Chance Rules pp 155-168 | Cite as

Alternative Therapies—Panaceas or Placebos?

  • Brian Everitt


Magic and medicine have always been closely linked. The African witch doctor, the Native American Indian medicine man and Europe’s medieval alchemists—all were a mixture of magician and physician. Any success they achieved in the treatment of their patients probably resulted from observing the effects of often nauseating remedies on a small number of these patients. Patients may have recovered simply to avoid being subjected to a further dose of some revolting compound! But in many cases they probably recovered either because their disease ran its natural course or because of what has become known as the placebo effect. This term refers to some benefit, following from treatment, that arises when the physician’s belief in the treatment and the patient’s faith in the physician exerting a mutually reinforcing effect, rather than from any direct result of the treatment itself. In the nineteenth century, for example, a lady brought her doctor to court for presenting her with a...


Nicotine Replacement Therapy Alternative Therapy Acupuncture Treatment Complementary Medicine Clinical Trial Evidence 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.King’s College, School of MedicineLondonUK

Personalised recommendations