Cure? As a homeopath, I was hooked from the first page. Jo Marchant mentions chatting to another mum who spoke highly of how homeopathic remedies cured her child’s eczema. Marchant’s reaction was that ‘Homeopathy is effectively nothing more than water in fancy bottles’ to which the other mother’s retort was ‘nothing measurable.’ Those words were the turning point for Jo Marchant and the beginning of her research into what cure really is and the world of mind, body medicine for this book.
CURE A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body
The book begins with ‘the purest example of mind’s influence on the body – the placebo effect,’ apparently showing a cure for people of their complaints after treatments such as mock surgeries or medicines. Have you ever wondered why a child calms down after his or her injury is ‘kissed better’? How, when faced with an emergency, the rush of adrenalin can make a normal person, superhuman? Or how the mere thought of lemon juice will activate your salivary glands? Marchant covers many examples of how the mind, thoughts and emotions can produce a physical change. Is it cure? She also keeps in mind the power of the negative side of the placebo effect (nocebo), such as voodoo curses or limiting thoughts, which can be equally strong but destructive for the physical body.
Even if a person knows they are given placebo treatment, their brain responds by releasing the same chemicals as if they had taken the pharmaceutical medicine and consequently they feel better. ‘It is a physical mechanism, as concrete as the effects of any drug.’ It was interesting to read that pharmaceutical companies, when making decisions on the presentation of a new medicine, will look at the psychology behind how particular sizes and/or colours of pills or capsules will influence the perception of their effectiveness.
None of this is new. Many alternative modalities based on treating mind, body and soul have been around for thousands of years and supported by many, but also dismissed by many others. Jo Marchant travelled the world to meet with orthopaedic surgeons, neuroscientists, psychiatrists and medical professors, to name a few, who have set up clinical trials and studies of the placebo effect as well as a number of alternative treatments to show how they can be of clinical value.
She looks at acupuncture, spiritual healing, reiki, religion/faith, neuroplasticity, meditation, and eastern medicine, amongst others, which all relate to the body’s innate ability to heal itself. She also writes of the many inspiring people she met during her research who shared the story of their pain and the life altering changes, which came through the help of various therapies.
Jo Marchant has a Phd in Genetics and Medical Microbiology. She writes with one foot soundly placed in science whilst she explores the controversial subject of the connection between the mind, emotions, beliefs and the body.
Using her skills as a science journalist, she examines alternative therapies in a rational and thoughtful manner as she presents current research and trials that support the infinite potential of the mind’s influence on our health and healing. On the other hand, she also shows how stress can weaken the immune system making us potentially more vulnerable to illness and disease or accelerate aging. The book is easy to read, easy to understand and hard to put down.
My hope is that scientists and the medical fraternity read this book. They will relate to the science and be reminded of the importance of empathetic care, the careful use of language and to see patients as individuals and more than just a body of organs and parts.
To also consider that less invasive ‘alternative’ treatments and medicine can work together and support each other for the highest good of the patient and do no harm.
CURE A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body by Jo Marchant. Book review by Susie Bolton.