A placebo is an inactive medication or medical procedure that resembles an actual treatment but is a fake version that does not actually act on a disease or medical condition. For some people, however, placebos can still have a positive or negative effect on symptoms, if only for a brief period of time. A positive placebo effect is thought to occur as a result of believing a treatment is real, combined with the body’s natural ability to provide pain relief. In effect, placebo can be a psychological remedy for a physical ailment.
Placebos do not generally have long-lasting effects and they do not cure diseases. Much of the placebo effect depends on a person’s expectations. If a person expects to feel relief, they just might. If a person fears side effects, those might occur. When the placebo effect is negative, it is sometimes referred to as the nocebo effect.