Placebo effect, what it is all about?

The placebo term In medicine, it indicates any medical substance or therapy that is “harmless” and has no inherent therapeutic activity.

Placebo can, however, produce a therapeutic effect

Placebo may, however, produce a therapeutic effect: is the case of a patient taking sugar water believing that it has the effect of a cough syrup.

In this way, self-conditioning is created, which can also lead to therapeutic benefit (thus, even if sugar water is by no means a syrup, the placebo effect, thus suggestion, can lead the patient to get well).

Placebo effect occurs mainly in psychosomatic disorders such as migraine, insomnia, anxiety, headache, irritable bowel.


  • pure placebo: substance or treatment with no inherent therapeutic effect;
  • impure placebo: substance or treatment with intrinsic therapeutic effect but not on the specific disease for which it is prescribed.

The placebo effect, however is not just a psychological response but a real biological reaction in that the patient, when reacting positively to the therapy, causes his or her nervous system to release endogenous substances with self-healing properties such as endorphins that serve to alleviate pain.

Thus, for there to be a placebo effect there must be autosuggestion, that is, the patient must convince himself that he is taking an effective treatment, and only this can lead to healing.

One example is the homeopathic drugs which are also taken more safely by patients precisely because they are considered less “toxic” than drugs.

This does not detract from the fact that one cannot necessarily and totally attribute a patient’s recovery to the placebo effect but other factors must also be considered, such as the fact that, in the acute phase of the disease, one usually goes to the doctor, and this leads to an improvement in symptoms.

Or, other “external” factors that lead the patient to recovery, along with the placebo effect, are, for example, a relaxing vacation, new love, the start of a new job, and so on.