Went to pick my first blackberries of the season today. Conditions were less than ideal after three days of predominantly rain, but today dawned bright and sunny. So I went out to a stretch of footpath where I regularly see the brambles and have seen the berries ripening, but where I rarely encounter people. Should be ideal, right?
Alas no, very poor pickings. Evidently someone, or more likely several people, got there first 😦 Had to wade right in to the scrub to get anything half-decent. As I got stung and shredded (a regular seasonal hazard – serves me right for wearing sandals/shorts/t-shirt) I saw another plant regularly associated with brambles and nettles: dock leaves. And a recollection came to me from my distant childhood: dock leaves are supposed to bring relief to nettle stings and rash.
It’s a distant recollection, but they never did bring relief to me. Over time I reached the age when one bears that level of pain in silence (hey, it’s one of the few slightly-macho things a boy can still do in our emasculated society), and learned of the placebo in biology classes. The dock leaf is a classic placebo, right?
I don’t know where medical science stands on that one: a very quick google finds both views (not including any authoritative-looking reference). But nettles and dock leaves surely feature in every English childhood, right? Can a child’s reaction to dock leaves tell us anything about their personality? Can it predict how they’ll respond to placebo, including variants such as faith-healing, in treating more serious ailments? Or on the other hand, how they’ll respond to medically-proven remedies. And if a correlation can be established, can that be extended to throw any light on ‘alternative’ medicines that may or may not be more-than placebo?
Hey, add some fieldwork and rigorous statistics, and this could be developed into a PhD thesis. I expect it’s been done, but you never know!