The rôle of placebo effects in early Byzantine headache management

H. Isler
Dept. of Neurology, University Hospital, Zürich, Switzerland.

Placebo, the oldest, safest and most effective remedy, is also the most neglected subject of scientific studies where it is regularly only considered for comparison with specific or verum effects of drugs or other elements of treatment, and then discarded. Specific verum effects are the trees, as it were, for which we fail to see the forest. In ancient and medieval medicine the verum effects were few and far between. This should enable us to recognize the various placebo effects more easily than in contemporary forms of management. We scrutinised the chapters on headache of Alexander of Tralles, an early Byzantine surgeon and physician, for typical placebo approaches. Similar methods are being used in contemporary headache management. But when we are applying them we fail to recognize rationally what we are using. This deprives us of the chance to plan and control our procedures consciously in order to exploit the full power of combined placebo effects. Alexander's text provides access to a wealth of placebo procedures which may enable us to recognize similar procedures in our own practice.


Session I
Friday, 20 June 1997, 8.35 - 8.55

Second Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN) and 6th Meeting of the European Club on the History of Neurology (ECHN)

Leiden, The Netherlands