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How Does Moxibustion Work Really?

October 18, 2011 2 comments

Using a form of direct moxa for a chronic shoulder injury

One of the most useful modalities in Chinese Medicine is the herb known as Moxibustion.  Otherwise known as Mugwort, Artemisia Vulgaris, or Ai Ye (chinese pinyin); it can be used in a number of different ways.  It can be taken internally, decocted as a tea, applied as a tincture, burned directly on the skin or indirectly just off the skin.

For the purposes of this article we will primarily be discussing the use of Moxibustion directly on or indirectly above the skin.  Generally moxibustion and Acupuncture go hand in hand, it is an extremely useful modality for a wide range of disorders, stages of trauma and disease as well as all ages, constitutional types and individual persons, all of which add to its intrigue.  How can one simple herb be so beneficial to just about everyone?

Mugwort (the type that we ‘burn’) is cultivated from the underside of the mugwort leaf and is packaged up looking like a spongy cotton ball-like material.  This type is generally used ‘directly’; i.e. on the skin, or placed upon the end of an acupuncture needle.  Indirect moxibustion looks more like a large black piece of chalk.  This type is much more functional in the sense that it is ‘smokeless’ and is held just off the skin to create heat and healing, and lowers the risk of getting burned.

So how does it work, and what can you expect from a Moxa treatment?  I have been using moxa a lot lately, 1) because the weather is transitioning toward winter and moxa is a warming modality and 2) because it is extremely useful in reducing inflammation, promoting healthy tissue regeneration and lately I have been surrounded by chronic unhealed injuries lately.

Many people ask how it works, and my tried and true answer is that it’s like using infra-red radiation to mellow out inflammation.  Unlike using heat just on the surface, Moxibustion, like infra-red, penetrates deep into the tissue, muscle or joint affected and though it’s warm to the feel, has the ability to flush out inflammation and essentially cool off the area.  In addition to just treating inflammatory disorders, Moxa is used to:

  • Reduce pain:  acting somewhat like an analgesic
  • Promotes healthy Immunity: when used at specific acupuncture points
  • Promotes kidney Function
  • Treat ulcers & other gastro-intestinal disorders
  • Fertility and menstrual disorders

Following is a great article, written in Acupuncture Today describing in more detail the how’s, why’s & what’s of using Moxibustion.  This article is especially great because there is some really good research to back it all up which is nice for all of us scientific brains out there who like to know how things work!

Article taken directly from Acupuncture Today:

How Does Moxibustion Work Scientifically?

By Yin Lo, PhD

Moxibustion and acupuncture have always gone together as one compound name in the Chinese classics on treatment of illness. We have explained in previous articles in Acupuncture Today how acupuncture works in terms of modern science.

 How does moxibustion work in terms of modern science? The simple answer is that meridians are like optical fibers that transmit infrared radiation.

Fudan University conducted an experiment on meridians and found the following: A high transparency (76 percent) at a wavelength of 2.66 microns has been measured along the axis direction of the collagenous fiber at the Gallbladder meridian on one lower limb in a human body. Along the fiber axis of the Stomach meridian, the transparency is 62 percent at wavelengths of 9-20 microns. The transparency vertical to the axis is 0.4 percent. There is a difference in transparency of more than 240 times between infrared light along the axis and infrared light vertical to the axis of the meridians.

The most interesting thing I have found out on moxibustion is that although it uses heat, it cools down the problem area, so the healing mechanism of moxibustion is the same as needle acupuncture. It is through qi that moxibustion does the work, not the direct incoherent heat that we associate with burning.

Moxibustion can also lower hot spots in painful areas. Please see the following infrared pictures. The color code for the images is as follows: the highest temperature is in white, followed by red, yellow, green, blue, and black.

Infrared image of back, before treatment. Infrared image of back, before treatment. The validity of moxibustion has been confirmed by many recent scientific studies.* It has effects on the immune system, analgesia, the kidneys, colitis, ulcers, neurons, and gene expression. Let us briefly describe them.

The Immune System

Moxibustion at acupoints qi hai (Ren 6) and tian shu (ST 25) inhibited the expression of IL-1 (beta) and IL-a6m RNA in experiments on rats with ulcerative colitis.

Infrared image of back, immediately after moxibustion. Infrared image of back, immediately after moxibustion at BL 23, BL 25, BL 18, DU 3 and DU 4. The back warms up as shown. A. Moxibustion at acupoint guan yuan (Ren 4) on sarcoma S180 ascitic mice increases the decreased erythrocytic C3b receptor rosette-forming rate, decreases the raised immunocomplex rosette-forming rate, and increases activity of erythrocytic immunosuppressive factor in tumor-bearing mice. Hence, moxibustion strengthens erythrocytic immunity.

B. On tumor-bearing mice, there is an instant elevation of serum ACTH and beta-EP from moxibustion at guan yuan.

C. Moxibustion at guan yuan on tumor-bearing mice promotes hyperplasia of the pituitary and adrenal glands, stimulates the secretion of beta END from the pituitary and adrenal glands, and increases the level of serum beta-END significantly.

Infrared image of back, two minutes after treatment. Two minutes after treatment, the heat due to the warming effect of moxibustion has gone and the back starts to cool off. D. In arthritic rats, moxibustion at acupoint shen shu (BL 23) could lighten local inflammatory reaction, eliminate swelling, prevent or reduce polyarthritises, maintain weight and shorten the course of the disease. It could help with recovery and promote the effects of concanavalin, inducing splenic lymphocyte proliferation in rates. It could also promote interleukin-2 production, and decrease IL-1 contents.

Analgesia

A. Moxibustion-induced analgesia was studied in rats, which were urethane-anesthetized. Single-unit extracellular recordings from neurons in the trigeminal nucleus caudalis were obtained from a micropipette. Suppression was observed on both wide dynamic range and nociceptive-specific, but not on low-threshold mechanoreceptive units. Moxibustion-induced moderate suppression with a long induction time. It suggested that noxious inhibitory controls may be involved in the analgesic mechanism.

B. The analgesic effect of moxibustion was measured by the latency of tail flinch threshold (LTH) in rats. When the surface temperature was modulated within 38-390 Celsius and 43-440 Celsius, LTH increased 17.7 +/- 2.1 percent and 22.2 +/-2.5 percent, respectively, after 5 minutes (p<0.05).

Renal Function, Colitis, Ulcers, Neurons and Gene Expression

A. The effects of moxibustion at acupoints BL 15 and BL 27 were studied on spontaneously hypertensive rats. Urinary volume was increased for BL 15, but decreased for BL 27. Urinary secretion of Na+ was decreased for BL 15 and BL 27. Systolic blood pressure was decreased for BL 15, but not for BL 27. Plasma levels of aldosterone and renin activity were increased, and atrial natriuretic peptide was decreased for BL 15. Plasma levels of aldosterone and atrial naturiuretic peptide were increased for BL 27.

B. The effect of moxibustion at acupoint Ren 4 on the function of MDR gene product P-glycoprotein P-170 in mice with S-180R adriamycin-resistant tumor cells was studied. A weak inhibition was found when moxibustion was performed at Ren 4 alone, and a very significant inhibition was observed in the presence of low dosage of verapamil, but not at high dosage.

C. Moxibustion at shen shu on experimentally induced gastric ulcerated rats was found to reduce the ulcer area significantly (p<0.05), and increase the zinc content in serum significantly. Pre-treatment by moxibustion had a protective effect on the gastric mucosa.

D. Stimulating acupoint zu san li (ST 36) on rats with a moxa stick can increase the activity of cholinesterase (p<0.05), and inhibit hyperactive gastrointestinal motility (p<0.05).

E. The effect of moxibustion on primary sensory neurons in the skin of rats was studied with immunocytochemistry combined with a fluorescent retrograde tracer dye. Moxibustion was found to induce galanin expression by primary sensory neurons containing substance P.

F. Pre-treatment with moxibustion at BL 23 significantly prevented the formation of gastric ulcer in rats.

It is quite clear from the above studies that the heat, or infrared radiation, from moxibustion preferentially transmits through meridians from acupoints to internal organs. Meridians act like a light pipe. This is consistent with our hypothesis that meridians are made up of water clusters (Lo, 2005).

Ask your Acupuncturist about using Moxibustion at your next visit; it is one of the most relaxing and comfortable experiences you will have in the treatment room!

If you’ve had Moxibustion in the past, what do you think of it?  How has it helped you?  Share your stories as they are usually the most helpful for people when understanding the elusive practice of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine!

Until next time ~

Erin

Sources: 

Lo, Y. (2005). How does moxibustion work scientifically. Acupuncture Today, 06(02), Retrieved from http://acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=30023

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Muscular Dystrophy, Obama’s Health Care, Emu Oil & Toxic Beds…

August 22, 2009 4 comments
by, Anushruti RK

by, Anushruti RK

 

 If I actually wrote in my blog as much as I think about topics, I’d probably be posting every day if not more than that!  Be that as it may, I just don’t have that much time in my day and find myself wondering where the day went not having accomplished half the things that are on “my list of things to do”.  It seems also, that by the time I actually have time to sit down and actually put these thoughts on paper, or in this case, on the computer, my ideas seem to have flittered away and the once ingenous, scholarly & well worded blog  posts I came up with in the shower are no longer anywhere within my grasp… but lucky for me, that’s why somebody invented post-its!  Now, as if my “to do lists” weren’t piling up here and there, I have that many more little notes left for myself around the house, in the car, & at the bottom of my backpack with tidbits of information that I will at some point put into more organized thoughts. 

Acupuncture & Muscular Dystrophy

There has obviously been a lot on my mind lately, and first on my list of things to share is Muscular Dystrophy.  If you don’t know about this disease it is a devastating Autoimmune disease that attacks the muscles and causes degeneration (the breakdown) of the Skeletal Muscle, and eventually the Smooth Muscle.  There are a couple of reasons I am choosing to bring this up.  One; I recently had an experience with a woman who has Myotonic Dystrophy; a type of Muscular Dystrophy in which the degeneration starts from the finger-tips and toes and eventually makes its way toward the body degenerating everything in its path eventually taking over the smooth muscle of the heart.  It can be treated only by pain management and physical therapy to slow the process, but is otherwise inescapable.  With weekly visits to her Acupuncturist she can decrease her intake of pain meds from 24 IB Profen a day to just 4.  If that’s not proof in the making, then I don’t know what is!  Just imagine how much liver & kidney damage she is saving herself from by just spending 1 hour a week with an Acupuncturist!  Not to mention keeping herself pain free enough to be able to do activity and keep her muscle tone from degenerating too quickly.  Pretty amazing stuff if I do say so myself!  And two; because that day as I was leaving school there on the street, was a group of Portlands’ best Firefighters holding up signs to Fight Muscular Dystrophy.  I considered that a pretty significant sign, that the message was to be spread.

Thoughts on Obama’s Health Care 

Since we’re on the topic of Health, and since my blog is aimed at health and wellness, the second of my thoughts to share are some real facts about Obama’s new health care plan.  Since this has been a topic of hot debate lately, I figured it only fair to share this article and website since I’ve been reading some pretty crazy things from our favorite hockey mom among others.  This site is great for all things politics, its a non-partisan, non-profit organization whose sole purpose is to “reduce the level of deception and confusion in US politics” by monitoring the factual accuracy of what is read, seen and heard.  Check out this article:

Seven Falsehoods About Health Care

 

On to my next thought; Emu Oil!

  I am not normally one to quickly endorse a product unless I have used it and personally feel that it is useful, healthy and a legit product.  If you’ve read some of my earlier blog posts you would know that I struggle with chronic eczema of the worst kind!  I’ve literally tried everything… maybe not everything, but it sure feels like it.  Anyway, I was at a local Arts Festival in Stanley, Idaho earlier this summer and came across this booth that had all organic skin products.  The reason I stopped was because they had this wonderful bug repellent, all natural and non-toxic that actually smelled good.  As I was walking away I noticed a small sign that said “treats Eczema” and since I’ll try anything (almost) that claims to help with eczema I started asking.  Turns out this Emu Oil is generally awesome!  Aborigines used to use it on the returning warriors after their battles to ease their muscle aches.  It can be used for Arthritis, Diaper rash, Eczema, Psoriasis, Ear Aches, Sports Injuries, Shingles, Diabetes & the list goes on.   Emu Oil is an excellent transdermal carrier, which basically means it is one of the best oils for crossing the skin barrier and “delivering” the essential fats to the skin, muscles and the body.  Over time I have tried numerous different natural oils on my skin, and I can tell you none have ever soaked in quite like it and actually moistened my skin.  On top of it all, it actually did get rid of a spot of stubborn ezcema on my knee; which I can safely say is a first.  I highly recommend it and here is a great website, the company is out of Boise, Idaho and they are clearly very passionate about creating a very quality product; they have great information on their website and a great Organic product.

 

Emulate Natural Care

 

And last but not least; Toxic Beds…

 This creates a perfect segue into my last thought to share; toxic beds!  I have recently been doing a little experiment on myself and my skin (my eczema).  The idea came about after a good friend decided to stop sleeping in what she thought to be her toxic bed and started feeling so much better after getting rid of it.  So… I have been avoiding my bed for the past couple of weeks, and three times have found that going back to the bed actually caused a pretty instant reaction.  Though, unfortunately it was consistent for a couple of weeks, I am back at square one, having a reaction even without the bed, I am still quite convinced that beds are toxic and I’m not sure that I’ll ever feel the same about sleeping in one.  There is no way that a bed able to withstand a blow torch of ungodly hot temperatures without even a spark, is even anywhere in the ballpark of being considered “non-toxic”.  It doesn’t stop with the flame retardent either, there is also Boric Acid (Roach Killer), Antimony (resembles Arsenic) and DBDPO (known to cause cancer) in the mattress.  The more I read about it, the more I’m appalled that it is actually in the laws and regulations for mattress companies to have this stuff in their mattresses.  This article has a bunch of crazy facts regarding mattress’ and their chemical contaminants & the  regulations that are in place currently.  It’s mind blowing, and I highly recommend considering your next mattress purchase to be something non-toxic… it could save your life, literally.  Just think how many hours you spend in your bed; resting and recovering, and how many of us suffer from awful sleep, chronic fatigue and general un-ease. 

People For Clean Beds.org

 

 Hopefully this information will tide you over; there is a little something for everyone in here.  Usually I try to keep my posts pretty simple and short so you don’t get too bored, but hopefully this lengthy post doesn’t deter you from reading the whole piece & actually making it to the end.  There is some pretty valuable information in here that I hope you continue to research and continue to educate yourself about your health! 

Be well!

 

Sources:  www.epocrates.com Aug, 21st 2009; www.factcheck.org Aug 14th, 2009; www.peopleforcleanbeds.org, Aug 21st, 2009; www.emulateproducts.com, Aug 21st, 2009

‘Young Cancer Patient Finding Relief Through Acupuncture’

May 13, 2009 Leave a comment

needles by hradcanska

needles by hradcanska

 One of the things Acupuncture is great at, is treating pain.  It has the ability to literally eradicate it within seconds to minutes upon needle insertion.  People have found relief with low back pain, migraines, muscle aches, joint pain, TMJ, you name it, it’s probably documented.  In the past decade or so a number of Western MD’s have taken up Acupuncture as part of their own practice and it’s beginning to be a mainstay in practices across the US.  In an article I found on goerie.com, a teenage boy, being treated for a rare form of muscle cancer; rhabdomyosarcoma, in a children’s hospital in Connecticut is getting great results from acupuncture. 

“A.J. Burke hates needles. So when his doctor suggested acupuncture to ease his cancer pain, the teenager’s reluctance went well beyond the question of what the ancient Chinese remedy was doing in a high-tech children’s hospital.About a month ago, however, the aches in A.J.’s legs and lower back overpowered his doubts. He allowed Dr. William Zempsky to stick a few delicate needles into his lower back.  Remarkably, the relief A.J. felt lasted longer than the relief morphine had been providing.”

With Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, it seems the possibilities are endless; there has been case after case of people benefitting from it time and again and the best part is, that it isn’t invasive and it has the potential to be quite affordable!

If you are curious about Acupuncture and would like to try it, ask your doctor today or look up a local L.Ac. (Licensed Acupuncturist) to get all the facts and make an appointment!

To find an Acupuncturists near you; check out Acufinder.com

To find an affordable, community acupuncture clinic; check out the Community Acupuncture Network

Source:  Waldman, Hilary, Young Cancer Patient Finds Relief Through Acupuncture, www.goerie.com, Feb, 23 2004

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