

I think with this placebo effect, if you look at who benefits from it and who doesn't then we're identifying some kind of difference between people. We're identifying some identifiable groups within the human population. I think that it's possible at least, if we were to understand what's really going on with the placebo and actually research it and look at what's actually going on and how to heighten or control the effect, it's hard to say with any certainty but I think it's definitely possible that it could be used on anyone if it was totally understood.

There may be a reason why certain people are less susceptible to it in its current form but if we knew more about it then it's possible that giving that placebo in those conditions and with certain understandings the placebo would have an effect. That's just my guess.

Tiffany: Well Joe Dispenza gets into that in his book where he talks about hypnosis, as you mentioned Harrison, and how some people are more suggestible than other people. For the placebo effect to work, you have to really believe, not just on a conscious level but on a subconscious level where it gets into how you see the world, what you think about yourself, what you think about other people, what you believe about how the world works. All of those things can affect whether or not you will benefit from a placebo. And not just that, but also how great of an effect you will get.

There was a study that he talked about in his book, a hypnotism study, where they were testing how suggestible people were. They narrowed it down to a handful of people and they had some of those people go to a restaurant and they gave them suggestions, like that they were very hot and they had to take their clothes off. Some of the people had already passed the test saying that they were suggestible in the first place, but some of the people questioned it; their analytical minds got in the way and they wouldn't take their clothes off in public.

But some people stripped down to their underwear, in a restaurant, in public. There was this one guy who was so suggestible that they convinced him that he was a hired assassin and they actually got him to assassinate somebody with a fake bullet and fake blood and all that stuff. That's how suggestible he was. So I think that is part of it. If you truly, truly believe that you are going to realise some outcome, or you truly believe that something is going to work for you, I think that'll influence how suggestible you are to the placebo.

Harrison: I think that one thing that needs to be taken into account is the nature of that belief because we have examples of people, like you mentioned with the placebo, who don't think it's going to work or who know it's a placebo who are then affected by it. I think perhaps a possible hypothesis for what's going on there is that their conscious verbal belief is that it's not going to work but on a deep, subconscious level they actually believe it.

Tiffany: Yeah.

Harrison: Humans are contradictory beings to begin with and I don't think it's a stretch to hypothesise this. Just look at the example that they gave when I took psychology in the university which was of a person who has vehement anti-homosexual beliefs and it turns out that they are actually homosexual and they didn't even know it. They'll have a conscious belief that is totally at odds with their real subconscious belief. I'm guessing that maybe what's going on in some of these cases where people either know that the placebo is a placebo or they don't believe it's going to work but it ends up working is because on some kind of subconscious level they do have that belief.

Doug, I think you mentioned and were throwing hypotheses out on what's going on and you said that maybe it's got something to do with your body. Just the physical act of taking a pill, your body, which isn't your conscious mind; your body taking a pill knows what's going on. Your mouth can feel the pill going in and you can feel it going down your oesophagus and you know that's an experience that your body has had numerous times presumably and there is an association - that's where conditioning comes in - between taking a pill, and it being medicine and you getting better.

So even if you know that this is just a random pill, the very physical act of ingesting that pill may convince your body that it's taking something that will be beneficial for whatever reason you are taking it for.

Tiffany: Most people won't consciously admit that they believe in magic which is kind of what this sounds like but really it's where science meets mysticism. People aren't going to say "I think I can heal myself. I think placebos work." I mean, they have no clue.

Doug: I also wonder if maybe there's something going on there too, as far as how susceptible someone is to authority. I think that if a person is the type of person who really puts a lot of emphasis on external things affecting them, having some sort of authority outside of themselves or some sort of effect outside of themselves that affects them, that even if they consciously realise that it's a placebo that they are taking, because they've been given something, there is some sort of external stimulus there that was given by a doctor or an authority figure, that even though consciously they realise that there is nothing here, because it's been given by a doctor, because there is this external authority that has told them that this may have an effect, it kind of affects them on a completely subconscious level.

Elliott: I think it may be a lot to do with not necessarily the fact that they are being told that it's a placebo. They can know it's a sugar pill, but the very fact that they are aware that it has had beneficial effects on others can be that catalyst to increase those internal immunological responses and get over whatever illness it is.

There is a doctor called Robert O. Becker, and he wrote a book called Cross Currents which is basically about energy medicine and electro-pollution and things. He cites this amazing account of a particular patient who was suffering from an incurable, terminal cancer that was inoperable and there was absolutely nothing that they could do about it. At the time, in the 1960's there was a prominent drug called Laetrile and it was promoted by all of these physicians and doctors with excellent credentials and they were all saying how it was a really powerful anti-cancer.

This patient went to his doctor and said "Can I try this? I've heard that it's cured people of their cancer." The doctor supplied this drug to the patient and in the space of a few weeks he went from being underweight, severely fatigued and really quite ill to absolutely in remission. He completely cured his cancer in the space of a few weeks. There was no sign of the tumour. It had completely disappeared. He put weight on, his pain had disappeared, his symptoms had completely gone.

Then all of a sudden there was a press release which was a few skeptic scientists who came out and said "This drug is a farce, it doesn't work and it's worthless". The guy's symptoms came back the next week, the tumour reappeared and he started feeling the pain and he basically developed cancer again. So his doctor said to him "I'm going to give you a more potent for of this drug" when in fact, what it actually was that he was giving the patient was distilled water. So he says "I've got this more potent form and I'm going to give this to you" and the patient went back into remission, cured his cancer again and he thought that he had completely recovered.

All of a sudden the FDA announced a few weeks later that they completely supported the press reports and that this drug was essentially worthless and yet again, funnily enough, the patient went back out of remission and he died two weeks later.

This guy, he cured his cancer and then when he was told by some authority figure that it was worthless and that it didn't work, he developed his cancer again. Then another authority figure told him that it did work so he cured his cancer and then the FDA came out again and he died of the cancer. I just thought that was a really amazing account because it just shows the amount of belief that we place in whether something is successful and not necessarily on a conscious level, but especially if there's an authority figure that is telling us this is going to work, that could be the main factor in curing these diseases by placebo.

Harrison: In this chapter that I have been reading on psychobiological influence, they go through a whole bunch of related phenomena. Like I mentioned earlier, placebo and psychoneuroimmunology are just a couple of phenomena that happen to be accepted by the medical establishment at this point because either they have some kind of explanation for them or they are brute facts in the sense that they can't escape them like the placebo effect.

I wanted to read something from a couple of these sections to go into two areas, the authority aspect and the belief aspect, what's actually going on here. This section is on two phenomena, sudden death and voodoo death. In sudden death, one researcher wrote on it extensively and he gave it the name "the giving up/given up complex" and this often happens after receiving a sudden shock such as the news of a death or a serious loss, a sudden fright or occasionally, a time of unusual joy. These are often events causing acute anger or some other emotion and these people will just kind of die, either right then or a very short time after that.

Then there is the voodoo death, also called the hex death. This is most often found in the so-called primitive cultures where there is still the practice and belief in witch doctors and sorcery and hexers. In this case the person usually believes that they are going to die at a particular time and then they actually do die at that time. They quote a whole bunch of these studies by anthropologists and physicians that are in these other cultures and just how often they have seen this phenomenon. It's undeniable that it actually happens.

Here are just a couple of quotes.
One of these people doing the research, a native nurse, now a Christian, had been outspoken on the foolishness of accepting the belief in the death curse but nonetheless died within three days of learning that he himself had been cursed. Even in the United States, belief in the voodoo death and the associated cases persist among particular socio-cultural groups such as African Americans. Such cases however, are by no means limited to preliterate or folk societies. They also occur in modern Western cultures. Although superficially different, the general phenomenology of Western cases parallels those found in aboriginal or preliterate cultures.

The belief that one is going to die maybe generated not by a witch doctor's curse but by more culturally congruent phenomena such as a fortune teller's prediction, a doctor's pronouncement of a hopeless condition or some other suggestion accepted by the patient.
I want to get into a couple of those in a minute but right there, just think about that. In our culture, the same thing can happen by a fortune teller's prediction. Let's say that you believe in astrology or you go to a psychic and they tell you something about your life or a disease or something and then it happens and you are like "Oh my god! The prediction was right!" Well not necessarily. It could just be a case of not just a self-fulfilling prophecy but something along the lines of this placebo where you are actually somehow producing the effect in your body. We would be getting more into parapsychology, life circumstances in other ways but if we just focus on disease and health, that can be completely produced by yourself and the suggestion produced by that fortune teller.

If they say "Ok, you're going to die when you are 30" you might die when you are 30 and you wouldn't have otherwise if you didn't believe it or if you didn't get the prophecy through the fortune in the first place. Then you have also got the doctor's pronouncements of a hopeless conditions. A doctor tells you that you are going to die in three months, you die in three months. You might not have died in three months if your doctor hadn't said that.

But then there is this other general one, "or some other suggestion accepted by the patient". Think about all the things in the news, the big things telling you "If you do this, you're going to die." If you smoke you're going to die." "If you eat this then you are going to die." Even if we look at the epidemiological studies showing these correlations between these practices that people do in their everyday lives that are just so over the top promoted in the mainstream - doctors and the media and politicians.

It's entirely possible that a lot of these people are dying because they are being told that they are going to die. There may be no causal link between smoking for example, and the death. Just something to consider there.

Jonathan: There are a lot of cases of cancer diagnoses where people may have lived for years in retrospect with cancer in their bodies and as soon as they have that diagnoses, they're done within 2-3 months.

Harrison: I've got a couple of examples of that from this book. They continue on that "A corollary of the belief in voodoo death is the belief that the curse can be overridden by countermeasures of a more powerful figure." In this case they give a few examples, one of which is a case described by Medor; whoever that is. "It is of an American man who was considered doomed by himself and his family because of a hex put on the patient by a voodoo priest. His physician likewise considered him to be near death but he was successful in overriding the hex and setting into motion an almost instantaneous and rapid recovery by fully entering into the belief system of the patient and his family and conducting an elaborate and convincing counter hex." And he saved the guy's life because this doctor just said "Ok, well this guy believes it, I'm going to go with it and I'm going to counter hex this bad guy" and did it!

So another example, this was an elderly man who had been given the diagnosis of widespread incurable liver cancer. "He and everyone around him believed in the finality of his diagnosis and he died shortly thereafter. An autopsy however, revealed that the diagnosis had been a false positive. Only a small cancerous nodule was found, insufficient to have caused death."

Another example, "The relationship between bereavement and depression in the onset of his disease." I won't read the case but there is this link between bereavement, so when someone close to you dies and you get depressed and then disease will start, and oftentimes there is increased mortality caused by cases like this.

Medor, the same guy that quoted the study above, he considered these cases to be examples of hex deaths, defining a hex death as "a ritualised pronouncement of death by someone perceived by the subject to have immense power and authority." So this is getting back to what you were saying Elliott, that seems to be a big part of this. If you perceive the person hexing you or curing you as this authority that has the power and the ability, that can have a big effect on the whole thing going on.

Just one more example. This gets back to the whole nature of the belief system going on here. This is in the section on faith healing. "In this case, the role of faith and hence of self-suggestion is somewhat less clear." That means that they are going through cases where it's pretty obvious that probably, the main thing going on is that the person is self-suggesting that this is going on. They might go to a holy site like Lourdes in France and because they believe they are going to be healed then they end up getting healed. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with people around them or an authority figure or something like that.

This one researcher described a 1931 report in a medical journal of a case involving a doctor with chronic and long standing eczema who was cured in one day after going to a woman known for her cures by prayer. He had originally refused to go to her because he was an atheist but he finally went at his family's urging and out of desperation for relief." So again, here is an atheist going to a Christian person who is going to pray on him and heal him and he gets healed.

Tiffany: What a lot of these studies or anecdotal case studies have in common is that the person has a strong belief sometimes, maybe not consciously, but they might have a strong belief that they can heal or someone can heal them or something can heal them. It's also accompanied by a strong emotional reaction, whether the emotion is something positive like joy or happiness or love or gratitude, or it's accompanied by a negative emotion like anger or fear or something like that. They also probably visualized the future outcome or what it might be like to die or to be ill or to get better. I think those are some commonalities.

Joe Dispenza talked about that in his book. He was talking about spontaneous remissions and he said that he noticed that there were four things that people who do have these miraculous healings have in common. The first thing was that all of them believed that there was an intelligence within them that was giving them life. There was a connection to something, a force, something much greater than themselves. They thought that this force loved them more than they loved themselves and knew how their body worked better than they knew consciously. They thought that if they could make contact with this intelligent force that it could heal them.

The second thing they thought was that their attitude or their way of living, the emotions that they held on to all their lives, created their condition. The third thing is that they realised that they had to reinvent themselves and become a different person. They asked themselves "what would it be like to be healed?" Or "what would it be like to feel good every day or not be sick?" Who do they know in their lives that they want to be like? Do they have a hero, someone who is really healthy and gets things done? What was it that caused them to lose their belief that they could actually get better?

The fourth thing that they had in common was that they all rehearsed what they were going to be like in the future; like positive visualization. They had long moments where they lost track of time and space because they were so involved in picturing their future selves. They lost track of their body and their environment and time.

Joe Dispenza said that when you get to this point where you lose track of time and space, that's when your body can rewire itself and certain genes can be turned on or certain genes can be turned off, the epigenetic factor that plays into a lot of this. Your genes aren't your destiny. Your genes aren't fixed. People say they have the gene for cancer but if they have the gene for cancer then as soon as they were born they would get cancer and die. What is it that stops a person from getting cancer when they're born? Why does cancer come 40 or 50 years later? What is that?

Harrison: The other side of that is to look at the people who get sick and who end up dying from these illnesses. The most common associations that they find in these cases of mind and disease is their relationship between chronic negative emotions such as depression or hopelessness, and illness. Hopelessness seems to be a big one.

There is this one study in which a complex of beliefs in traditional Asian medicine and astrology seem to have contributed to mortality amongst people who held these beliefs, presumably because these beliefs led them to feel helpless, hopeless or stoic. This comes back to the whole astrology thing, if your world view is such that you have beliefs that the future is set in stone, that there is nothing you can do about it, that the stars control everything or you are being controlled by aliens or there is just nothing out there, there is nothing to look forward to, there is no possible hope for change because everything is just matter and there is no such thing as will or choice.

Tiffany: Or you are being punished.

Harrison: Or you are being punished. All of that can produce this sense of hopelessness and that's the biggest predictor that you are going to die a diseased death.

Elliott: It's interesting that you mentioned the feeling of hopelessness because I guess that relates to a personal sense of responsibility and of choice. If you tell somebody that they are going to die in three months, there are a number of cases where people have literally dropped down on the same day as the doctor has predicted. That's a really, really common thing.

I guess when you take the individual responsibility of taking care of one's health away from someone, then they are a lot more susceptible to becoming seriously ill. That's actually been shown in animal studies as well. There was an interesting study on rats in which they got two sets of rats. The first set were subject to electric shocks in a cage and the second group were also subjected to electric shocks but they could in some way ameliorate them by pressing on a lever so they lowered the amount of electric shock that they were given. This gave them an element of control over themselves or over their experience.

These rats were injected with a lethal substance of some carcinogen and what they found was that the rats who didn't have any control over their experience actually had a much higher rate of cancer than the ones who did have that level of control where they could somehow ameliorate the amount of electric shock that they were being given. I guess what this suggests is that if an individual is provided with a sense of control over their health or control over their experience, then they maybe have the ability to tap into this sort of primal mechanism where they can heal themselves. When they lose control completely or when they are told their fate they feel hopeless and they essentially give in to that fate.

Doug: That sounds like it has more to do with perception. Rather than somebody being given the illusion of control or given the illusion of no control, it's just really about what the individual perceives; whether that individual has the core belief that they are responsible for their own fate and for everything that happens to them versus somebody who believes that they are just a victim of surrounding forces.

Harrison: Yeah, I think that comes down to just having an objective world view. There are two aspects to that; one is that objectively, bad stuff is happening, bad stuff is coming down the pipeline so you could argue that the situation is hopeless.

[Connection lost and retrieved]

On the one hand an objective view of the world can seem to justify a hopeless world view but when you really look into it, if you are going to be fully objective that's not the way that I think that we should be looking at the world.

Just looking at this idea of hopelessness, there is another example of the studies that these people have been doing. There has been a lot of research on stress and hopelessness and their contribution to disease. So this got some people thinking that if these kinds of emotions that we think of as negative are causing disease then might the opposite be true too in that positive emotions might contribute to healing.

So there have been studies on anything from laughter and joy and meditation, that show the opposite, that they do contribute to healing and health. There has to be some balance because I think that people with a totally hopeless world view are not doing themselves any favours and they are not being truly objective about the big picture. I think that both need to be kept in mind. There needs to be an objective look at this world which is more often than not, horrible and depressing but that is only a part of it. I think the most important part is this sense of where to find hope and that means trying to form a world view that is based on the way reality really works, and part of that is that the future is open and that we do have some kind of influence and some kind of power to direct our own lives; within certain limits.

I think back to the example that Lobaczewski gives in Political Ponerology and just what life was like. If you watch movies and you read books, you read Ponerology and about what life was like in some of these countries and cities with these horrible governments, and you just think about the cliché of living under the Nazis and the Gestapo and being afraid for your life all the time, or that someone was going to rat you out and you were going to disappear; that your family was going to disappear, the antidote that Lobaczewski found was to have these good social relationships. You find people who have the same outlook as you and you laugh with them and you make fun of the leaders and you figure out how to live your life the way a real human should live their life despite what's going on, but at the same time with full awareness of what's going on because you've got to be smart about it.

I think that's a more objective look at it, to know the political situation, to know the realities of life on this planet but also to live that different reality and to make it a reality by acting in such a way that the good things about life are here; the "we are the agents of that goodness living amongst all the evil".

Jonathan: That's a hard balance to strike because it does seem like most people either go in one direction or the other, it's either complete "love and light, everything is fine and fluffy and dandy" or "it's complete darkness and hopelessness" and it's really hard to strike that balance between the two; see the world for what it is and embrace the good and the positive that does exist at the same time.

Tiffany: It's kind of a fine line when you think about the whole placebo effect and being able to heal yourself if that is possible. The whole new agey thing where you can create your own reality and if you just have positive visualizations then you can be beautiful and have a nice car and a lot of money. At the same time, the brain is neuroplastic. It can be changed. There is an intelligence in the universe that if you know how, you can tap into it.

So in a way, you can, within certain boundaries as Harrison said, create your own reality where you're not in denial about things. You see things realistically but you can also tap into some kind of inner power.

Doug: Group power.

Tiffany: Yes.

Jonathan: The thing we were talking about a little earlier, about authority and authoritarian complex in that people seem to accept this when it comes from an authority, it makes me think about the idea that we would be better off being our own authorities. Certainly there are people in the world that know more about certain things than we do and that should be accepted in certain cases but at the same time you have much more power over your surroundings and things that happen in your life when you are confident in your own authority.

It had reminded me of a personal story. About 10 years ago I had met a guy who was a Buddhist monk and we ended up having a conversation. He was quite old, he was in his mid-80's, and he said that many years ago when he was young he had gone to the hospital with some pain and the doctor told him that he had terminal cancer and he laughed at the doctor and walked out of the hospital and lived for many, many years afterwards and never came back! He wasn't succumbing to that diagnosis in his mind. I don't know if that's the right course of action for everyone. I would say that he personally had a strong sense of his own authority and his own confidence that probably made that possible.

Harrison: It's a tricky subject because when we look at a lot of these phenomena and faith healing, one thing that I am reminded of is the book Corruption of Reality by John Schumaker where he talks about these preliterate societies and the kind of healing rituals that they do and how so much of it seems to be based on a big element of authority, not necessarily just in a shaman or the authority figure or leader of the group or tribe, but a kind of group authority and this belief in something external to the group.

Another example that comes to mind is that there was a group in the 70's, I can't remember their name but they were doing a parapsychology experiment. All of them were pretty sceptical for parapsychologists so they didn't necessarily believe in spirits or dead people but based on previous research, they knew that these phenomena seemed to come about more often when the people involved really believed in these sorts of things. So what they did, even though none of them believed in these spirits, they all got around and started these séance sessions where they created the entity that they were communicating with. They named him, they determined who he was and what his previous history would be and then they actually had this communication.

It's not that they were actually communicating with a being but the releasing of their own personal responsibility and authority actually made the phenomena easier to get. They basically had these kind of spirit board Ouija sessions with this guy and all the people involved were legit. There was no fraud going on but from their point of view it was completely automatic. It was what they called automatism, so it was their subconscious mind and their character they created, but they were actually having conversations with this creation of their own.

It's not like they were making it up.,Tthey would ask questions and they wouldn't know the answers and they'd get the answers back and they'd have a conversation with this thing. It seems to be a two-edged sword where on the one hand, I think in certain areas it is totally essential and healthy to be our own authority. On the other hand there is this sense of being part of a group, a community or a tribe and also accepting the idea of something larger than us, something higher than us. I think traditionally we've put people of authority in this kind of position when maybe they don't deserve it but I think that there's a dynamic there or something that I think is essential that we in our societies as they exist, we haven't really tapped into the totally healthy way of going about it or looking at it.

I don't have the answers. I'm just throwing it out there because I think it's something that we as a species could really benefit from understanding.

Jonathan: I think that's a great point, there is a healthy sense of humility in accepting that there are things that are larger than you, be it the group or be it something else. That's a fine line to walk between that and, as an example, the dogmatic Christian idea that "I am worthless in the eyes of the Lord" kind of thing and being racked with guilt about your very state of being. There is a fine line to walk between being a cosmic doormat so-to-speak or being appropriately humble. {Laughter}

Harrison: Jonathan, did you want to introduce some of these clips?

Jonathan: Yeah, I think an interesting one right now would be a clip from the podcast radio lab, I don't know if any of our listeners are familiar with it, it's a pretty good podcast. It's been on the air for quite a while. They did an episode on placebo and this is a clip that talks about the stories that we tell ourselves about what we are feeling and it relates to soldiers in World War II. Let's go to that clip and we will discuss it when we come back.
Podcast speaker 1: It's a story I learned from Daniel Carr.
Podcast speaker 2: Daniel B Carr M.D.
Podcast speaker 1: And he told me about a guy who is really the father of placebo research. His name is Henry Unangst.
Podcast speaker 2: Henry Unangst. Unangst is his original name.
Podcast speaker 2: German, as Dr Carr will tell you.
Podcast speaker 1: Which given the poor quality of my German I would roughly scan as meaning anti-anxiety or perhaps anti-pain.
Podcast speaker 2: This may be one of those cases where the name shapes the man.
Podcast speaker 1: It may well be.
Podcast speaker 2: Because even though he ends up changing his name....
Podcast speaker 1: To Beecher.
Podcast speaker 2: Henry Knowles Beecher, he does go into medicine.
Podcast speaker 1: To become a doctor.
Podcast speaker 2: Then during World War II he joined the army as a doctor and found himself at the great battle of Anzio where the Americans landed in Nazi Italy, and he was right there!
Podcast speaker 1: He was on the beach, bullets were flying, soldiers were being killed and some were being wounded.
Podcast speaker 2: Since Beecher was the doctor, it was his job to treat them.
Podcast speaker 1: That's correct. The treatment at that time for pain, as it still is nowadays, was morphine. One problem though, Beecher's division was cut off from supplies and re-enforcements and he had begun to run low on morphine. He had to figure out which soldiers needed it the most.
Scott Padowski: He is talking to them and he is asking them about how much pain they are actually having.
Podcast speaker 1: This is Scott Padowski who is a doctor and a historian.
Scott Padowski: He would go up to these patients and say to them "soldier, as you lie there, are you having any pain?"
Podcast speaker 1: So imagine you are a soldier and you are lying there with shrapnel stuck in your gut. These are severe injuries and you haven't had any morphine for...
Podcast speaker 2: At least 7 hours previously.
Podcast speaker 1: Yes, 7 hours. So what would you say?
Podcast speaker 2: I would say give me some morphine, I'm in pain!
Podcast speaker 1: You want to know something?
Scott Padowski: The striking find was that 75% of them they'd say no! "No doc, I'm ok, I don't need any morphine right now."
Podcast speaker 1: Three quarters of them said that!
Podcast speaker 2: Wow!
Podcast speaker 1: This didn't make a whole lot of sense to Beecher because he knew about pain. Before the war he ran a clinic in Boston so he would see people with bullet injuries and gut injuries, more or less the same kind of injuries he saw on the battle field. But back in Boston they really hurt.
Sound clip: "Doc, can I have more morphine please?" "Nurse!"
Podcast speaker 1: For some strange reason says Daniel Carr....
Daniel Carr: The intensity of the pain associated with being shot was lower in the battlefield than in civilian life.
Podcast speaker 1: What could explain that?
Podcast speaker 2: Maybe soldiers are just tough guys? They suck it up? No.
Podcast speaker 1: No. Context. Context was Beecher's very simple explanation meaning that the pain that you feel when you are hit by a bullet is not just about the bullet, it's just as much about the story that comes with the bullet. Consider these two different stories.
Story number 1, you are a soldier and you've been shot. As the bullet passes through you, the first thing you think is "oh man, I'm shot!" The second thing you think is "wait a second, I'm alive! If I can be evacuated from here I'll have a creative recuperation, they'll take me to a hospital, there will be nurses there. I may get a medal, a pension, a bonus and I'll certainly be acclaimed. They'll send me home, throw me a parade! I'll be a hero!"
Now consider the civilian story. This time you're a regular guy, a civilian in Boston, You own a shop.
Sound clip: "This is a stick-up, give me your money!" "No!"
Podcast speaker 2: You have been shot! As the bullet passes through you this time the thoughts flashing through your head have nothing to do with glory. Instead you think "I'm alive but what's going to happen to me now?"
Podcast speaker 1: You wouldn't get a medal if you were in trouble.
Podcast speaker 2: "How am I going to pay the doctors bill?"
Podcast speaker 1: I'm going to be out of commission
Podcast speaker 2: I'm going to lose my job; how do I pay the rent?
Podcast speaker 1: And if your family was depending on you then they suffered. Nothing good is going to come of this. One bullet, two very different stories and it's the difference in the stories, said Dr Beecher, that explains the difference in the experience of pain.
Podcast speaker 2: You're saying that those stories are somehow filtering the pain even before it's felt?
Podcast speaker 1: Yeah.
Podcast speaker 2: That even as the bullet enters the skin within seconds thereafter you spin yourself a story about what's going to happen to you next. Not consciously but way down deep in your head and the story you tell, that makes all the difference.
Jonathan: I thought that was interesting and it kind of speaks to the idea of our belief centres and what we are experiencing and how that affects what's going on. Speaking of what we were talking about earlier, the diagnosis or the "medical voodoo death" where they give you a certain time that you have left then you begin to create that story in your mind and through whatever mechanism that we don't really understand, the body begins to reflect that internal belief.

We are not going to suss it out in the time of our podcast here but I would tend to think that it has something to do with how there is that transition between consciousness and matter. Our bodies are made up of this physical matter and yet we are inhabited and propelled by consciousness and so there is a link there. There is some sort of transference or manifestation that takes place between the consciousness and the matter and that very tenuous connection is what results in either a positive or a negative outcome depending on where your internal dialogue is going, where your beliefs are going and all that put together. It's extremely complicated and I obviously don't claim to have a line on it.

Elliott: Obviously it's an extremely complex subject. On the subject of the placebo, the author who I mentioned before, his name is Robert O. Becker and he specialises in electricity and his take on this is something along the lines of how the body, on a subatomic level, has a basic, primal electrical conduction system which is below the level of chemicals and below the level of neurotransmitters. This completely bypasses that.

He did a lot of research on, for instance, salamanders. You can cut off the leg of a salamander and it will completely regenerate and that was the main driver for his research. How this relates is that what he found was that at the deepest level there is something that basically controls every single mechanism in the body which is a DC electric current. He says that the process of this DC electric current and how this drives our body is that it essentially creates something called a morphogenetic field and this in some way may be able to connect with a higher information field, which I guess would tie into information theory and also would make a lot of sense in that it would link to the electric universe theory as well.
With the placebo effect, our unconscious beliefs or our unconscious ways of perceiving the world, somehow what we can do in some way is tap into this primal DC electric current and this is the main driver for how we reverse disease etc. etc. I may be off on a little bit of a tangent here, I'm not sure quite where I was going with that but I don't know. I have a feeling that maybe there is some tangible reality to all of this and that it has something to do with electricity.

Tiffany: I think that is certainly possible. In Joe Dispenza's book, he talks about how you could do it for yourself and how to tap into your own inner pharmacy. You basically have to, I wouldn't say self-hypnotize yourself but you have to get into a deep meditative state where you lose complete awareness of time, your body and the environment that you are in and get into a suggestible state; like a theta state; the state you are in before you fall asleep.

You can either do your meditation in the morning when you wake up or right before you go to bed and you get yourself very relaxed and that way your sympathetic system is not in control; you are not in fight or flight mode and that way your body can be in a position to enact some healing. From that point you make suggestions to yourself and visualize what conditions you want to heal, what genes you want to turn on or off. This is a simplified version.

You picture yourself healed as if it's already happened and you express gratitude for that. You have to have a strong sense of emotion, if you visualize yourself healed then what does that feel like? What would your life be like? How would you be different? And you express gratitude for that and if you do that over and over again your body will send signals to your brain and your brain will change and it will send those new signals back to your body and over time, if you do it enough then you will become that person that you visualized in the future.

Jonathan: That's interesting because it's definitely not the "natural state". As anybody knows when they are feeling sick, like for instance if you have the flu then you are like "god, this sucks" and you are just wrapped up in how crappy you feel, it's hard to pull out of that and feel gratitude for an imagined state of wellbeing that you are not experiencing at that moment. I imagine it's not the default state for many people to try to experience this kind of process.

Tiffany: That's why you have to trick yourself with deep meditation and get into your subconscious mind because you can't just think about it consciously because if you don't really believe that it's possible subconsciously it's just not going to work.

Erykah: In his book he talks about how the latest scientific research in psychology estimates that 70% of our thoughts are negative and redundant which I found really interesting. Like you were saying Jonathan, when you are sick your mind starts to loop saying "Oh, I'm sick, I'm not going to be able to go to work". It's almost like a downward spiral.

Jonathan: Speaking of Dispenza, we were mentioning earlier some of the ideas of perpetuating this state of illness of perhaps even bolstering it by feeling like you deserve it somehow, whether it's a religious guilt complex or some other kind of psychological mind-set where you might think that you might deserve what's happening to you, that self-love, self-forgiveness, not to get too airy-fairy but it's very important to be kind to yourself in those moments. I think that's probably part of what facilitates this healing. We have a clip of Joe Dispenza himself talking about that, the importance of self-love in this healing process, so let's go to that and we'll discuss it a little bit afterwards. It's about six minutes.

Joe Dispenza Clip: Sure. I think we are reality producing machines. There is no single individual on this planet who doesn't create reality unless they have a brain injury or something. But for the most part, most of us are engaged in reality and we do cause effects.

I think we reach a certain point in our life when we stop learning and we start feeling, and when we use feelings as a barometer for the unknown, it's contraindicated because feelings are usually a record of the past experience so we try to predict how that future event is going to be based on a feeling and we turn back to the old self again.

So I love the idea of how we can actually produce effects. I love the idea that every human being either lives in one of two states of mind. We either live in creation, which is growth and expansion and it's health and homeostasis, the emotions of love and joy and trust that make us feel connected to something bigger than us or we live in a state of survival, and a state of survival is living in stress. Living in stress is when your body is not that in-balance and the redundancy of that cycle over time, that imbalance that keeps happening, begins to break the body down and I think the biggest problem for us because of the size of our brains is that we can turn on the stress response just by thought alone; and we do it all day long.

In that continuous, redundant, being out of balance over time, that imbalance becomes the new balance and now we are headed for contraction and disease and feeling separate from the field and being selfish instead of selfless. We begin to live in a state of breakdown, in a state of disease and a lack of health. So then those emotions of those survival chemicals endorse the ego, then we become more self-indulgent and more self-important and more self-serving because that's what those chemicals do. We live in one of those two states of mind.

Now, those chemicals tend to be highly addictive so, this is really good dinner conversation, we can talk about it right? But actually breaking through, I think, when you free yourself from the chains of those emotions that we memorize, when we actually break through, when we move that mind out of the body, when we break the emotion that's trapped in physical flesh and the body's liberated, that's true self love, that's true joy; that's the liberation of energies.

The anger that once was in there, the hatred that once was in there, the prejudice that was once in there is transformed. It's transmuted into joy and it's the same energy but it just has a different spin. And so no one can do that for you. That isn't something where someone waves a wand and then it happens. You have to actually be willing to be uncomfortable as you break that addiction and be ok with it. Then the moment the body is liberated and you feel that expansion, that's the natural state of being. Now you say "I love myself so much because I went further than I thought I could go. I transcended some limitation about myself in the way I think, in the way I act and in the way I feel." That's the personality, that's the identity.

Changing one of those things, really changing and not just changing your mind like "I want vanilla ice cream instead of chocolate ice cream" but truly changing something that changes your neurology or your neuro-circuitry, changes the chemistry which is your emotions that signal the gene that begins to change your very expression of health, the very expression of life. Talking about when you make that emphatic declaration where you make that change and it's undeniable, there is a biological, neurological and quantum effect as a result of it.

I think I flirt primarily with the idea of how subjective mind has an effect on the objective world. Newtonian physics is about cause and effect, it's about something outside of you fundamentally changing something inside of you. We are an expression or a reflection of the environment. As long as the environment is influencing how we are thinking and feeling, we can only be as great as the environment. and if we're thinking and feeling equal to the environment we could only create more of the same environment.

The idea that we can change something inside of us and in our consciousness and in our thoughts and in our feelings and be able to memorize both neurologically in our brain and hardwire that information, install hardware and condition the body and condition the body emotionally to be a mind so mind and body are working together, if we are able to maintain that modified state of being then there should be some evidence outside of us. So instead of cause and effect, I always love the idea of causing effect, to cause an effect.

The quantum model says you can cause an effect and so I think where we get stuck with that is the idea that it has to be predictable, that we should be able to know how it's going to happen and that is, I think, our biggest error because we can never control the outcome of the unpredictable. That's the quantum model, it has to be uncertain. It has to come in a way that we least expect, that surprises us, that leaves no doubt that what we did inside of us produced some effect outside of us. And when you begin to have those small synchronicities at first, and the they turn into larger and larger events and you experience that awe and that wonder or that joy and appreciation for being alive, I think that's the natural state of being. Having that kind of sensibility coming from within us instead of needing something from outside of us to change our state, I think that's true empowerment.

Jonathan: Reality appears to be a little more plastic than we think of it as being, but it's not just an one-to-one equation like we talked about before. It's not like you just wish that things would be better and they get better. It's a very complicated process of connecting with your intent, your actions and bringing it all together.

Tiffany: Also knowing as much as you can about the topic, or neuro science or how the brain can change itself and know the scientific concepts behind how it would work before you start trying it. I think that would make a difference too.

If you know that it's not just a bunch of woo-woo or a bunch of new age nonsense where you just sit there and think about something that's going to work but you actually know that there are scientific mechanisms that explain how your brain works and why these sorts of things can be possible. I think that makes a difference.

Erykah: I think that's the difference between the whole "you create your own reality" schtick we talked about earlier, that if you just imagine love and light then everything will be better. He really stresses the importance of input of knowledge in the process.

Doug: That kind of gets into the whole epigenetic thing as well. Dr. Bruce Lipton did a book a while back called the Biology of Belief where he talked about epigenetics. You have got these genes that are constantly being fired or suppressed in some way and that it's your environment that actually controls which genes are activated and which aren't. Whether that be something external to yourself like toxic exposure or even your own emotional state, all those things can have an effect on what genetics actually get expressed. So if you are constantly a very negative person who holds in a lot of anger, even if you were very good at suppressing it and not expressing how you are acting to other people, just being in that state all the time has a very profound effect on your own biology, what genetics are getting fired and what aren't.

It really puts the onus of what state you are in on yourself. Like what are you actually creating in your biology in your day to day reality? These things are very much affectable by you, by your own perspective, just your own being.

Erykah: In a subsection of his book he talks about the placebo, the anatomy of thought and how it's basically like he said in that clip "mind over matter" and that we should examine our thoughts and how they influence and interact with our brains and our bodies. It basically goes into how we are creatures of habit and we think somewhere between 60,000 and 70,000 thoughts a day which I thought was pretty interesting when you're like, "Wow! What are your thoughts really consisting of?" Are you self-reinforcing those negative experiences going back to the past constantly and then your environment shapes that? Thinking the same thoughts leads to making the same choices and making the same choices leads to the same behaviours and to the same emotions and then there you are on the hamster wheel again and again and again until you die of cancer.

Doug: Pretty much. And then there is the whole idea too of the understanding of the fact that we actually get addicted to these states. We get addicted to these habitual emotional reactions or states of being that we get so used to these same chemical messengers constantly re-enforcing these same pathways, that to try to get out of those things can actually be quite difficult. You actually have to break that addiction.

If you are in a dysfunctional relationship, you have to look and see whether you're actually hooked on that relationship in some way, like you are getting some kind of adrenal reaction or something like that to having this drama in your life. It actually does take work to break that addiction and to try and see it as dysfunctional and try and move away from it in some way.

Jonathan: I think that we are getting close to the end of our time here so let's take a moment if you guys are done with this, to go to Zoya's pet health segment. Today she has some information for us about placebo as it relates to pets. When we come back from this we will wrap up and we have a recipe today for baconnaise.

Zoya: Hello and welcome to the pet health segment of the Health and Wellness Show. My name is Zoya and today I would like to talk to you about placebo and what kind of effect it can have on pets, if it has an effect at all and if it can possibly be used to improve animal lives and consequently their health.

One of the things worth noting was that when I was researching the topic of placebos, I found a lot of articles by veterinarians who are rabidly anti-alternative veterinary medicine. It seems like the idea of treating pets naturally is so offending to them that they can't sleep at night unless they'll ruin some natural vet's day with their purposely sarcastic articles or sometimes even bullying and trolling. But what is also funny about it is that their efforts to discredit the idea that natural medicine can have any positive effect on pets helped me in making this segment because they were so well versed in all the possible research on the placebo effect in animals.

Even if some of them dismiss the idea too, I wonder if I should drop a thank you note to one of them saying how helpful they were in increasing awareness regarding non-invasive and, oh my god, alternative methods of helping animals! But that would probably be too much fun, right?
What is known about placebo for animals? Dogs for example? Does the placebo effect exist in dogs? Until recently they presumed that the answer was a resounding no because animals were thought to lack the cognitive capacity to understand the intent of medical care or the power of suggestion or to have hope of recovery, but now we know that it is nonsense. There is a research paper The Placebo Effects in Animals by Franklin McMillan which documents in detail the existence of the placebo effects in dogs amongst other species.

There is another article named Effects of Human Contact on Animal Health and Wellbeing that talks about the substantial benefits of the specific therapy. Both of the articles suggest that the placebo effect in veterinarian medicine can enhance the efficacy of medical treatment and findings make a strong scientific argument for encouraging in-hospital visitation by owners when animals are hospitalised. As a side note this suggestion isn't surprising because many of us know from personal experience that we heal much faster and better when at home or in familiar and loving surroundings. I personally saw several examples when pets left in isolation for recovery and treatment after surgery, simulated symptoms simply because they were unhappy or missed their owners. The proof of the simulation was vivid when their symptoms were suddenly disappearing when their owners came to visit or take them home. But back to the topic.

Experimental studies on the mechanisms of the placebo effect in animals have been underway for at least 70 years. Components of this phenomenon including belief, expectation and trust are presumed to be present at a neurobiological level though cellular mechanisms remain unknown. In humans, the placebo effect is generally ascribed to one or more of the following, classical conditioning, expectation and endogenous opiates - the body's own naturally produced pain relief.

In animals interestingly, a fourth mechanism is also theorised - the effect of human contact. Numerous studies have documented positive physiological and health effects as a result of animals' visual and tactile contact with a human. The ability of human contact to optimize an animal's comfort and well-being provides a strong rationale for pet owners being present for many medical procedures.

A recent double blind veterinary study involved arthritic in dogs randomly assigned to either a treatment or a placebo group. Their response to treatment was objectively assessed by force plate analysis which precisely measures the use of individual limbs while the dog is in motion. The results? Fifty-six percent of placebo treated dogs had an objectively measured significant positive response.

When a person strokes a dog, a substantial decrease in the dog's heart rate can be noted. Human contact also consistently elicits major positive changes in canine blood pressure and aortic and coronary blood flow. The placebo effect in animals on immunomodulation, cardiovascular disease, drug withdrawal, tumour growth and much more is well documented. The proverbial bottom line is that an animal's mental and emotional state has a profound influence upon its physical health and human contact has a positive impact on the well-being of animals of all age groups and produces an array of physiological, emotional and health effects.

Another element that we should consider is that pets, particularly dogs, form a very close bond with us and undoubtedly can be affected by our emotional state. Stress is also a big factor as it has been numerously revealed both for animals and humans, that stress is associated with a wide array of adverse health effects. For example, the stress of unpleasant emotional state causes immunosuppression and enhances tumour growth in animals.

If the inactive component of the medical intervention, the placebo, acts as a whole or in part by alleviating the emotional stress associated with a diseased state, then the animal may experience health benefits not attributable to the active component of therapy. Mice for example, maximally protected from chronic anxiety and other environmental stressors had significantly lower incidents of mammary tumours. Social affiliation can mitigate the adverse immunological consequences of social stressors in non-human patients.

Franklin McMillan claims that it is plausible that by reducing anxiety and other distressing emotions placebos could influence countless diseases including some that we do not usually think of as subject to psychological influence. However stress reduction has limited explanatory value for the diversity of placebo actions because such a mechanism would, by definition, only be effective in states in which stress is present and actively influencing the health status of the patient.

So to summarise, here is my take on the topic of placebos for animals. But first of all, regarding the sceptical veterinarians that dismiss this and other so-called alternative ideas as utter nonsense, here is one case in point. This veterinarian writes:
I once saw a young Rottweiler with osteosarcoma, a very painful bone tumour. The owner was treating the dog's symptoms with homeopathy, acupuncture and herbal remedies managed by the veterinarian practicing traditional Chinese veterinary medicine. She consulted me about other options but she chose not to pursue surgery, chemotherapy or other conventional treatments which were not likely to cure the dog. I did suggest though, that since the dog was not walking on the affected leg, and cried when he was touched and since the evidence for veterinary homeopathy and acupuncture as pain relief is poor, we could try additional pain relief therapies.

The owner was surprised and somewhat offended at my suggestion because she was certain that the treatment she was using was helping her dog. In situations like this, the caregiver placebo effect can lead to significant suffering for animal companions.
This is the end of the quote and in this particular case, I agree with the veterinarian since it would be much more helpful and prudent to put the dog on strong pain medication. If an animal exhibits all the signs of suffering and being in pain, it means that current treatment isn't working and there is a need for something more effective. That is why more and more veterinarians today talk not about conventional or alternative medicines as separate modalities but as one integrative approach where in each specific case a veterinarian can choose to what extent to use elements for both approaches. But to simply dismiss the alternative approach as nothing but quackery is simply unprofessional.

Anyway, regarding the placebo effects in animals, my personal take is that it can be helpful for pets but mainly as a method of utilizing the natural ability of the body to heal itself by creating a supporting and loving environment and also by human contact such as stroking or petting in order to facilitate the production of the happiness hormone oxytocin. Basically nothing earth-shattering and something we would do anyway of we really love our pet. So don't be afraid to love and hug your pet as much as possible especially if they are not feeling well and don't listen to angry vets who probably wouldn't be so frustrated if they would have their own share of loving and friendly hugs each day.

This is it for today, have a nice day and goodbye!

Jonathan: Totally agree. We need to, I think in the same way with human doctors, take them with a grain of salt if they prove out to be close-minded and against alternative modes of treatment.

Doug: Maybe just give them a hug.

Tiffany: Or just walk out the office like your friend did.

Jonathan: They might not take a hug. So the recipe for today is for baconnaise. This is similar to aioli, a recipe we have done in the past, but slightly different. The ingredients are:

2 egg yolks (separated from the whites)
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of brown mustard (sugar-free if possible)
1 teaspoon of salt
¼ teaspoon of white pepper
¼ cup of bacon fat
¼ cup of olive oil

(Do see if you can find brown mustard that doesn't contain sugar. It can be difficult but it does exist, you just need to look around. You will probably have better luck at a health food store or something like that.)

In a bowl, beat the egg yolks until they begin to lighten, and this is most easily done with a power beater or power mixer. You can do it by hand but it's going to take a hell of a long time.

Add the lemon juice, mustard, salt and white pepper and beat for about another minute.

In a spouted measuring cup, stir together the bacon fat and the olive oil. You can soften up the bacon fat by heating it slightly if you want to but you don't want it to be hot when it goes into the mixture. You want to mix it with the olive oil in a spouted cup that you can pour out of.

Very slowly beat the oils into the bowl mixture until a thick sauce forms. At first you want to drip the oils in very slowly; drop by drop. As they become more incorporated into the yolk mixture and it emulsifies then you can increase how much of the oil you are pouring in; into a very thin stream as you mix it together. At the point at which you are able to pour the oil into the bowl as a thicker stream then if you are not using an electric mixer, you can switch to one at that point. You want to make sure not to overbeat it because it can separate and then you have to do this whole recovery process by adding it back to another yolk and doing the whole process over again.

The key point here is, when you have the bacon fat and the oil mixed on the side and you begin to add it to the yolk mixture, add it very slowly at first and then gradually increase as you beat it together. You'll notice that it begins to thicken and it'll retain a smooth texture. The result of this is generally thinner than aioli or store bought mayonnaise but when you refrigerate it, it will thicken slightly and it has the obvious benefit of having that nice bacon flavour and a high fat content.

If you want to get fancy with this, you can add other things. Once you are done making the mixture, chop up some chives and drop them in there or even take some bacon on the side and chop it up after it's fried into little bits and mix that in. There is a whole bunch of things that you can do with this, the same way you can do with aioli. You can add garlic and onion powder to boost the flavour a little bit. I would say play around with it. So that is baconnaise, basically aioli with bacon fat added to the olive oil.

Doug: Jonathan, have you had success with refrigerating it and then using it again afterwards? Because I have found that when I do anything, even just with olive oil, it tends to solidify in the fridge and split. You have been ok with it?

Jonathan: Yeah. In the instructions for the recipe they said not to overbeat it but I honestly usually beat it quite a bit with an electric mixer and perhaps that's why. I've only had it separate for me during the process of making it on a few occasions and that's usually because I try to add the oil too quickly. It overpowers the emulsion and then it separates. But in the fridge I've never had a problem. It does solidify to a certain extent and I have had it where, it's kind of hard to describe, if I make it too quickly it'll be ok at the outset but then if I refrigerate it and take it out again it'll separate as soon as it warms up a little bit.

Doug: Yeah, that's my experience too.

Jonathan: I did notice that if I take a longer time to make it and really be patient about adding the oil in very, very slowly and doing the process with some patience then it has less tendency to separate after taking it out of the fridge.

Doug: Ok, I'm going to have to try it again.

Erykah: I have a culinary suggestion to make the best aioli and mayonnaise on the planet. It's called a Cuisinart. It's a food processor and I make mayonnaise all the time and I've definitely had that experience that you talk about Jonathan, where it's an alchemical process and if it falls you have to start again. But the Cuisinart makes it so you can whip it all up really quickly without tiring your hand from the beater. Then it won't separate in the refrigerator either; and grapeseed oil is always a good alternative to olive oil too.

Doug: Grapeseed oil is a polyunsaturated oil so it'll stay liquid even when you put it in the fridge so I found that when I use polyunsaturated oils like that then it's fine; putting it in the fridge and taking it out there's no problem with it at all but when I try to use a primarily monounsaturated oil like bacon fat or olive oil or something else then I run into problems.

Jonathan: It certainly is a tricky process. I guess while we are talking about it I can just say, if you do make this and it separates while you are making it - and you'll notice, there's no mistaking it - when you make it correctly it's a smooth texture and when it separates it gets clumpy and you can tell that the yolks have not mixed in with the oils. You can separate one more egg yolk into another bowl and then slowly add that separated mixture into that egg yolk and beat it again; just go more slowly than you did the first time and that's how you recover a batch. I'm embarrassed to say that I threw away a number of batches before I learned how to do that. Now if it does happen to separate during making it you can recover it just by adding it slowly back into another egg yolk.

Thanks very much to our chat participants for today, and to everybody who listened in. I think we are going to call our show for today. We want to be sure to remind you to listen to the other two shows on the SOTT Radio Network, The Truth Perspective tomorrow which airs 2:00 pm eastern time and then Behind the Headlines which is on Sunday at noon eastern time. That is eastern US time and we are out of synch with Europe right now so honestly off the top of my head I'm not sure what the European times are.

Doug: Neither am I, I don't know when they switch over.

Erykah: I think it's Sunday.

Jonathan: It's the end of March and then we will be back on that standard time difference. There is always Google if you need to find out what the exact times are. So 2:00 pm eastern US time tomorrow and noon eastern US time on Sunday. So thanks again everybody for listening in and we really appreciate you participating. We will be back next Friday with a brand new topic and hopefully everybody has a great weekend and a great week to follow so thanks again and we will see everybody next week!

Tiffany: And remember, nothing really matters!

[Sound clip of Queen's Freddy Mercury singing "nothing really matters to me" with piano outro from Bohemian Rhapsody]