by Vishwas Madhuvarshi –
Faith and Healing:
In a classic 1950 study, many pregnant women suffering from severe morning sickness were prescribed syrup of ipecac, a vomiting inducing substance but were told it was a new, powerful cure for nausea. Amazingly, the women ceased vomiting.
Want and Belief
“It is part of the cure to want to be cured”, Stoic Lucius Seneca said. This phrase could be rewritten as ‘It is part of the cure to want to be cured and to have a belief in the cure‘.
These women not only wanted to be cured but they also believed in the powerful new drug offered. Chemically, the medicine that was supposed to induce vomiting had completely opposite effect because that matched the patient’s belief. This study indicated that there is a strong and body follows that mind accepts.
“Expectation is a powerful thing,” says Robert DeLap, M.D., head of one of the Food and Drug Administration’s Offices of Drug Evaluation. “The more you believe you’re going to benefit from a treatment, the more likely it is that you will experience a benefit.”
The Placebo Effect
Another trial for a drug targeting ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’ was conducted at National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease in 1995 by Dr Stephen Straus, M.D. and colleagues. A ‘very significantly impaired’ woman recovered miraculously after being administered the new potent drug.
She was very weak, could not work and had to stay home most of the time before the treatment. She and her parents were very happy with recovery and blessed the researchers for this wonder drug. Later, it turned out that the woman’s impressive recovery from chronic fatigue occurred after taking placebo or look-alike pills, not the experimental drug.
Again, this woman had a strong belief in the new drug and she desperately wanted to be cured of CFS that had crippled her. Her mind believed in the new drug’s ability to cure and her body followed what the mind believed.
“Most of the history of medicine is the history of the placebo effect,” observes Dr Herbert Benson in his book “Timeless Healing”.
“Psychologist Bruno Klopfer was treating a man named Wright who had advanced cancer of the lymph nodes. All standard treatments had been exhausted and Wright appeared to have little time left. His neck, armpits, chest, abdomen, and groin were filled with tumors the size of oranges, and his spleen and liver were so enlarged that two quarts of milky fluid had to be drainedout of his chest every day.
Wright heard about an exciting new drug called Krebiozen, and he begged his doctor to let him try it. At first the doctor refused because the drug was being tried on people with a life expectancy of at least three months. Finally the doctor gave in and gave Wright an injection of Krebiozen on Friday but in his heart of hearts he did not expect Wright to last the weekend.
To his surprise, on the following Monday he found Wright out of bed and walking around. Klopfer reported that his tumors had ‘melted like snowballs on a hot stove’ and were half their original size. Ten days after Wright’s first treatment, he left the hospital and was, as far as his doctors could tell, cancer free. When he entered the hospital he had needed an oxygen mask to breathe, but when he left, he was well enough to fly his own plane at 12,000 feet with no discomfort.
Wright remained well for about two months, but then articles began to appear asserting that Krebiozen actually had no effect on cancer of the lymph nodes. Wright, who was rigidly logical and scientific in his thinking, became very depressed, suffered a relapse, and was readmitted to the hospital. This time his physician decided to try an experiment.
He told Wright that Krebiozen was every bit as effective as it had seemed but that some of the initial supplies of the drug had deteriorated during shipping. He explained, however, that he had a new highly concentrated version of the drug and could treat Wright with this. The physician used only plain water and went through an elaborate procedure before injecting Wright with the placebo.
Again the results were dramatic. Tumor masses melted, chest fluid vanished and Wright was quickly back on his feet and feeling great. He remained symptom-free for another two months, but then the AMA announced that a nationwide study of Krebiozen had found the drug worthless for the treatment of cancer. This time Wright’s faith was completely shattered. His cancer blossomed anew and he died two days later. ” (Brono Klopfer, Psychological Variables in Human Cancer, Journal of Prospective Techniques 31, 1957, pp. 331-40. )
Our mind and beliefs affect the body and the healing process. In 1981 neurobiologist David Felten and his team of researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine discovered the connection between body’s immune system and the central nervous system that is under control of the brain.
Felten’s team discovered a network of nerves leading to blood vessels as well as to cells of the immune system using fluorescent stains to trace nerves to bone marrow, lymph nodes and the spleen. They also found nerves in the thymus and spleen terminating near clusters of lymphocytes and mast cells, all of which help control immune function.
In simpler terms, they found the direct wiring that exists between mind and immune system. This discovery of mind-body connection meant that mind has the ability to communicate and direct body’s immune-system cells depending upon its belief system.
Benefiting With the Knowledge
Impact of this discovery is visible in many treatment centers where holistic healing is now offered as treatment. There is a new branch of religious preachers trained in healthcare known as “Health Care Chaplains”.
Their job: To be the spiritual care specialist on the healthcare team who has the training necessary to treat spiritual distress in all its forms. Meditation is an integral part of treatment of chronic diseases at many hospitals now.
We can use the mind-body connection to keep healthy and be healthy again after manifestation of any disease. The key to good health and cure, as discussed earlier is ‘to want and to believe’. To want to be healthy is natural and easier but belief in a cure may or may not come naturally. With all kinds of information about terminal diseases coming from health workers, newspapers and internet working against our belief system, having faith is easier said than done. That is where mind tools like meditation and hypnosis can help.
We all have healing powers and can use them to heal ourselves and others but it manifests in equal proportion of our faith in it. There are several healing techniques that help us manifest these healing powers. Prisualization (prayer+visualization) is one of them. I’ll discuss this technique in one of my forthcoming blogs. In the meantime, you may read about and practice this technique at my website