Placebo Effect: Pill Color Actually Matters

Pill Color Actually Matters


The mind is powerful. It can make us feel better or make us feel worse. The way we think has the potential to eradicate symptoms in certain diseases. The mind can also cause symptoms to occur and make us feel worse. 

The science of placebo pills or "sugar pills" is fascinating and reminded us of just how powerful the mind really is. Study after study has shown just how powerful placebo effects are in humans. Placebo pills have been shown to help a wide range of health conditions - which points to the powerful effect of the mind to heal disease. Nowadays, placebo pills can even be purchased from the internet.

One systematic review published in 1996 examined the importance of pill color. Blue and green colored pills were shown to be associated with a tranquilizing effect when yellow, red, orange were seen as having a stimulant effect. White colored pills have been shown to perform well as pain pills. 

The color of pills is important and something we often take for granted. Pharmaceutical companies put a great deal of time and effort into choosing the precise color of pills we buy.
A recent report in the International Journal of Biotechnology suggested that red and pink pills are increasingly popular. Pink pills in particular are seen as sweeter and prompt patients to take them in order to achieve the intended effects. In some studies, data suggests that middle-aged people preferred red tablets compared to younger adults and more women prefer red tablets than men. 


AJ de Craen et al. Effect of color of drugs: systematic review of the perceived effect of drugs and their effectiveness. BMJ 1996. 

RK Srivastava, Aarti T. More. Some aesthetic considerations for over the counter (OTC) pharmaceutical products. International Journal of Biotechnology, 2010; 11 (3/4): 267

Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Whistler office at 604.283.1887

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