One of two things is true:
A placebo is a force beyond understanding, one that is capable of disappearing when we do the appropriate double-blind tests and has mechanisms that defy our knowledge of the laws of physics.
A placebo is a prompt for our subconscious to do the hard work of healing our body, increasing our satisfaction or maximizing our performance.
I think the second is way more likely, and ultimately serves us better.
When someone says, “that’s just a placebo” they’re undervaluing the magic of culture and the power of our minds to actually influence how our bodies perform. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say, “we’re fortunate that a powerful placebo is available.”
Purveyors of fancy sneakers, designer handbags, rare wines, acupuncture and herbal remedies can proudly lean into the work of producing the conditions where placebos have their maximum impact.
If it’s not helping us believe, then it’s not properly designed.