The Placebo Effect and The Moon Doctor of Berlin

"A placebo is a phony cure that works. This is very hard for the medical profession to get their teeth around because they hate placebos, but scientifically, placebos work in about 30% of cases that are psychogenic diseases."

- Charles Jencks

The Placebo effect can be a powerful tool.  Who knows how many ailments in your life have been cured by a placebo.  When thinking of placebos I am reminded to be leery of those in the various medical fields who make these enormously broad claims.  I have come to call them “Moon Doctors.”

The Moon Doctor of Berlin

In the 1780’s a Dr. Weisleder became famously known as “The Moon Doctor of Berlin.”  The good doctor claimed that he was able to use the power of the moonlight during a full moon to heal the inflicted.  Dr. Weisleder had converted an old beer hall into his office.  Huge crowds of people would be waiting, both wealthy and poor, who would be lead upstairs after long waits to enter either a north facing room or a southern facing room.  The men would meet with Dr. Weisleder, and the women would meet with the doctor's wife who miraculously had the same powers to cultivate moon beams to heal otherwise incurable diseases.  The patients would enter the rooms, and the afflicted area would be exposed to the direct moonlight while the Dr. or his wife would mumble some intelligible incantations to the moon.  There were many claims made of miracles, some of which seemed accurate.   However, an interesting part of the story is both rooms appeared to have powerful direct moonlit illumination.  Now these were different facing rooms one facing north the other facing south.  The moon could not be directly shining through the windows in both chambers at the same time.  Nor could they continue throughout the night to have the moonlight shining directly through the windows.  As we all know, the earth rotates.  I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.


The Power of the Mind

The placebo effect has been studied for some time and still there are no definitive explanations as to why it occurs in 30% of case studies.  The pharmaceutical industry tries to dismiss this effect from their studies entirely.  Our minds are incredibly powerful instruments.  As a species, I don’t believe we have even begun to understand its full capabilities.  Be mindful that when a claim is made that seems illogical or unreasonable, perhaps it is.  Maybe you are using the power of your mind to help heal yourself.  I am not saying that all medicine is phony.  What I am saying is that a positive and present mindset has a tremendous effect on any treatment.


Until next week,


Rich Decker – Mindful Accord