TEDxBratislava – Charmian Wylde – The wonder of Chinese medicine

Reviewer: Tanya CushmanHello, everybody. Thank you very much
for inviting me to Bratislava. You know, it’s a funny story. I was coming backwards
and forwards to Viennaand using the London-Bratislava line,taking flights almost every other week. And a very nice woman sat next to meon what I told her was
my very last flight to Bratislava. And I said it with a little bit of reliefbecause, 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 Bratislavaand talk to the TED conference
about your experiences?”So, you know, never say never;
here I am again,and thank you very muchbecause, actually, you have
a very beautiful city herewith a wonderful castle. So, I’m very pleased
to be here. Thank you. 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 bodiesin different acupuncture points,and suddenly they get better. And there’s no scientific explanationfor 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 conversationabout what happened when we
were five or six years old or such,and it made us ill, maybe, today. You know, this was a systemwhere 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 patientto give you some idea
of what’s involved with acupuncture. Let’s call her Nadine. She’s 30 years old,and she and her husbandfor 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. 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 uncomfortablebecause 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 recognizedthere’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 hereknow 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 establishmentvery, 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 evidencebased 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 workbecause I heard that in CubaChinese medicine was a part
of their integrated healthcare system. And, you know, when Cuba
was isolated from the rest of the worldand 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 infertilitythat 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 establishmentwho 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 ideaor something that’s based on,
you know, on magic almost?But I think Chinese medicine
has two thingsthat 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 doimpact 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 Westis we’ve made it very hierarchical,
all-important system of medicinewith 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 therewho 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. Female voice:
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.

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