The placebo effect in TCM, as in Western medicine, is significant. As most of us experienced, we can super-achieve when we set our mind onto the “right” track. However, that “right” part seems to be a critical focus point open for discussion by science and philosophers alike. Human success is often limited by our mental capacity and not just the physical perfection we are trained for. We can self-stimulate, initiative thoughts that even translate into a biological response. Our emotional investment triggers the release of endorphins or trigger “sparks” in our neuronal circuits. Undoubtedly, our mind can activate many physical responses (conscious and subconscious). We embrace that with acupuncture, meditation, hypnosis, and natural herbal stimulants in modern Chinese medicine. Treatment success often super exceeds Western medicine: Hence, these two professional medical treatments must correlate!

We say concentrate or focus on expressing intentionally align mental exercise, which we assume to be foremost a brain activity. But is it a physical or psychological demand? Asking the brain to concentrate seems to request the body to relax while fully engage the brain activity. “…Put that down, look at me; think!” Your brain has to do multiple things to convince others you do nothing…

Parkinson’s: Lewy bodies  in brain cells that cause progressive degeneration

In TCM, the word placebo is not likely discussed. It is foremost used in modernity when Western medicine compares traditional Chinese methods to show that their approach is better. It is easy to suggest to a patient without TCM exposure that “old stuff” has been replaced with today’s science. It is especially odd since TCM is best utilized as a preventative approach and claims no equal success in healing, curing, or fixing a problem. TCM (at any medical stage) can support your wellbeing, slow down physical or mental dismay, balance disharmony and keep you healthy measured by your current condition.

As a TCMchef, I help with food choices to halt disharmonies, support healing after accidents, slow psychological ails, prevent aging-related complications, build mental strength. But TCM (acupuncture, bodywork, meditation, cupping, or herbology) is not a placebo. These pearls of wisdom are tested on millions of people with no toxic side effects. Rarely in TCM history have we documented patient-linked death from treating others with TCM: Compare that with pharmaceuticals that have killed billions of people in just the last 100 years!


Chinese medicine is focused on isolating the one dominant factor or culprit; the trigger point. By isolating a singular cause and releasing its “lock” on the chain-link of consequential effects, a domino-effect of “release” allows our body to regain function and/or recovery. This method often deviates from most Western methods to “cover-up” collective reactions and reduce pain with drugs that trigger liver inflammation, kidney disease and deal in an endless chain reaction. Worse, Western medicine does not fully embrace the method of eradicating the trigger of a health issue.

TCM’s focus is to treat disharmony and imbalance and to utilize well-documented methods, fully understanding sensory points all over your body. Acupuncture can activate through physics psychological support and induce calming behavior, deep breathing, a sense of positivity, and a realization “this is beneficial”… The precursor to any successful treatment! A wise practitioner would point out that there is no vision problem but an unnecessary mental imbalance causing physical disorder. Henceforth, he treats the mind, even the physical brain – by needling your ears or the scalp; to induce neurological impulses, e.c.t. Within, some are quick to claim their “non-scientific” critique… Just like a sophisticated doctor would admit, not every patient responds positively to either method.

Until you have personally experienced these “miracles,” you will (correctly) refuse to adapt; there are fascinating studies about brain plasticity and how TCM can change your motor complex. I have helped others change beyond expectation by dramatically adjusting their food behavior and physical activity. By adjusting simple eating habits (cutting sugar), you can dramatically change your digestion, skin, liver, mood and apnea! I know within minutes if I can “aid” someone in their quest for health. Sometimes, I find myself confronted with clients so confused about a “healthy lifestyle” and self-identified about their dilemma, that I cannot help them “step away” from their adapted journey, even with my best intentions. They are trapped within their well-intended methods.

acupuncture model head

TCM practitioners, in their earliest documentations, were aware of the synesthesia effects of foods and herbs. They treated “unhappy people, living in the dark” by sending them outside. Think of your mom walking into your room, opening the curtains, and encouraging you to get up:” Sweetie, a beautiful day awaits you!” That’s a combination of placebo, love, and activating sunlight to enter the room.

Placebo today is still called trickery or misleading, but what is packaging engineering other than seducing you with colors, font choices, and advertisement ploys to “believe” a product you consume has “changed my life…” Any treatment method that needs physical or physiological attention combined with positive encouragement leads to a better outcome. What else are yoga studios, massage parlors, hair salons, coffee shops, or boutique resorts? Placebo defined ways of attracting consumers to spend money to “feel good.” When mom cooks a chicken soup to help a sick child in bed; you don’t question the ingredients; you embrace the care and love extended as healing. Furthermore, TCM treats each individual with individualized suggestions, unlike Western medicine that often describes the same pill for all (packed in a sterile orange plastic bottle with a child-proof twist-top).

In the last few years, marketing has focused on promoting individualism. As a result, physiological illnesses have risen. Western medical treatment still sells a ton of one pill for all cures. Without mirrors in every room, past-time people had lesser self-opinionated issues and, on average, cared lesser about the minuscule details of their appearance. Medicine then understood that a personal doctor/client approach was an important treatment method. Today, the result is masses google medical advice on social media platforms and embrace search engine results as the solution: Lured by ideas for what “healthy” is – completely mislead that feeling healthy doesn’t start on a cellphone. Confused hoping that someone’s manipulated profile could guide us to happiness; “…to be that pretty, to become that successful, to have her skin, wanting his body, to dream about their lifestyle…!

Add to it the confusing notion to “stay young.” That confusion can’t be fixed with modern medicine… yet. TCM has no remedy to cure insanity, nor can it help with vanity. Start with being less impressed about details. Embrace that all life is limited. Love yourself. You could call this advice placebo – but, surprisingly, it works!

TCMchef Raphael