As research for my upcoming book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself, I have been digging deep into the medical literature, going back as far as the 1920s into medical journals in order to find cold, hard science to prove what I have long believed – that we hold within us self-healing superpowers that are stronger than any chemotherapy and more effective than any surgery.

So it delights me that, more and more, such evidence is appearing in modern-day media. This week, a CNN headline reported on a fascinating study from Harvard University which was also just published in the New England Journal of Medicine. This study investigated 39 asthma patients and rotated them through four treatments – an albuterol inhaler (standard treatment for asthma), a placebo inhaler, sham acupuncture (the patients thought they were getting real acupuncture, but the needles were just placed willy nilly), and nothing. Every week, they got a different treatment, but the patients didn’t know some of the treatments were fake.

So what happened? Unsurprisingly, 50% felt better after getting the albuterol inhaler. But lo and behold – a similar percentage felt better after getting a placebo inhaler (45%) and sham acupuncture (46%). Even among those who received no treatment, 21% felt better.

Although those who received the albuterol inhaler had more dilated bronchi, symptom improvement between the albuterol group and the two placebo groups were not statistically different. Which brings up an interesting phenomenon.

So what is actually happening?

I’ll be digging deep into this issue in my book, but suffice it to say that something very powerful happens when you BELIEVE you are being treated with something that will heal you. In all but the “do nothing” treatment group, patients believed they were being given real treatment, and the combination of the belief in getting well and the support of a therapeutic relationship has been proven, time and time again in clinical research trials, to result in powerful symptom relief.

In fact, in clinical trials across the board, the placebo effect ranges from 30-75% efficacy. And it’s not just symptom relief. Although this study showed 20% improvement in lung function in those receiving albuterol, compared to 7% in those receiving placebo, some studies show even more marked physiological effects in the placebo group. Which means that it’s not just in your mind. Your body is actually responding physiologically. Through a series of physiological shifts, your body is actually activating a cascade of healing mechanisms that can improve your asthma, relieve pain, increase energy, and even – sometimes – cure cancer.

Regarding the Harvard study, study author Ted Kaptchuk said, “It’s clear that for the patient, the ritual of treatment can be very powerful. This study suggests that in addition to active therapies for fixing diseases, the idea of receiving care is a critical component of what patients value in health care. In a climate of patient dissatisfaction, this may be an important lesson.”

Yes, I agree with that. But I would argue that it goes beyond the active therapy and the idea of receiving care. I think hope is a powerful healing force, and your state of mind greatly affects the state of your body.

What do you believe?

So what do you believe about your body? Has a doctor told you that your illness is “incurable?” Do you believe you’ll have to take medication for the rest of your life? Do you BELIEVE you might be able to heal yourself, not just from a physical health condition, but from an emotional, sexual, professional, financial, interpersonal, or other type of whole health issue?

I believe you have the power to heal yourself. And I’ll be writing more about the proof I’m finding in the medical literature to support that belief as I dig deeper, so make sure you’re signed up for my newsletter.

What do you believe? Have you healed yourself from a health condition? Have you tried to heal yourself – and failed? Tell us your stories in the comments below.

With faith in your self-healing superpowers,

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  1. Bea

    hi Lissa,

    Great article and thank you for championing this cause! I have always believed we have the power to heal ourselves and am SO thrilled to read all the writing you are doing about it. I am currently healing myself. I have or am in adrenal fatigue, along with hypothyroidism and a leaky gut and honestly who knows what else is happening in there because I have become a big ole mess. This has been going on for about a year now with the symptoms being really bad. The doctors have told me there is nothing wrong with me because their basic blood work shows nothing out of place. I fall in the ‘normal zone’. No doctor has taken the initiative to dig deeper when I describe my symptoms. However, I was given several prescriptions for pain, depression and some sleeping pills. Really?? Do they know that narcotics and anti-psychotic’s don’t mix well??
    Well I have taken matters into my own hands. I have researched and read so much and have found amazing resources online, and amazing encouragement online such as you :). I am happy to say I am feeling better than I have in a few years. Energy levels are slowly returning, my happy mood is slowly returning. My stomach is a huge challenge however and I know that will take longer to heal. A lifestyle change was necessary and my kitchen cabinet is full of supplements and alternative therapies to prescription medicine (which doesn’t heal anyway) and you know what it works!! Self awareness, relaxation, meditation and being in touch with my inner pilot has been the most beneficial change I’ve made. I listen to me now and trust the little inner promptings of my spirit and I have been lead to what I need to see and read and hear. I have hope now, which no doctor has been able to offer in me. It’s been a great journey and as I am healing I am also getting closer to me and trusting the Universal Process. That is a bigger gift than I could have hoped for.

    Thank you Lissa for being here for people like us that need the encouragement and the cheers!

  2. Kelly

    Hi Lissa!

    Thank you for the article. I wholly believe that I have the power to heal myself.

    I’ve had lots of illnesses in my life but two that are pretty major. One was a benign brain tumor that I had for four years that finally cleared up in 2003 and then I was diagnosed with MS in 2008.

    When I received the MS diagnosis, I was pretty far gone in terms of balance and being able to drive and issues with other daily tasks. But I decided that I was going to look for the gifts in the MS and have never looked back. When I began treatment, I also started swimming, doing yoga, meditating, and working brain exercises to heal. I firmly believed that I would get back to the place of health I had known before.

    I ran my first marathon in 2010 and have gone on to heal in a way that is so complete, I rarely remember that I do actually have an MS diagnosis.

    My MS has been a huge blessing. It has slowed me down and made me appreciate all the incredible people in my life. I appreciate being in good health. I appreciate being able to walk unassisted. I appreciate this light within me that I am able to feel and be guided by in all areas of my life that need healing, not just the physical.

    I so enjoy the Pilot Light when it shows up in my box and am often astounded at how it seems that that day’s note was meant just for me because it is exactly the issue I am struggling with in that moment.

    Thank you, Lissa, for being fearless. I am learning from you.



    • casey

      i too was diagnosed with ms, but it took using a wheelchair full-time and being confined to my house to finally start exercising and get on the path to healing. i absolutely believe it is possible. the more advice you have, the more i will learn. thank you to all that have come before me and those that share their knowledge.

  3. Susan Louer

    I would suggest reading chapter 6 in “The Emotional Life of Your Brain” by Richard J.Davidson,Ph.D and Sharon Begley.


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