What Color is Your Placebo?

Wired has a great article about the increasing effectiveness of placebos (and how the drug companies are scrambling to keep up), and it turns out that a large variable is COLOR:

Yellow pills
make the most effective antidepressants, like little doses of pharmaceutical sunshine.

Red pills
can give you a more stimulating kick. Wake up, Neo.

The color green
reduces anxiety, adding more chill to the pill.

White tablets
particularly those labeled “antacid”—are superior for soothing ulcers, even when they contain nothing but lactose.



So I wasn’t crazy when I insisted that certain colors are necessary to wear on certain days. I’ve gotten some teasing for that one. And the whole color scheme of my apartment suddenly makes sense.

Frequency and wording also play a part:

More is better,
scientists say. Placebos taken four times a day deliver greater relief than those taken twice daily.

Branding matters.
Placebos stamped or packaged with widely recognized trademarks are more effective than “generic” placebos.

Clever names
can add a placebo boost to the physiological punch in real drugs. Viagra implies both vitality and an unstoppable Niagara of sexy.



So think about that next time you’re naming a yoga class or practicing a mantra…

2 thoughts on “What Color is Your Placebo?”

  1. Haha, this is awesome. I wonder if the same is true of supplements. Probably not, since they don’t work instantly…

  2. Maybe it is! But supplements are all speckly brown with boring names. Except the superfoods! I think I should prefix everything I eat with “super.” Time for some superwater.

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