The placebo effect: Can we cure coronavirus just with water?

As we all know by now, the entire world is suffering the consequences of COVID-19. Almost every country is in lockdown and people are forced to stay home. Up until this date, no cure has been found yet and doctors are still trying different medications to combat the virus. On the other hand, some people are residing to other methods to try and fight the virus. In Lebanon, many believers started boiling soil that covers St. Charbel’s ancient sepulchre and drinking the filtered water to be spared from illnesses. Can this water actually cure the patients? In the case of COVID-19, probably not. But it could work in other cases thanks to the placebo effect!

What is the placebo effect?

The placebo effect is a phenomenon where placebos (fake drugs, treatments and therapies) that aren’t medically supposed to have an effect, miraculously make people feel better. The word placebo is originally Latin and translates to “I shall please”. In order to be convincing, placebos usually look like actual medicine (sugar pills, water-filled injections, fake surgery, etc). Some areas where placebos can actually work and give results are: pain treatment, depression, sleep disorder and even asthma.

Why do placebos work?

In a nutshell, this is still a mystery. Researchers think that when a patient believes a fake treatment is real, their expectation of recovery triggers physiological factors that improve their symptoms. Placebos can apparently cause measurable change in blood pressure, heart rate, and even the release of pain-reducing chemicals like endorphins. This explains why placebos can be very effective to treat pain.

So why don’t we start using placebos everywhere?

Simply because if someone believes that a fake treatment cured them, they may refuse to take the real medicine that’s proven to work. In addition to that, the positive effects of placebos often fade over time and the symptoms return. So when it comes to just trying to reduce temporary pain, placebos can do the job. But when there’s a real problem, people need a real treatment. That’s exactly why when it comes to viruses like COVID-19, you don’t just drink water to cure it. You need to go to a doctor so that they can take the necessary measures.

We hope you stay safe in these hard times, and as a final advice: make sure not to believe every cure you read about on social media especially when it comes to deadly viruses.