Placebo – Nocebo. Quantum effects?

I’ve often thought about the placebo effect – and why it isn’t thoroughly studied and understood? I realise that there are few commercial drivers for such investment but surely improved health outcomes must be worth something. No?

I have noticed over the past 15 years or so, that the ‘Wellness’ types with their “Alternative Medicine” take a more anecdotal approach to health maintenance – but maybe, just maybe, there is something in that – which might reward study? 

Allopathic medicine appears to work on the basis of defining the various ‘ processes’ that ’cause’ or experience (i.e.take part in) a particular illness – with the intention of understanding it (the process) and then by some means interrupting, mitigating, or even reversing, that process. This all sounds like a good idea!

But is it? If we don’t identify the entire process we will be doomed to fail – or worse still, likely to ‘do harm’. No, I’m not medically qualified, but I am scientifically trained, and one thing I learned early in in my pursuit of physics is that most things are far more complex than we imagine. i.e. we still don’t understand turbulence and as recently as the 1980’s ideas such as Chaos theory (see: for more) seemed to suggest that the scientific habit of applying reductionist thinking to simplify systems under analysis may well lead to a lack of understanding of the real ‘initial conditions’. Perhaps the apparent handy use of reductionism leads to ‘throwing out the baby with the bathwater’ ?  When it comes to trying to understand complex systems that have evolved over millions of years perhaps we’d be better to look at systems holistically?

Of course, we know from ‘particle physics’, which looks at the infinitesimally small, that there  appear to be a number of strange/curious things that happen at sub-atomic scales – oft reported as ‘Quantum effects’. Whilst these affects may well be very small (even by human cellular measures) might they not lead to ‘butterfly effects’ in the biological processes  of the body?