Anyone with a middle-school understanding of the scientific process is aware of what placebos are and their role in  controlled experiments. For those of you that don’t know (or need a refresher), a placebo is a completely harmless pill, procedure, or medicine prescribed to a group to be tested against in an experiment.

However, studies have shown some placebos to actually produce the desired effect of the experimental medicine on subjects, so often that the American Medical Association actually allows doctors to prescribe placebos (as long as they tell the patient that they may receive one). Let’s take a look at the 5 biggest uses of placebos today:

  1. Antidepressants

    A 2011 study from Adelphi University in New York determined that placebos were incredibly effective at treating patients with depression. In some cases, patients in the placebo group felt even better than those undergoing regular therapy!

  2. Parkinson’s

    Parkinson’s is most famously associated with being the ailment plaguing actor Michael J. Fox. The shaking associated with the disease is a result of the death of cells that produce dopamine. Researchers have been able to give those with Parkinson’s harmless saline injections that actually helped reduce symptoms. All they had to do was say that the injections would help them produce more dopamine, and patients were feeling better.

  3. Migraines

    All this talk giving you a headache? Before you take that pill you’d be surprised to find out that Placebo pills actually work better than most drugs! Researchers at Children’s Mercy Hospitals found that in 21 trials, only twice were real drugs working better than placebos. After all, it’s all in your head!

  4. Acupuncture

    If needles didn’t scare you already, you’d be surprised to find out that it doesn’t actually matter  exactly where needles are inserted into the body. As long as the needles are close enough to the right spot, they can be inserted incorrectly and still get the desired effect on patients!

  5. Common Cold

    This is a big one. Everyone has that secret family method to stop the common cold. Personally, I love to down a ton of cough drops, it’s something about the flavor that has me going back every time.. Anyway: Researchers from the University of Wisconsin (a very cold state, so I can totally believe this) looked at 700 people and found that there was no difference in recovery time when they both were given placebos and nothing at all! So as long as you believe hard enough, you’ll be cold-free, regardless of what secret recipe grandma has stashed in a cookbook.

Do you think placebos are a bad thing? Have you ever been the subject of a placebo? Did it work for you? Let me know in the comments below!