MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

Determined to cover as many so-called alternative medicines (SCAMs) as I possibly can, I was intrigued to see an article in the EVENING STANDARD about a SCAM I had not been familiar with: YANG SHENG.

Here is an excerpt of this article:

When people meet Katie Brindle, they usually ask whether she does acupuncture. “In fact, I specialise in yang sheng,” she says, a sigh in her voice. “It’s a massive aspect of Chinese medicine that no one knows anything about.” She’s on a mission to change that. Yang sheng is, in simplest terms, “prevention not cure” and Brindle puts it into practice with Hayo’u, her part-beauty brand, part-wellness programme, which draws on rituals in Far Eastern medicine. The “Reset” ritual, for example, is based on the Chinese martial art of qigong and involves shaking, drumming and twisting the body to wake up your circulation — Brindle says it stimulates digestion and boosts immunity. The “Body Restorer”, a gentle massage of the neck, chest and back, has a history of being used as a form of treatment for fever, muscle pain, inflammation and migraines. The principle underpinning all the practices is that small changes in your daily routine can help prevent your body from illness. Brindle wants it to be accessible: the website is free, and she is planning Facebook live-streams later in the year. There will also be a book in April, focusing on prevention rather than cure…

Frustrated about the overtly adversorial nature of this article, I did a few searches (not made easy by the fact that Yang and Sheng are common names of authors and yangsheng is the name of an acupuncture point) and found that Yang Sheng is said to be a health-promoting method in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that includes movement, mental exercise, and breathing technique. It is used mainly in China but has apparently it is currently enjoying an ever-widening acceptance in the Western world as well.

Is there any evidence for it?

Good question!

A paper from 1998 reported an observational study with 30 asthma patients, with varying degrees of illness severity. They were taught Qigong Yangsheng under medical supervision and asked to exercise independently, if possible, on a daily basis. They kept a diary of their symptoms for half a year including peak-flow measurements three times daily, use of medication, frequency and length of exercise as well as five asthma-relevant symptoms (sleeping through the night, coughing, expectoration, dyspnea, and general well-being). A decrease of at least 10 percent in peak-flow variability between the 1st and the 52nd week occurred more frequently in the group of the exercisers (n = 17) than in the group of non-exercisers (n = 13). When comparing the study year with the year before the study, there was improvement also in reduced hospitalization rate, less sickness leave, reduced antibiotic use and fewer emergency consultations resulting in reduced treatment costs. The authors concluded that Qigong Yangsheng is recommended for asthma patients with professional supervision. An improvement in airway capability and a decrease in illness severity can be achieved by regular self-conducted Qigong exercises.

The flaws of this study are obvious, and I don’t even bother to criticise it here.

Unfortunately, that was the only ‘study’ I found.

I also located many websites most of which are all but useless. Here is one that offers some explanations:

Yang sheng is a self-care approach. What makes this any different from all those other wellbeing manuals? The short answer is, that this is advice rooted in thousands of years of wisdom. Texts on how to preserve and extend life, health and wellbeing have been part of the Chinese tradition since the 4thcentury BC. They’ve had over 25 centuries to be refined and are time tested.

Yang sheng takes into account core theories like yin and yang, adhering to the laws of nature and harmonious free flow of Qi around the body (see below). As the active pursuit of the best possible functioning and balance of the whole self – body, mind and spirit. Yang Sheng takes into consideration your relationships to people and the environment.

In the West, we systematically neglect wellness and disease prevention. We take our good health for granted. We assume that we cannot avoid disease. And then when we are ill, we treat the symptoms of disease rather than finding the root cause.

Yang Sheng is about discovering energy imbalances long before they turn into overt disease. It works on the approach of eliminating small health niggles and balancing the body to stay healthy.

If this sounds like a conspiracy of BS to you, I would not blame you.

So, what can we conclude from this? I think, it is fair to say that:

  • Yang Sheng is being promoted as yet another TCM miracle.
  • It is based on all the obsolete nonsense that TCM has to offer.
  • Numerous therapeutic and preventative claims are being made for it.
  • None of them is supported by anything resembling good evidence.
  • Anyone with a serious condition who trusts Yang Sheng advocates puts her/his life in danger.
  • The EVENING STANDARD is not a source for reliable medical information.

I don’t expect many of my readers to be surprised, concerned or alarmed by any of this. In my view, however, this lack of alarm is exactly what is alarming! We have become so used to seeing bogus claims and dangerous BS in the realm of SCAM that abnormality has gradually turned into something close to normality.

I find the type of normality that incessantly misleads consumers and endangers patients quite simply unacceptable.

94 Responses to Yang Sheng: another SCAM to avoid

  • Respectfully, I think you’re missing the point. Yangsheng is not a ‘therapy’, it is a philosophical approach to living a healthy balanced life. You may not be comfortable with the explanatory framework, but many of the conclusions that arise from it are backed by modern research into lifestyle and the effects of our environment. I’d strongly recommend Peter Deadman’s book ‘Live Well, Live Long’ to anyone with an interest in learning what’s at its core. Here’s an introductory talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8LM0B4MqXg

    • Respectfully, I think YOU might be missing the point: the claims made by proponents are clearly therapeutic claims. therefore, it is necessary to evaluate them as such. and PLEASE, don’t offer me books by proponents masquerading as evidence.

      • When a GP tells someone ‘I suggest drinking and eating in moderation, and getting more sleep’, they are practicing yangsheng via a different framework. The book recommendation wasn’t for you – I said it was for anyone with an interest in learning what’s at the core of yangsheng, and clearly that doesn’t include you.

        • when in a hole, stop digging!
          drinking and eating in moderation, and getting more sleep is not the same as Yang Sheng (as promoted in the UK and outlined in my post) – and you know it.
          if my GP says drink and eat in moderation, get more sleep and do all the other things recommended by Yang Sheng practitioners, it is necessary to ask, is there any evidence that these practitioners can cure/prevent the specific conditions they claim to cure/prevent.
          [even if the GP tells you merely to eat and drink in moderation, you are entitled to ask: is there any evidence for this?]

          • I can’t speak for Katie Brindle, or anyone who makes specific claims of cure. But I can say confidently that yangsheng centres around an understanding of moderation and sensible diet and lifestyle choices, and the idea that following these will naturally lead to improved health and wellbeing. I agree, anyone is entitled to ask for evidence. The book I mentioned is very carefully researched, and provides a lot of evidence to back up the themes of yangsheng. I’m not telling you to read it, but anyone who chooses to may be surprised by how down-to-earth and logical the fundamentals of yangsheng actually are. Of course, any traditional system is liable to be twisted and repackaged by some people in order to make a quick buck, but that doesn’t mean the tradition is hocum.

          • “that doesn’t mean the tradition is hokum”
            no, but any approach or therapy or package of interventions making therapeutic and preventative claims ought to be supported by evidence.
            even your claim above that moderation and sensible diet and lifestyle choices, and the idea that following these naturally lead to improved health and wellbeing requires evidence – how else would you know that they achieve what you claim?

          • Ha! No true yang sheng practitioner!

            At http://yang-sheng.com/?p=11385 it seems yang sheng can treat cancer.

          • “even your claim above that moderation and sensible diet and lifestyle choices, and the idea that following these naturally lead to improved health and wellbeing requires evidence – how else would you know that they achieve what you claim?”

            Really? You need evidence that you’re better off with sensible diet and lifestyles choices? You’re on a roll with the funny comments, Edzard. 🙂

          • how do you think that we know that Mediterranean diet is healthy, for instance?
            by dowsing it or by research?

          • Who said anything about a Mediterranean diet?

            You said “moderation and sensible diet and lifestyle choices, and the idea that following these naturally lead to improved health and wellbeing requires evidence”.

            Again, really? You mentioned something to Tom about digging…

          • do you understand the principle of giving an example for illustrating a point?
            evidently not!

          • Apparently better than you do. The Mediterranean diet is a specific diet. Is it better for your health? Show some evidence.

            Eating sensibly is a general concept. You’re the only person I’ve run into who needs evidence that a sensible diet is better for your health than an unsensible one.

          • and how do you know what is ‘sensible’?
            oh no, don’t tell me – EVIDENCE!
            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24357346
            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28003037
            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30103393
            PLUS ABOUT 1 000 MORE

          • Again, you’re linking to studies on specific diets.

            None of those answer your unique problem of needing evidence that eating sensibly is generally better for your health than not eating sensibly.

        • …And when a yangshen practitioner tells someone to eat and drink in moderation and get more sleep, they are simply putting fancy packaging on mundane common sense and charging a higher price for it.

          • @Yakaru Who is charging a higher price than who? The average GP certainly earns a lot more than the average acupuncturist, and both will find themselves sometimes dispensing similar ‘mundane common sense’ when necessary.

        • Replying to this —
          “@Yakaru Who is charging a higher price than who? The average GP certainly earns a lot more than the average acupuncturist, and both will find themselves sometimes dispensing similar ‘mundane common sense’ when necessary.”

          I never said that the medical profession does not over-price things. What I said was that yangshen “practitioners” hang a fancy label on common sense and charge for the fancy label. I don’t understand why you decided to ignore the accusation and change the subject. (Or actually I do understand it — that’s the reflexive response from fake medical practitioners to criticism.)

          • No, you said ‘charging a higher price for it’ – higher than what? Practitioners of any health discipline need to develop their knowledge and skill over a number of years, and learn to offer information that is likely to be useful and even transformative to individual patients – not a simple or mundane task. Fees are usually charged in exchange for this experience, skill, and advice. Doctors do it, acupuncturists do – individuals weigh up whether the service being offered appeals to them, and whether the fee is worth it or not. My fees start at £20, and I do my utmost to help guide people towards better health by applying the principles of yangsheng and Chinese Medicine. What to you may be ‘fancy packaging’, to many others is a sophisticated metaphorical framework offering a different lense through which to understand their condition.

          • “Higher price than what?”

            –Than what you would charge if you were just offering normal common sense advice.

          • “Who is charging a higher price than who?”

            My acupuncturist offers up normal common sense advice, and charges about $1.70 per minute.
            My GP offers up normal common sense advice, and charges about $28 per minute.

            My GP takes my height and weight, at the same rate. My acupuncturist never has. $28 per minute seems pretty expensive for reading numbers off of a scale.

      • I believe that Tom is making a good point. Yang Sheng as it was taught to me in TCM school is a philosophy of living a healthy and balanced life. I’m not going to go digging, but I am sure there is a lot of clear evidence that supports eating healthy and getting exercise to maintain quality of life and living longer.
        The problem, as I see it from your (Edzard) article above is NOT with Yang Sheng but with people who warp the basic philosophy and make false claims. You, yourself, said it quite well
        “found that Yang Sheng is said to be a health-promoting method in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that includes movement, mental exercise, and breathing technique”.

  • I often wonder just how many different ‘systems’ of medicine enthusiasts for SCAM think are appropriate to cure disease and maintain health.

    Yang sheng (from the description in this post) is based on QI, yin, yang, undetectable ‘meridians’ and ‘energy balance’ (whatever the heck these all mean), so it’s allied to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM treatments consist of herbs, special diets, sticking needles into patients and massage (among others).

    Meanwhile, chiropractic and osteopathy derive from a supposition (unevidenced) that all diseases originate from disorders of the musculoskeletal system.

    But homeopathy (once again supported by an unevidenced supposition) considers symptoms can best be treated with substances whose ingestion mimics the symptoms but are diluted beyond the point that any of the substance remains. (And, of course — most important — the solutions have to be banged on a leather-bound book at each dilution step in order to ‘potentize’ the medicine. Anyone who omits to mention this vital aspect is regarded as ia worthless ignoramus.)

    Then again, reiki claims diseases can be treated by hands-on healing in which ‘universal energy’ (whatever that may be) is transferred via a practitioner’s palms to the patient.

    I could go on, but — hang on a minute — would it not make sense by now to have explored all the competing systems, using the best possible scientific experimentation, to determine exactly how specific diseases are caused and constantly correcting errors and rejecting things unsupported by evidence in exactly the same way as other sciences such as chemistry, physics and astronomy?

    What’s that you say? That’s what medicine has been doing for years? Oh, please forgive me: I thought that old wives’ tales, supernatural magic and totally implausible methods of treatment must be the rational way to go. After all, some of these systems have been around for millennia, and we all know how important it is to utilize unmodified thousand-years-old systems of transport, communication, construction and all other forms of technology in the 21st century.

    • Frank Odds says ‘Reiki claims deseases can be treated by hands on healing ‘ at least you don’t describe it as ‘hand waving’ now but for accuracy Reiki can be hands off healing too. However, you are not saying Reiki claims deseases are cured by Reiki…. phew.

      So you think the many CAM disciplines are competing with each other. That’s a novel theory. Complementary medicines are that – and brilliant they are too : half a century of using chiropractic, acupuncture, homeopathy,osteopathy, reflexology, Reiki, alongside allopathic medicine , I am the winner, and totally unscarred by any perceived competition. I am saving my GP’s precious time by going straight to my chiropractor because that’s what he would (and does) advise his patients with back problems. A local surgery has an acupuncturist on hand to give treatments.

      Seems like the various modalities are rubbing along nicely.

      • do you also adhere to several religions?

      • @Angela

        “at least you don’t describe [reiki] as ‘hand waving’ now but for accuracy Reiki can be hands off healing too.” Make your mind up! So it is hand waving. (For accuracy let me add that Reiki can be hands-on healing too.)

        “So you think the many CAM disciplines are competing with each other. That’s a novel theory.” No, I never said they’re competing. I’m fully aware that many practitioners combine every kind of horse manure they can. For example, my local “Health and Therapies” practice boasts counselling, homeopathy, dietitian, podiatry/chiropody, acupuncture, reflexology, usui reiki, massage, Bowen therapy, thetahealing, herbal medicine and cranio-sacral healing. But these all claim a different mechanism of action yet many also reckon to cure most or all diseases. That’s simply not logical. My question was how many different ‘systems’ of medicine we need.

        Why do you bill your list of unevidenced ‘medicines’ as complementary? Very many people regard them as alternatives to proper medicine. Are you now admitting they’re no use on their own for any genuine disease? I’m sure that believers in astrology, magnetic healing and every branch of religion can claim equal efficacy for their faiths — provided they’re used as complements to orthodox medicine.

        “I am saving my GP’s precious time by going straight to my chiropractor because that’s what he would (and does) advise his patients with back problems.” How do you know your GP advises his patients to go to a chiropractor if you always go straight to a chiropractor to save his time? Do all the GPs in your practice send their back pain patients to chiros? Do they not have access to physios? I personally know many GPs who utterly deprecate ‘bollocks medicine’ (the name one of them uses for SCAM), so I’m placing my anecdotes into the ring with yours.

        My basic concern is for truth. Are the many branches of SCAM (and the sub-branches, ‘cos we’ve learned from this blog that chiropractors, homeopaths and acupuncturists all seem to have different schools of thought) supported by robust evidence of efficacy for their many therapeutic claims, or are they just making patients feel more comfortable and inducing placebo effects? If only the latter were the case, and practitioners were honest about that, you’d never read a comment from me on this blog. It’s the preposterous claims to treat serious diseases — never mind the back pains and the like where medicine offers nothing more effective than exercise — that cause my hackles to rise.

        We’ve known since the late 19th century that infections are caused by micro-organisms (viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites). So why do ignorant numbskulls persist in suggesting they can treat (e.g.) whooping cough, a bacterial infection manageable with antibiotics and vaccines, by osteopathic manipulation and AIDS, a disease arising from viral infection and manageable with antiviral agents, with ‘medicines’ free of active ingredients?

        “Seems like the various modalities are rubbing along nicely.” Your smug attitude reminds me of the children’s story about ‘stone soup’. A stone can be used to make an excellent and tasty soup. Just add hot water and some sliced meat and a few vegetables. Complementary and alternative medicines are the equivalent of the stone in stone soup, and it’s sad that you seem not to realize that.

        • Frank – there is no hand waving when giving Reiki – only hands on and sometimes hands off: because it is inappropriate to touch certain areas of the body. No Reiki teachers cover anything about waving hands.

          Re complementary versus alternative: complementary medicine is a common term especially as there are so many complementary centres situated in hospitals. Maybe some people prefer the term alternative but actually use it alongside allopathic: it’s a bit of a play on words since I usually use the term CAM on this blog.

          I don’t know if all the GP’s in my Practice recommend a chiropractor to their patients: maybe not – as you say there are physios to access,however I do know one does ( I understand you are trying to trip me up ) but if I am told by someone this is their experience, I believe them and don’t call them a liar – no anecdote just a person visiting a doctor who refers to a chiropractor.

          Your basic concern is for the truth. I admit it’s difficult for me to unscramble your views to lead you there. You use the words ignorant numbskulls when denigrating CAM practitioners, yet many millions benefit and thats why we continue to use them. It’s not good enough to say we are all gullible and ignorant numbskulls – where is the evidence?

          I am sorry my smug attitude reminded you of a children’s story – I don’t like smugness as much as you don’t, but then again I don’t like the words ignorant numbskulls directed towards CAM practitioners, those of whom I know and use are honest, don’t make claims of curing diseases but help to keep me healthy.

          You say it’s sad I don’t realise that alternative medicines are equivalent of the stone in your story……I am sure children love the story but to clarify I am not sad. Assumptions do not translate to Truth.

          • The “ignorant numbskulls” comment is perfectly clearly aimed at those who claim to cure infections with alternative medicines. The words ‘alternative’ and ‘complementary’ have very different meanings.

  • @Edzard Yangsheng practices were developed through the observation, but I agree that scientific evaluation is useful and desirable where possible. Like I said, the book I mentioned provides a lot of evidence.

    • “scientific evaluation is useful and desirable where possible”
      NO, IT IS NECESSARY!
      otherwise one can claim anything – like in SCAM
      “the book I mentioned provides a lot of evidence”
      in my experience the authors of such books [and probably you as well] do not know the distinction between evidence and opinion/experience.

      • ‘in my experience the authors of such books [and probably you as well] do not know the distinction between evidence and opinion/experience’

        But it’s OK for you to jump to conclusions about me and ‘such books’ based on ‘your experience’?! You base your conclusions about yangsheng – something you had never heard of – on an article in the Evening Standard and a quick Google search, and dismiss out of hand my suggestion of a resource that offers more depth and understanding on the subject, including scientific evidence. Ironic.

        • now you’ve lost it!
          1) i have done quite a lot of research on SCAM books.
          2) you have given plenty of evidence on this blog to demonstrate what I calimed about you.
          3) the ES article appeared on 6 Feb; since then, I have researched it. I cited one single google hit to demonstrate a point. you conclude that that’s all the research i did?
          4) you obviously have the book in question – so please prove me wrong by qutoing what you call good evidence (not ‘understanding’, let’s stick to evidence) from that book. but don’t BS me in this patronising way!

          • I concluded that you didn’t do much research based on the post as a whole, which as I said at the beginning, seems to miss the point of yangsheng. I’m happy to give an example or two from the book when I get a chance.

          • never trust what an acupuncturist ‘concluded’ – here is what you actually posted:
            “You base your conclusions about yangsheng – something you had never heard of – on an article in the Evening Standard and a quick Google search”

          • “3) the ES article appeared on 6 Feb; since then, I have researched it. I cited one single google hit to demonstrate a point. you conclude that that’s all the research i did?”

            What other research did you do?

          • if you think I missed some important evidence, feel free to post the link.

          • I’m wondering what research led you to this:

            “So, what can we conclude from this? I think, it is fair to say that:

            • Yang Sheng is being promoted as yet another TCM miracle.
            • Anyone with a serious condition who trusts Yang Sheng advocates puts her/his life in danger.”

            That certainly makes it seem like your research into yangsheng was a quick google search, and promotional sites. But if you did more than that, please share. Good info on yangsheng is tricky to find.

          • why don’t you link to important research into Yang Sheng that I have missed, in case you are concerned about the thoroughness of my work.

          • why don’t you link to important research into Yang Sheng that I have missed, in case you are concerned about the thoroughness of my work?

          • I’m not concerned about the thoroughness of your work. But when you conclude things like “Yang Sheng is being promoted as yet another TCM miracle.”, it does make it sound like you only looked at practitioner sites.

            Yangsheng is very similar to Tibetan, Indian and other Buddhist practices. So the layman (like me) could come to the conclusion that yangsheng is based on those practices. You concluded that yangsheng “is based on all the obsolete nonsense that TCM has to offer.”. What research led you to that?

          • Also, from my research yangsheng (and the practices that it came from) require you put in a great deal of work over a considerable amount of time. Pretty much the opposite of miraculous, wouldn’t you say?

            How do you fairly conclude that it’s “yet another TCM miracle”? Share your research, please.

  • There is a massive understanding here by Ernst et al. It’s best to actually find out what the subject is before pontificating like this. Frankly it’s embarrassing. Yangsheng (literally ‘nourishing life’) is an umbrella term for a broad range of health maintenance and disease prevention practices drawn from 2500 years of Chinese medical, Daoist, Buddhist, Confucian, martial art and folk traditions. It encompasses learning to manage the mind and emotions, dietary habits, exercise, sleep, sex life, navigating pregnancy and childbirth, feeding and raising children, connecting with nature, music and art, managing old age and preparing for death. It encompasses the knowledge and discoveries of vast numbers of doctors and practitioners – most of it verified by the last three decades or so of lifestyle research (yes modern science is a couple of thousand late in the game). I find it hard to restrain my contempt for the wilful ignorance that people like Ernst bring to criticising other medical and health cultures. When encountering a tradition that has been teaching for 25 centuries that exercising the body, learning to restrain anger, worry and fear, eating well, moderating alcohol consumption, sleeping sufficiently, breathing slowly and deeply, is fundamental to health and wellbeing, it would be better to give it the respect it deserves. And clearly, since the range of yangsheng is so vast, it would be absurd to seek one single piece of evidence. However if Ernst lets me know his mail address, I will gladly send him a copy of my book (https://peterdeadman.co.uk/live-well-live-long/) which is jam-packed with the evidence he seeks.

      • Where are the ad hominem attacks you refer to? I don’t see them.

        • buy some glasses!
          “Edward Ernst, I always thought you were a bully and a fraud.”

          • @EE

            In fairness, those words don’t appear anywhere on this thread. They’re in your first link, but that wasn’t clear to every reader (including myself).

          • ‘Buy some glasses’

            That’s pretty rude. Although my opinions and conclusions may offend you, I don’t think I’ve been in any way rude to you during these exchanges – perhaps time to review your new year resolutions?

            When you said to Peter ‘good to see you still disqualify yourself so thoroughly’, and linked to your ad hominem post, I naturally assumed you were suggesting he was ‘still’ using ad hominem attacks in the current exchange. I didn’t see any. So does that mean a prior ad hominem disqualifies all future output?

          • how am I supposed to know what you mean?

          • “pontificating”, “ignorance”
            directed to me, these are ad hominems, if you ask me.

    • Dear Mr. Deadman,
      I agree with your first statement, indeed (quote) “There is a massive understanding here by Ernst et al.”.
      🙂

      You should have stopped there… instead of rambling about how great the TCM “health culture” is in your opinion.
      All we sceptics are looking for is scientific evidence… not your opinion.
      Why is it so difficult for people like you to understand that the age of a “health culture”, religion, etc. is NOT evidence for it being true?

      • As Peter mentioned, his book is ‘jam-packed’ with the evidence you seek.

        • jam-packed with what the two of you call evidence?

        • @ Tom Kennedy,
          Would you mind giving just one piece of evidence from this book?
          Just pick the evidence that you consider to be most convincing and reliable.
          We can then discuss it, since I do not have the book and certainly do not intend to spend money on buying it.

      • PS:
        You might want to consider this example.
        Let´s say, today I make the claim that the planet Venus is not made of rocks, but is in fact made of white chocolate. I like white chocolate, and this believe makes me feel good. In the beginning, I will be quite alone in believing that this claim is true.
        *Does this claim become “more true” if I am able to convince another person to believe in it?
        *What is the minimum number of persons required to make this claim true?
        *If I can convince MANY persons and establish a new cultural belief, does this make my claim true?
        *How many years must pass until my claim becomes true?

    • exactly!
      [yours of course]

      I have responded to your pseudo-arguments earlier in the exchanges with your friend Tom and will not repeat myself

  • Tom Kennedy: The principles of Yangsheng (modest lifestyle, exercise, sleep, diet) are clearly valuable, and indeed promoted by virtually all other ‘systems’ of healthcare, including developing modern medicine, but…

    Proponents of Yangsheng (aka Yang Sheng) claim the benefits arise from ‘qi’ and other ‘energies’ mediated in pathways or ‘meridians’, ‘balancing yin and yang’. “Chinese Medicine believes the free flow of Qi and blood is fundamental to good health… Imbalance or blockages weakens our Qi, which eventually manifests as disease. So, it’s imperative to look after our Qi on a daily basis to keep it strong and smooth flowing.” Et cetera.

    The problem is, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever for Qi, chi, ki, prana or ‘The Force’. These are all imaginative, metaphorical constructs appealing to emotions and wishful thinking, but having no basis in reality.

    The Evening Standard wrote un-critically about the work of Kate Brindle who claimed; “a gentle massage of the neck, chest and back, has a history of being used as a form of treatment for fever, muscle pain, inflammation and migraines. The principle underpinning all the practices is that small changes in your daily routine can help prevent your body from illness.” But just where is the evidence any illness is prevented by these methods?

    Other sites for Yang Sheng claim effects on ‘the immune system’ – again with no evidence (by which surely, in the context of healcare, we all mean “Plausible, reproducible evidence arrived at by modern scientific methods”).

    I do wish Tom Kennedy would distinguish between the undoubted nice, pleasurable, placebic effects of yang sheng (and other ‘energy systems’) and the effects of these unidentified energies on any specific pathological process. “BS baffles brains” it is said, but also BS gets in the way of serious deliberation about the benefits of the various esoteric modalities.

    Peter Deadman opens his talk (referenced by TK) talking of hepatitis and cancer treatments. He talks of “diet being the third most important cause of cancer…” No evidence of course. And so it goes on. Deadman (nominative determinism?) makes the fundamental mistake of referring to “Western medicine” and “Chinese medicine” – quite ignoring the fact that the only two sorts of medicine there are is that which works (and is used in China as everywhere else), and that which does not – as evidenced.

    Getting evidence is tough.
    Tough.

    • Deadman “makes the fundamental mistake of referring to “Western medicine” and “Chinese medicine””. Using the term ‘Western medicine’ for medicine that works is similar to calling relativity ‘Jewish physics’ (as has happened, of course).

    • @Richard Firsty, it’s nice to read a post of yours that doesn’t include your ‘belonetherapy’ joke 😉

      ‘These are all imaginative, metaphorical constructs’

      That may be. But instead of ‘appealing to emotions and wishful thinking’, I’d say they offer a framework of understanding that many people find helpful. For example, explaining the traditional Chinese concept that consuming too much alcohol and sugar can create ‘dampness and heat’ in the body, and using natural analogies inherent in this system such as stagnant waterways usually makes intuitive sense.

      In response to various requests for evidence, below is a link to the references from the chapter on sleep in ‘Live Well, Live Long’. The chapter discusses avoiding eating before bedtime, healthy sleeping position, preparing the mind for sleep, the potential dangers of disordered sleep patterns etc. The Yangsheng tradition has emphasised the importance of regular, good quality sleep for millennia, and much modern research reinforces this advice:

      https://pasteapp.com/p/J4YrCDkSUqn

      • “they offer a framework of understanding that many people find helpful”
        personally, I prefer the 4 humours of the middle ages – excellent at explaining how blood-letting works

      • “The Yangsheng tradition has emphasised the importance of regular, good quality sleep for millennia”
        do you know of a single tradition that has not?
        the blood-letters were even better at that, I bet

        • ‘do you know of a single tradition that has not?’

          No, but so what? Hopefully people are getting a better understanding of what Yangsheng is through this exchange – i.e. as Peter put it ‘an umbrella term for a broad range of health maintenance and disease prevention practices’, not a ‘therapy’. Many of these practices amount to simple common sense, but that doesn’t invalidate them.

          • agreed!
            “Many of these practices amount to simple common sense, but that doesn’t invalidate them.”
            BUT NEITHER DOES IT VALIDATE THEM!

          • just what I said in the post: “Yang Sheng is said to be a health-promoting method in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that includes movement, mental exercise, and breathing technique.”

    • Richard Rawlins. Thanks for the correction – I was wrong. Looks like it’s the 2nd most important cause of cancer according to Cancer Research UK (https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/diet-and-cancer/how-healthy-eating-prevents-cancer)

      I invited Ernst to read my book which is packed with the kind of evidence you are asking for but he ignored me. If you send me your address, I’ll send you a copy – on condition you read it with a curious and open mind.

      • just post a few pieces of sound evidence on Yang Sheng here; that would suffice and has the advantage that we all can comment on it.

        • I posted a link to several pages worth of references on sleep from Peter’s book, but nobody has seemed interested.

          • yes you did!
            and I commented by asking you which references are on Yang Sheng, as I did not see any.
            then you more or less confirmed that none were.
            funny how your memory fails you sometimes.

  • @Edzard
    ‘“pontificating”, “ignorance” directed to me, these are ad hominems, if you ask me.’

    I would say those were reactions directed against the position you are maintaining, not you as a person. Otherwise surely ‘Buy some glasses’, and ‘never trust what an acupuncturist concluded’ directed at me disqualify you too.

  • Good to see that you have at least learned a little about Yangsheng through this process and removed the previous description of it as a ‘therapy’.

  • Ah, so now, common sense needs to have a name and a history… yet another one, that is.

    Great!

  • @Edzard ‘funny how your memory fails you sometimes’

    Where is it in the hierarchy of wit that sarcasm is said to lie? My memory fails me. The exchange you are referring to was in relation to the free excerpt I posted. I have since posted a full list of references from one of the chapters in the book (Saturday 23 February 2019 at 13:37).

    • so sorry!
      please show me which of these are on Yang Sheng

      • I had a look and could not find a single one.

        • As mentioned not before, there is no single thing called ‘Yangsheng’, it is an umbrella term for an approach to health maintenance and disease prevention. One key thing under this umbrella is the importance of regular good quality sleep. Multiple examples of research are included which confirm the validity of the yangsheng approach to sleep.

          • yes, yes, yes, it’s a package of interventions, we all know that and my post makes it clear. the question nevertheless is: is there any evidence that the package does more good than harm?

  • @Edzard

    ‘is there any evidence that the package does more good than harm?’

    You won’t find studies that show the global effects of following yangsheng principles as a whole – the compexity, duration and costs of such a study would render it impossible. Look at the ongoing arguments over different diets, for example – and diet is just one of multiple areas covered by yangsheng.

    But there is a mass of evidence that various strands of yangsheng practice do more good than harm, e.g. the yangsheng approach to sleep (and if you took up Peter’s offer and read the book, you’ll see the same is true of many other aspects). So surveyin this evidence as a whole, as Peter tries to do in his book, makes a strong case that yangsheng is a pretty sensible way to go about things, even if you find the underlying philosophy difficult to grasp.

    • I dispute that the various strands of evidence can be put together in favour of YS; they are simply in favour of following the evidence forma healthy life-style. you claim that is the same; but that’s not true. a healthy life-style does not need all the TCM nonsense.

  • I agree that what you call the ‘TCM nonsense’ isn’t required for a healthy lifestyle per se. But I would argue that the wealth of evidence supporting the sort of healthy lifestyle espoused by the yangsheng tradition for so long demonstrates its value as a sophisticated metaphorical system which has produced all sorts of useful guidelines for a healthy and fulfilling life. You may see it as outdated nonsense – fine, then stick to what speaks to you. But if this system has something about it that makes sense to people with a different outlook to yours, and inspires them to moderate their behaviour and lead a more balanced and healthy life, why criticise it so readily?

  • 養生 Yang Sheng = “To Support Life”


    Definitions:
    to raise; to rear; to bring up
    to support


    Definitions:
    to live; to subsist; to exist

    In the English Language this term means “Supporting Life”. Routines, habits one may develop in order to support one’s wellbeing and longevity. It’s not that complicated, and it’s definitely not another name for “common sense”. Instead, it is full of common sense (good sleep, moderate diet, exercise, regulating emotions generally speaking).


    • 養生 Yang Sheng = “To Support Life”

      It also means to cause concrete to set. If you want a bit more detail…



      Definitions:
      to raise; to rear; to bring up
      to support

      According to my Chinese dictionary (Pleco), further meanings are (as a verb):
      to keep (as in pets)
      to give birth
      to cultivate (as in habits)
      to convalesce or recuperate
      to grow one’s hair
      maintain (as in servicing a car or a road)
      (as a noun): accomplishment



      Definitions:
      to live; to subsist; to exist

      Also:
      To give birth or lay (eggs)
      To be born
      To grow (including to take root or to sprout)
      To be afflicted with (my dictionary gives the examples of boils, chilblains and suspicions (i.e. to be suspicious of))
      To light (as in light a fire)

      Putting these two hanze (Chinese symbols) together gives the compound word 養生 (yang(3) sheng (1)
      I have given the Mandarin tones in brackets, though the pronunciation will vary with different languages
      Another meaning is:
      Curing (of concrete etc.)

      In Japanese this compound word is transcribed “youjou” in romaji,which surprised me as the reading (i.e. pronunciation) of compound words in Japanese is frequently derived from Chinese and usually bears some resemblence therefore to the Mandarin pronunciation.

      The Japanese meanings of 養生 in my dictionary (Imiwa) are:
      taking care of ones health,
      recuperation
      coating or covering (with a protective material)
      curing (concrete)

  • I would suggest the following book, written from a former aerospace engineer who decided to properly delve into Chinese Medicine.
    https://www.aaaomonline.org/Blog/5317771
    https://www.amazon.com/Dao-Chinese-Medicine-Understanding-Ancient/dp/0195921046

    “Dao of Chinese Medicine is the first Western text to shed light on the reality of the ancient healing arts of China, revealing that Chinese medical theories are based on important physiological findings. This is in contrast to the Western interpretation, popularized since the 1940s and 50s that Chinese medicine and acupuncture involve undefined energy and blood circulating through imaginary meridians. Unfortunately, the energy-meridian idea condemned Chinese medicine to be viewed in terms of metaphysical beliefs, limiting its acceptance into mainstream health care. It also led to a growing frustration to reinvent acupuncture in Western terms before understanding the true way (dao) of Chinese medicine. Dao of Chinese Medicine sets the record straight, explaining how ancient Chinese physicians developed a physiologically based medicine with the theories supported by human dissection studies and how Chinese medical theories are consistent with 21st century explanations about how acupuncture works”.

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