Dr. Wayne B. Jonas Explains The Placebo Effect

The Placebo Effect Samueli Institue blog  header

Since Medieval times, traces of placebo can be found in medical practice. It began as a way to ease symptoms, but over the years has been found to be a way to actually treat patients. According to Dr. Jonas, the placebo effect, is a form of healing that modern doctors should pay attention to and that healthcare system should begin assimilating into everyday practice.

Blog-Video-ButtonWayne B. Jonas, MD of Samueli Institute, Placebo Effect video

“The placebo effect tells us that there are some underlying processes around how we go about healing, that are separate from the what.”

What We Know About Placebo

In any healthcare setting, clinicians can maximize healing and the effects placebo has on the patient, has much to do with what Jonas refers to as the 80/20 rule.

Only 20 percent of healing comes from the medical treatment itself. The remaining 80 percent comes from how the treatment is given. In other words, giving a patient an herb alone, can only make them optimistic about the possibility of being treated, however telling the patient what the herb will do for them will enhance their healing experience. Experts suggest that four additional approaches bring about the placebo effect:

  1. Acupuncture
  2. Pill color
  3. Number of pills
  4. How and where patient is treated

Jonas calls the use of placebo in patient care, a ritual and encourages clinicians to perform the ritual in an ethical way as a standard practice.

“If we can optimize those rituals and minimize the negative components of those rituals, then we could reduce side effects and enhance healing.”


Samueli Institute recently launched the mind-body website brainmindhealing.org to bring together the evidence behind mind-body medicine, encourage the implementation of mind-body practices in standard care and discuss how the role of the brain and the mind in health and resilience can positively impact the future of our healthcare system. Be sure to visit the site.