In an article for the New York Times, “What if the Placebo Effect Isn’t a Trick?”[Link], Gary Greenberg explores the mad science of the placebo effect. He recounts strange cases of healings occurring merely at the suggestion of healing or even outright trickery. He reports a researcher’s hypotheses: “the placebo effect is a biological response to an act of caring; that somehow the encounter itself calls forth healing and that the more intense and focused it is, the more healing it evokes”.
To be clear, I have no medical training- I’m a teacher. However, I’ve harnessed the power of placebo in my classroom to comfort children experiencing minor or perceived injuries. In my classroom I keep within children’s reach a “boo boo bag” which ultimately operates as a placebo. It’s simply a small beanbag filled with rice. If a child has a minor accident, I or another child will bring the boo boo bag to the ailing child. Sometimes we’ll apply it to the injury, other times the child will just hold it in her hand. Without fail, tears and crying are ceased. I suspect there is something to the hypothesis in the New York Times article; somehow, a caring encounter calls forth healing.