The Latest Science on Placebos: Surprising Benefits You Never Knew About

Photo: ThinkstockPhoto: ThinkstockPrepare to be surprised by the health benefits of pills that contain no medicine.

1. In a Harvard Medical School study, researchers gave people with irritable bowel syndrome a bottle of pills labeled "PLACEBO" and explained that placebos have been shown to be effective in clinical studies. Even though the meds were obvious fakes, they still worked. Patients experienced significant improvement in their symptoms.

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2. A March report from the German Medical Association found that placebos injected intravenously are more effective than those taken orally, and that the more expensive the placebo, the higher the success rate.

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3. Among patients with osteoarthritis of the knee, sham acupuncture (in which needles are inserted at nontraditional locations) worked just as well for pain relief as the real thing, according to a study in Arthritis Care & Research. And patients reported better results when the practitioner said things like "I've had a lot of success with treating knee pain" than when she said, "It may or may not work for you."

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