13 10 2009


I get goose-pimpley just thinking about this word.

In conjours images of magicians in pointy hats, flowing robes, rabbits flying out of hats, and the queen of hearts appearing on foreheads.

Yet the origins of this word are somewhat unclear, and the subject of disagreements and civil war (ok, I made that last bit up…). Myself, I am unsure about the true background of this word, but I would like to share with you a story I heard that might be a part of it’s history.

In medicine, diseases have what we in healthcare refer to as the ‘natural history’ of the disease. This is what would happen to a sufferer (and in what timescale) if the disease was left to progress naturally. Of course, with some disease, this might be along the lines of – feels ok, feels worse, body destorys itself, patient dies. Most diseases do not follow this progression. Most diseases (think coughs, colds, flu…regular things…) go – feel ok, feel worse, feel worse, feel better, feel even better, feel back to normal. Often this happens within a week or so.

It is fact that people will often come to see their doctor or seek other health advice only at a very low point. With this as the case, the doctor rarely has to do anything – the natural history of the disease is such that the person will start to feel better in a few days…REGARDLESS OF WHAT THE DOCTOR DOES!

The story I heard of the root of abracadabra works with this principle. I was told that it was a spell to cure diseases. Every day, the sufferer was to write the word ABARACADABRA down, and leave it under their pillow. Each day, the sufferer would write it with one less letter. So day 2, the word would read ABARACADABR, day 3, ABARACADAB… and so on.

This would continue until only the initial A remained, and the patient was cured.

Magic, huh?!

Jo   xx




2 responses

17 10 2009

hmmmmmm, I will try if this works on my patients, that’ll make things much easier :), why did I study medicine for 6 years, if this is how you heal people?

18 10 2009

Haha – tell me about it! But you see it all the time, especially in general practice – people coming in with coughs and colds that will go away by themselves. Prescribing people antibiotics in these cases often amounts to the same thing. And if they believe that something will work, then chances are, it will.
I’ll discuss the placebo effect in my next posting! Sorry it’s been so long – illness combined with a far away hospital placement is meaning my free time is taking a bit of a hammering!
Lovely to hear from you Melanie,
Jo xx

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