TEDxBratislava – Charmian Wylde – The wonder of Chinese medicine

TEDxBratislava – Charmian Wylde – The wonder of Chinese medicine


Reviewer: Tanya Cushman Hello, everybody. Thank you very much
for inviting me to Bratislava. You know, it’s a funny story. I was coming backwards
and forwards to Vienna and using the London-Bratislava line, taking flights almost every other week. And a very nice woman sat next to me on what I told her was
my very last flight to Bratislava. And I said it with a little bit of relief because, you know, flying
very frequently gets very tiring. And anyway, as the flight progressed – we have two hours
from London to Bratislava – she said, “Well, what do you do?” And I told her I’d been involved in
Chinese medicine for 20 years of my life. So we talked, and she said to me, “Well, how would you like
to come back to Bratislava and talk to the TED conference
about your experiences?” So, you know, never say never;
here I am again, and thank you very much because, actually, you have
a very beautiful city here with a wonderful castle. So, I’m very pleased
to be here. Thank you. (Applause) Anyway, I have a rather
unconventional career. I, in the mid 1980s, decided I rather wanted to change my life
and study Chinese medicine, which not too many people
did in London in those days. I managed to learn
Chinese medicine in London, and I thought, “Wow,
what a wonderful system of medicine.” It comes from China; it’s almost 3,000 years old, and it works on a completely different
basis to Western medicine. But there was a little bit of me
that was rather cynical, and I thought, “Well, how does it work?” Because what happens here is
that we stick needles in people’s bodies in different acupuncture points, and suddenly they get better. And there’s no scientific explanation for how this system
of medicine actually works. So I thought, “It’s time to go to China.” So in 1991, I went to China, to Nanjing, and I lived and worked in a busy hospital
of traditional medicine. And this really did change my life, partly because, you know,
there was no private little room; there was no, you know, cozy,
intimate conversation about what happened when we
were five or six years old or such, and it made us ill, maybe, today. You know, this was a system where hundreds and hundreds of people
were coming into this busy hospital, and they were getting better. What I saw was things
very much like shingles, very painful eruptions on the body, but surrounded by acupuncture needles
went away within two or three days. Things like facial paralysis, you know, very physical symptom
where one half of the face is frozen, and people got better. So I had no doubt in my mind
that Chinese medicine had something. So I came back to the UK; I went into practice,
set up my own clinic with colleagues, and really, to some extent,
it was a big experiment in Britain; we didn’t really know what we could treat. But people kept coming to us,
and people got better. And then, very hard to believe
when I started all of this, acupuncture education
moved into universities, and to cut a long story short, I find myself at
the University of East London; I’m the head of Chinese medicine there. I’m very pleased to tell you, I have one student from Bratislava
who I hope will pass her exams this year. So she’s going to be bringing
Chinese medicine back here. So, here we are,
for me 20 years doing this, yet no scientific explanation
for how this medicine could possibly work. And I want to tell you
a short story about a patient to give you some idea
of what’s involved with acupuncture. Let’s call her Nadine. She’s 30 years old, and she and her husband for two years have been trying
to have a baby, but she can’t get pregnant. She goes for tests to her doctor,
and the tests reveal there’s no problem: “You should be able to get pregnant.” So they continue to despair, and she has two cycles of what’s called
IVF, assisted conception, and they don’t work. So as a last resort,
she comes to me for acupuncture. And to be honest, you know,
this is quite a big job, you know, to give this woman
a baby, with needles. (Laughter) No, no pun here. So, anyway, we make a diagnosis;
we listen to her pulse; I do all the things
that Chinese doctors do, and we work together
for about five months, and nothing happens –
she doesn’t get pregnant. And I’m beginning to get uncomfortable because she’s paying money
for this treatment, and one day I say to her, “Look, I’m not so sure
that acupuncture’s for you.” And she looks at me, and she said, “You’re like my mother: you think I’m useless;
you think I can’t do this.” And, you know, she welled up with anger, and I said, “You mean your mother
doesn’t think you can get pregnant?” And she said, “No.” And she said, “I’m so angry.” Now, in Chinese medicine, the Chinese long recognized there’s a connection
between the mind and physical function. So on this particular occasion,
I changed the acupuncture treatment. And when I put the needles in, there were little electric shocks
that seemed to be different, and this is bearing in mind
we’ve been working together five months. And guess what? She got pregnant. You know, and there are
many stories like this. This is why, you know, the Chinese
have kept Chinese medicine going. And just, because I don’t know
how many people here know what really
traditional Chinese medicine is, but acupuncture is one treatment; herbal medicine and massage
and also movement. For example, in China,
I visited a cancer hospital, and they don’t lay their people down
when they have cancer; they keep them moving
with things like qigong and taiji – it’s a different philosophy,
different way of thinking. And, you know, in China this medicine
has been running for 3,000 years. And the idea is that the body
is a network of meridians, or channels, and these channels carry something
apparently called “ch’i.” Now, there’s no definition for ch’i. There’s no explanation;
you can’t measure it. There’s no science
that explains what ch’i is. And, of course, this makes people
in the scientific establishment very, very skeptical about what we do. In China, ch’i isn’t energy;
it isn’t some primordial life force. It actually gives meaning to things. This conference today has good ch’i. You know, it has huge energy behind it. It really gives purpose and meaning; it creates life – that’s the idea of ch’i. And Chinese medicine
is really a system of clinical evidence based on a very different way
of thinking about the body. So that, for example, emotions, in Chinese medicine,
can cause illness. So that, as with the patient
I told you about, the idea that all this suppressed anger, actually, in Chinese medicine
would have some relevance. So Chinese medicine
is a huge success story. And I visited Cuba in my work because I heard that in Cuba Chinese medicine was a part
of their integrated healthcare system. And, you know, when Cuba
was isolated from the rest of the world and they had no essential medicines, they had to try acupuncture. And they found it successful
for things like strokes and heart attacks, and so now in Cuba today,
you’ll find two systems of medicine: you’ll find traditional medicine
as well as Western contemporary medicine. And I said, in Cuba, to the head
of the Cuban Acupuncture Society, “Why? Why acupuncture here?” And he said, “Because Chinese medicine
is one of the best systems in the world, one of the best medical systems, and we want one of the best
medical systems for Cuban people.” So, back in Britain, you know,
acupuncture’s very popular; Chinese medicine is a huge success story. But we, in the last couple of years, have faced huge hostility
from the scientific establishment. “Where’s your evidence?” they say. “It must just be placebo,”
you know, the idea of suggestion. Well, maybe, because placebo
runs in many medical systems, but I think it’s more than that. I’m quite convinced
that when those needles go in, something happens. And we do know certain things now. We do know that acupuncture
affects the limbic part of the brain. We also know in
the treatment of infertility that in the middle of the month
if you do acupuncture, it increases the blood flow to the uterus. So we’re beginning to understand. But in the meantime,
with all the hostility – and it’s quite serious in Britain. I mean, for example, there are people
within the scientific establishment who would like to close down
university courses like mine. There have been many books published
saying, “What’s happening in Britain? People are suddenly beginning
to believe in things that are irrational.” So, you know, these people
ask good questions, because I particularly, as an educator,
have to ask myself, you know: well, is something happening here? Or is this system of medicine,
which is 3,000 years old, is it just a good idea or something that’s based on,
you know, on magic almost? But I think Chinese medicine
has two things that Western medicine doesn’t have. The first is that
Chinese medicine is a real art. Any practitioner needs to listen and look. They listen to the pulse;
they listen to the patient’s life – that illness isn’t just a collection
of isolated symptoms; it’s the way our lives and our histories
and what we want to do impact and can actually cause ill health. It’s a really, really creative process,
almost an art form. And we know from art,
just with the music we heard before, how this can actually create change –
it makes us think differently. The second thing for me
about Chinese medicine, something that really came
across in China – and you know what we’ve done in the West is we’ve made it very hierarchical,
all-important system of medicine with a language patients
often don’t understand. It’s often frightening for patients;
it’s often invasive. But, you know, in China,
one doctor said to me, “You know, Charmian, here it’s actually the patient
that’s the god, not the doctor.” And I found this over and over, that Chinese medicine
tends to empower people; it enables them to take
much more responsibility for their health, and I think this is what it has to offer. So I’d like, just to finish,
I’d like to show you a clip. I revisited China just
before Christmas this year, and I was taken to a hospital in Shenyang,
which is in north of China, and there’s a doctor there who has developed a technique
for treating low back pain, and I’d like to leave you
with a quick clip. It looks very dramatic; it’s a very traditional treatment. It’s for low back pain and sciatica. Have a look, and if you’re in trouble, I hope in Bratislava you’ll have a choice
of having acupuncture. Thank you. (Applause) (Video) Female voice: [This medicine]
originated from northeast part of China. Charmian: So what kind of conditions?
Just pain? Generally back pain? Female: Yeah Yeah Yeah. Male: Wrinkled and traumatized. Male: You can see
the fire along the channel. Charmian: Yeah,
I can see it. It’s fantastic. Male: It’s hot. Just feel it. You can repeat the fire. Female: And the medicine
can be also very good.

32 Replies to “TEDxBratislava – Charmian Wylde – The wonder of Chinese medicine”

  1. I'm really not sure, if such talk belongs to this kind of events. TED events should spread ideas worth spreading, not pseudoscience….

  2. Brilliant, so interesting about the lady with fertility problems. Would have been nice to see more of the video of the person with lower back pain…we need more talks on TED about alternative medicine!

  3. I've heard Western medicine is stuck in Newtonian physics, whereas TCM focuses on Einsteinian physics.. it made sense to me..

  4. "I've heard Western medicine is stuck in Newtonian physics, whereas TCM focuses on Einsteinian physics.. it made sense to me.."

    What the physics does that mean?

  5. "I'm really not sure, if such talk belongs to this kind of events. TED events should spread ideas worth spreading, not pseudoscience…."

    This is Tedx? Meant for spreading religion? Like feminism. Yes normal TED is going that way also now.

  6. For many many years I have been a great believer it traditional Chinese medicine. Not just acupuncture. If it's been going for 3000 years there must be something to it. I had eczema on my leg and tried all the creams my doctor prescribed to no avail. Then I tried a Chinese remedy. It disappeared completely within a week and has not come back. That was eight years ago.

  7. The biggest evidence for the effectiveness of Chinese medicine that anybody can observe I think is that the country with the biggest population whether now or in ancient times relies on this medical system for the most of its history. If it doesn't work, there wouldn't be so many people then. It's a system based on 3000 years of experience. Some rationale is there and working even the current science can't explain for now. And I think one reason for the lack of CURRENT science base of Chinese medicine is the lack of interest and real research which costs.

  8. Look at the comments below. Funny thing is bunch of these guys think "GOD" is “pseudo” as well… Reason is same : "you can not prove God's existence base-on our NON-pseudo-science system". You can change "GOD" here to everything while "Definition of this thing" is "psuedo". Too much of these people just have a really stubborn subconsciousness which can stimulate them to deny every "exotic system" that will challenge them, especially when they are cooompletely ignorant to it.

  9. I have been diagnosed with prostatitis and suffered from urinating problems for 12yrs. I have to get up like 5~20 times every might just to pee a little each time. For all these 12yrs I went to many well known hospitals and famous dos in china. I'm wealthy, these treatment has literally no effect on me at all,and these doctors tell me western medicine just cannot do much on this aspect of man, and I gave up seeking for cure. Then I was desperate, the problem made me a walking zombie with no good sleep at all. Until recently I happened to know a TCM doctor. After drinking the herb medicine he gave me , now I get significantly better and stronger, I get up no more than 5 times at night , sometime it's only once. You may say TCM is pseudo science, but if works for me , I don't give a shit bout that ! Chinese has been doing this for 3000 yrs, and it's totally based on another basis far different from western science.

  10. I feel so motivated , idk why but its sounds great. TCM is also about herbs , not only acupuncture. so, I think, people who said it have not proven yet, you're wrong.

  11. people talk about how it's not science, and i'll tell u that ur so call "science" had only proved less than 5% of the observed universe, doesn't even has the power to prove the rest 96% includes the Chinese medicines

  12. She actually has a quite accurate description of what "Qi" really means. No, it's not an energy, nor a field, nor a force. It is perhaps at best described as a pattern. One analogy would be with economy. There isn't a physical thing that constitutes economic boom or recession, but a pattern of the entire system.

  13. I tried acupressure for weight gain. I was losing weight since the past 7-8 months. Initially my weight started decreasing, and then within 3-4 months i could 2kgs, with just one acupressure point.

  14. Mao made Chinese medicine a thing to legitimize the shoddy state of the care offered in his country. You're all rubes of a propagandist.

  15. Traditional Chinese Medicine is derived from endangered animals such as Keratin from Rhino horns, and Tiger bones which is the equivalent of calcium. Its all an illusion the Chinese have developed to support the billions of dollars made from wildlife trafficking.

  16. Chinese medicine student is here, i think what she said is very nice just a foreigner, i hope more foreigner will know about and learn it

  17. Great speech! There are so many Chinese who don’t understand CTM and look down at their own cultural heritage

  18. I have the feel that someday the so called science of nowadays will evolve into the level that can explain certain part of the TCM if not the entire of it.

  19. Trying not to be dark but the life expectancy in China has increased by two fold since the 1960's when it got access to western medicines like anti antibiotics. In the 1960's it was sadly about 41 when in the west it was 79-80. Now it's around 76 in China, still well behind the west. If it all worked and was so wonderful, wouldn't the statistics be the other way around?

  20. Honestly, this lady did a poor job. TCM is not an art, it's based of science of observation and experience over thousands of years.

  21. Great speech! Hopefully the wisdom of the Chinese medicine develop quickly throughout the world to help people in need! I delivered my baby in US and got many moving pains in many places in my body. I was so weak and depressed. I spent a lot of money(90 dollars each appointment, because insurance did not cover!)to see the Chinese acupunctures in America and did not work out for me. After 7 months I flew back to Chinese and the first thing I did was to head for the Chinese medicine hospital in Guangzhou to have Accupinture treatment! I was able to feel the big difference after my first treatment! Then I made a few more and all the pains were gone! In my experience the Chinese doctors out of China need more study and they need more permissions to bring more original and traditional Chinese medicines from China. For many reasons the medicines they sell is so limited. I would advise those who suffer from chronic problems make a trip to the big hospitals for Chinese medicines in China to have a try. Of course they can try the acupuncture close by them first. This is only my experience, wish everyone a good health.

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