A cold that is a viral infection, there is not much you can do to make it go away. This means that most of the remedies that people swear by – think vitamin C, essential oils, apple tree syrup – just make you feel better not literally fight your cold. But since it is nice to feel better, here you can get the same benefits with or without running to the pharmacy at. 21 for a specific, excessive placebo.
But first a word about what the placebo effect is. A placebo is a thing used in drug trials (often a sugar pill) that is administered as if it were medicine, but has no active ingredient. It is supposed to tease out the effects of a real drug compared to the small amount that people feel better when they think they are taking medication.
Part of the placebo effect is the power of positive thinking. You can harness that power with some psychological tricks. Another part of the placebo effect is simply that it is a statistical catch for all things that affect how you feel, medical and otherwise. Here's how you can take advantage.
Expect to get better
For most of us, for the most part, a cold will only last a few days – maybe a week or two peaks. If you try to hit it until one day you feel like absolute garbage, and then you drink some tea that you say will fix you, you wake up the next day and feel a little better, whether tea did something or not.
After all, you would be better off. And by definition, your worst day will always be followed by a better day. So when you're feeling flabbergasted, take comfort in the fact that very soon you will feel better.
Find a sensory experience that reminds you to take care of
Compounds are powerful things. If your mom made you chicken soup when you were terribly ill as a child, you might still like it today – not just because of the taste, but because of the associated memories. You may be miserable when you sniff at work and commute, but as soon as you snuggle up under a blanket and get some soup in front of you, you think yes, finally I take care of myself.
Or maybe you've gotten used to a specific placebo that just makes you feel like you're doing something active and purposeful. Nobody ever dissolves an airborne tablet in water because they love the taste or feel a warm connection to the target where they bought it, but maybe it gives you a kind of chemistry lab feel where you create a medicine and dose yourself with it.
So use that compound if you want. Just understand that it doesn't have to be tied to any specific product. You can mix honey and hot tea together instead, or choose another childhood memory to recreate. Do you want to make lists? Snuggle under the blanket and create a list of experiences you can recreate that will make you feel cared for.
Stop doing things you hate
If there is a placebo that you swear by, but hate, just stop using it. Do you feel nauseous, but hate ginger ale? Dump it. Doing things you hate will not help you get better (unless actual medical treatments are prescribed for a specific reason, which you don't know is what I'm talking about here). And in fact, it is possible to feel worse if you are convinced that a thing is ineffective or harmful – it is called the nocebo effect.
If you have a ritual you always do even though you hate it, swap something you like instead. If someone introduces you to a natural host syrup you can't stand the taste of it, chew it silently in the tray when they leave.
Eat well and sleep well
Taking care of ourselves is usually more common sense than specific objects or inconveniences. If you take all your placebos, you will probably also take time to get some rest, call in sick to work, drink extra fluids and all these other things that probably make a bigger difference than any home remedy. Keep the warmth. Rest yourself. You know what to do.