The placebo effect is really just a great example of the body's innate ability to heal. For a long time it was a thorn in the sides of researchers, which out of this frustration we birthed the gold standard of research, the double blind study. In this type of research, there is random assignment and neither the researcher nor the patient knows if they are in the control group or the experimental group. It is said that 35% of people respond very well to placebos. Depending on what you are looking at the range of the Placebo Effect can be anywhere between 0 and 80%. A 35% effectiveness rate is good, even for the best drugs. The interesting part is why it works in the first place.
Think of your mind as the director, the one who tells all others what and when to act. If you have enough belief and expectation that a certain drug or process will work, the mind will direct the body to make the necessary changes, and healing begins. A few researchers even go as far to say that all healing that occurs is ultimately the result of this effect. Herbert Benson, one of the father's of mind/body medicine has tried to change the name of the Placebo Effect to "Remembered Wellness", due to it better describing how the effect works and the negative connotation that the Placebo Effect has.
He claims that in order for Remembered Wellness to work, three requirements must be satisfied. (1) positive beliefs and expectations on the part of the patient; (2) positive beliefs and expectations on the part of the health care professional; and (3) a good relationship between the two parties. It is also important for the patient to see, feel and remember how the body functioned in its pre illness state. Using visualization, affirmations and belief, the mind can direct the body to carry out the functions necessary to return to a state of health and wellness. This is why understanding mind/body interactions is so vitally important. For if we understand how belief can change our biology in positive ways, we need to be aware of how the opposite is also true. Next time you are looking in the mirror and telling yourself how fat, ugly and worthless you are, think about what you are directing your mind to create in your body. It is worth a second thought, hopefully a positive one.