Time and again, the placebo effect is healing people. Now, meditation shows the way
“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” — Hippocrates
Knowledge that we acquire from books, journals, Internet, and so on, especially during our school and college days, is all second-hand. In my early years as a doctor, I had to answer the wife of a young man brought dead to our hospital due to a massive heart attack. A simple question: Why did her husband, who was apparently very healthy, drop dead? My curiosity increased. I did not have any answer to her question. That brought back to memory the things I did not understand from my school days about this universe and the enigma called the human body. My journey to unravel that mystery got me thinking; I still do. In this process, so many things came up that have made me wiser. I call the latter wisdom, since it emanated from my own mind aided and abetted by other thinkers, foremost among them being the late professor Rustum Roy whom providence brought into my life. He encouraged me to think and gave me courage saying that I was on the right path. Up until then, all my associates were only critical of my ‘funny’ thoughts.
I have seen, time and again, people getting healed by the placebo effect. I have tried it on many patients who had, what I call, patient-thinks-s/he-has-a-disease syndrome, with excellent results. People have tried magic, sorcery, witchcraft and faith in God, to heal people where Western medicine failed or did not have anything to offer. A recent exhaustive study using even fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) in Oxford, Cambridge, Hamburg and Munich universities, led by prof Ulrike Bingel (in Oxford), has proven the reality of the placebo effect. Placebo effect is truly possible. If that were so, people’s thoughts could affect their health and wellness, for sure. I was wondering if we could use that to keep people healthy, without falling sick.
Now meditation has shown a way to attain this state of mind. “Time will soon come when you have a headache: instead of reaching for the drug cupboard, you sit in a quiet place and meditate to raise your consciousness to a higher level to release pain-killer opioids from your own forebrain.” This thought was expressed by Candace Pert, an ace researcher at the NIH (National Institutes of Health) in the United States, in her book, Molecules of Emotion. Research has also shown that meditation could even change your gene penetrance and increase the length of the telomeres (an essential part of human cells that affects how our cells age). If that were so, elevating the level of one’s consciousness to heal any illness should not be a faraway unattainable goal. Medical textbooks and the conventional journals might not be stressing this part of the new wisdom as the latter does not perpetuate the medical business.
This is why I have serious doubts about the Newtonian-Descartes model of linear deterministic predictability model of science. In the Western model, this world came into being, from nowhere, some time by a Big Bang. Life evolved mysteriously. That has been seriously questioned now! Up until quantum physics came on the scene, Western science did not make any sense, although it brought, in its wake, all our so called life-enhancing facilities which have made the common man respect Western science and treat it with awe. All these, while making me feel happy that I am on the right track, make my responsibility greater, to find ways and means of healing diseases with the help of our own inbuilt immune guard. This will be devoid of the dangerous iatrogenic illnesses and the disabling adverse drug reactions.
(Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS.