How are Ayurveda, meditation, quantum physics, and the placebo effect all related?
In the late 1980s, I was teaching a pulse reading course to a group of students in Los Angeles. About halfway through the all-day seminar, a student fainted and fell to the floor. We supported him, and after a few moments, he said he was fine and wanted to continue with the course. I somewhat reluctantly continued teaching.
After the seminar that day, I sat down with him to see how he was doing. He said that he had only fainted once before in his entire life—in Mexico about 10 years prior. In both instances, he had gotten clammy, broken into a cold sweat, succumbed to a wave of nausea, and woken up on the floor.
He told me that ever since he had fainted in Mexico, he’d experienced chronic pain in his mid-back and under his liver. He had been to every doctor, healer, and shaman he could find to help with this nagging pain, and that was the reason he was taking my pulse class. In the class, he had noticed that when he took his pulse, the pain got worse. The same feeling of clamminess and nausea he experienced in Mexico came over him again. The longer he took his pulse, the more intense the pain became, until he blacked out.
I asked him if I could call him in a few days to see how he was doing. When I did, he told me that the pain he had experienced in his liver and mid-back for 10 years had completely resolved—he was free of any discomfort. I would see him from time to time when I traveled back to Los Angeles and he would always make a point to come and tell me how he was still pain-free, and grateful.
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It’s interesting to note that the student was not trying to heal himself. He was just learning to read his pulse, which, according to Ayurveda, is a powerful tool for building self-awareness and ultimately promoting healing.
According to Ayurveda, observing your pulse can enhance awareness, and when the body is directed to become more aware of itself, it can heal itself.
In this article, I make the case that seemingly involuntary, spontaneous healing, as seen with my pulse reading student, may rely on the same mechanism as the more voluntary placebo effect. Both enhance self-awareness. The senses are the tools of awareness, and the sense of touch used in pulse reading or the type of hands-on approach in Reiki have been employed in healing practices for a millennia.
The Relationship Among Ayurveda, Awareness, Biophotons, and the Placebo Effect
It’s possible that Ayurveda, which is essentially the science of enhancing awareness, taps into the mechanics behind both spontaneous remission and the self-healing placebo effect.
Pulse reading specifically is known as a self-awareness technique in Ayurveda and is used both diagnostically and therapeutically. In Tibet, Ayurvedic doctors take someone’s pulse for a long period of time to elicit a self-healing effect. The pulse reader brings awareness or attention to the imbalance they perceive in someone’s body. Once the body is aware of the imbalance, it starts to engage in spontaneous repair.
One way to think about this form of self-healing or spontaneous remission is through quantum theory and the concept of biophotons. From the Ayurvedic perspective, the cause of disease, called prajna paradh, stems from a loss of connection to consciousness. This is called the mistake of the intellect—when the mind and body start to function independently of each other, or the whole. The whole, according to Ayurveda and quantum theory, is a unifying field of consciousness that pervades everything.10 When the body is functioning in balance, there is a harmony between the body’s underlying quantum field and the quantum particles that make up your physical body. When the body is out of balance, the body begins to function without a connection to the field of consciousness.
New research has found that quantum particles called biophotons are the body’s information carrying particles. They communicate both inside and outside of the body within the quantum field (consciousness) at great distances, suggesting we are all connected at a fundamental level. Einstein called this “spooky action at a distance.” These biophotons can be either coherent—when the body is healthy and in balance—or incoherent as a result of free radical damage to DNA. Studies have shown that yoga, breathing, and meditation create a more coherent, health-promoting release of biophotons.12 It has also been shown that these biophotons are altered by intention, which may explain one of the mechanisms of distance healing through prayer and the placebo effect.11
Similar to the way meditation decreases DNA damage and increases the release of coherent biophotons, a pulse reading, prayer, or intention may have similar effects.
The placebo effect is when a fake drug or fake surgery performs as well as or even better than the actual drug or procedure. This is different than the self-healing effect that Ayurveda describes, although the underlying mechanism of both may be the same. In the placebo effect, the mind is tricked into thinking it’s going to get well. This sense of wellbeing could create a healing effect or coherent biophotons at subtle levels, although I have not seen any studies on this.
The Ayurvedic self-healing effect is created by intentionally stilling the mind or enhancing self-awareness.
Instead of only trying to solve health concerns with drugs, herbs, pills and powders, perhaps it’s time to investigate the power of your mind to help you heal.
The Placebo Effect
With the placebo effect, you believe that a sugar pill is the real thing. That belief ultimately replaces worrying about a health concern with a sense of relief. This belief enhances a state of self-awareness and, like meditation, increases a coherent release of healing biophotons. Spontaneous healings also seem to require an enhanced state of self-awareness that may lead to a more coherent release of biophotons and healing.
Let’s explore the power of the placebo.
While the healing placebo effect is undisputed, it has been more of a nuisance for researchers than a viable tool to help folks get well. It works so well that researchers had to devise an elaborate protocol called a double-blind study, where both the real and fake medicines are studied.
The question is: Why isn’t the placebo effect taken seriously as potential therapy? There’s no dispute over its therapeutic benefit. In fact, the effectiveness of the placebo is nothing short of phenomenal, ranging from 35% to a whopping 82% effective in some studies.1-3
It is surprising how powerful the placebo effect is, and how commonly its benefits are simply accepted. For example, when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a drug, all the drug has to do is outperform the placebo in one of the clinical trials. Literally, a drug can be outperformed by a placebo sugar pill in 7 out of 8 clinical trials, and still be approved as a new drug.1
In a meta-analysis on the efficacy of FDA-approved anti-depressants, published by the American Psychological Association, 82% of research subjects reported feeling better on a placebo. In fact, when the FDA replicated the analysis, they admitted that the difference between the efficacy of drug and placebo was small.1
In one of the classic placebo studies, medical students were given one of two pills. One group thought they were receiving a sedative and the other group a stimulant. They both received sugar pills. In the group that received the “sedative,” more than two-thirds felt drowsy, and students who took two pills reported feeling sleepier than the students who took just one.
The group that took the “stimulant” pill felt more energetic, one-third of the group also surprisingly reported feeling side effects ranging from dizziness and headaches to numbness and a staggered gait. Only three out of the 56 students reported feeling nothing.2
Perhaps the most concrete evidence of the placebo effect is related to post-surgical pain. In a powerful study in the New England Journal of Medicine, 180 patients with knee osteoarthritis were randomly divided into three groups. One group had debris removed from the knee, the second group had the knee lavaged (rinsed), and the third group got a fake surgery.4
The results were astounding! During the 24-month post-surgical follow-up procedures, there was no difference between the placebo group and the groups that actually received surgeries. All three groups got better. Two years later, when the placebo group was told they did not get the actual surgery, they were happily doing things like walking and playing basketball—things that they could not do before “surgery.”4
In another study on post-surgical pain, 75% of patients suffering from post-operative wound pain reported satisfactory relief after an injection of sterile saline instead of an active pain medication.3
In another study on antidepressants, 51 subjects were divided into two groups. One group received a placebo and the other an antidepressant. Both groups experienced relief from depression, but surprisingly, the placebo group saw measurable changes in the prefrontal cortex of the brain that the antidepressant group did not. This surprising result was measured by a technique developed by UCLA called cordance, which measures regional brain activity.6
This study and others suggest that not only does the placebo effect work, but it can make structural changes in the brain that can potentially support permanent benefits.6-9 The emerging science in the field of quantum healing suggests that self-awareness techniques such as meditation and yoga may support the body’s natural healing process.
Could it also be possible that the placebo effect is a result of subtle self-awareness? How has self-awareness played a role in your own health journey?
This story is part of a 6-article series on conscious healing and the restorative power or awareness, intention, and energy medicine.
Read all of the stories:
Self-Healing and the Power of Awareness in Ayurveda
Quantum Biophotons: The Science of Healing Prayer
Vedic Healing and the Power of Intention
Ayurvedic Techniques to Unleash the Power of Quantum Healing
What is Quantum Consciousness?
Quantum Physics Meets Vedic Science