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Moxafrica

February 7, 2011 2 comments

'Mugwort' By, Barry Cornelius @flickr.com

While Tuberculosis (TB) and HIV are not two diseases that we consider epidemic in industrialized countries (the US); they have reached epidemic proportions in other, less developed countries.  In the US, we are fortunate enough to have access to health care, sanitary conditions, education, vaccines & nutrition; and due to our high stress lives we are much more likely to get completely preventable diseases like heart disease & type II diabetes.  So, while we get carried away dealing with the stresses and strains of our busy, overworked lives, there is a huge contingent of people suffering & dying from diseases that can be treated & possibly prevented; but don’t have the means or access to any of it.  Fortunately there are people out there using ‘new’, or in this case, very old treatment modalities to help those in impoverished areas to ease their suffering.

One modality we use in Chinese Medicine is Moxibustion; Moxa for short.  It’s an herb by the name of Mugwort or Artemisia Vulgaris, you may know of it or even see it growing in your yard.  It is a particularly powerful herb and can be used in a number of different ways.  You can take it internally, or topically as a plaster, salve or rub; but most commonly this herb is burned either directly on the skin, just above the skin or on an acupuncture needle.  There are many different kinds of moxa as well, they are generally processed differently; some more pure than others, some more smoky than others.  Like anything, it depends on where you get it, who you get it from and what your intention is for using the herb.  Like most things in Chinese Medicine, I find myself talking about it and think to myself, this sounds a little crazy and weird and possibly barbaric.  Yes, we do burn this herb on your skin, however, it isn’t a burning sensation you feel but a calming & very relaxing warmth over an area of the body or a specific point.  It’s really quite nice and therapeutic in more ways than one.  Some common uses include the treatment of digestive disorders, musculoskeletal disorders (acute trauma and chronic pain), asthma & chronic immune compromising infections to name a few.  In general it has a warming effect on the body and works very well to bring blood supply to the area, increase the healing capacity of the tissue, as well as emit a systemic improvement in your bodies natural immunity.  The power of Moxa (or mugwort ) is much more than a sensation of warmth on the skin (which in itself is nice), it goes much deeper than that and causes a plethora of positive reactions deep to the tissue effecting the whole body and not just one area.  For more information on Moxa and its different uses complete with pictures and video; check out this Facebook page:  Moxibustion:  The Power of Mugwort.

Moxa therapy has been shown to increase immune function, specifically increase white blood cell counts, anti-inflammatory cytokines & anti-body production.  In addition to just improving your immunity and helping when you are simply feeling a bit down, it has proven to be particularly helpful in treating (you guessed it) TB and HIV.  Ever wonder how we treated disease before there were vaccines and pharmaceuticals?   When TB swept the country of Japan back in the 1930’s their primary treatment method was Moxa therapy.  It proved especially helpful in improving life expectancy (of both the sick and the healthy), decreasing the symptoms associated with TB and raising the spirits of those who were afflicted by the disease as well as those who weren’t.

Presently moxa is still used in China & Japan as well as by Acupuncturists and Chinese Medicine practitioners across the United States and the world.  In Japan it is so ‘popular’ that there are many who practice only Moxibustion therapy, (Moxibustionists) and there are many different levels of licensing for practicing Moxa.  In addition to its therapeutic relevance, Moxa therapy is also cost-effective and easy to access; two very important aspects that a developing country, stricken by large numbers of TB and HIV could benefit from.  One organization recognized the benefits of Moxa and is bringing this wealth of knowledge to Africa to help treat those suffering from both TB and HIV.  The organization is called Moxafrica & originated in 2008:

It arose directly from a feasability and fact finding trip last December to Lyantonde, a truck stop town four hours from Kampala on the main route connecting Rwanda and the Eastern Congo to the whole of East Africa. Lyantonde has an unfortunate reputation as a focus for prostitution and HIV/AIDS, the town being home to the first ever officially recorded case of AIDS in Africa.

Our aim was to assess how they would feel about the idea of burning something on the skin, and whether they would consider it an acceptable therapy to try out in their own work places. Additionally we wanted to assess how easy it might be to teach African health workers basic moxa skills.  We soon had them all rolling moxa, both making and burning tiny cones with impressive dexterity.

The following day we were invited to demonstrate moxa treatments on two patients, one of them a very sick man co-infected with TB and HIV. He was terribly wasted by the two diseases, cared for by his sister who was vainly trying to administer his daily medication. After we had finished treating him, using the minimum possible stimulation of moxa because of his dreadful condition, we used a trainee to help us explain to his sister how to use moxa and how to locate a treatment point, leaving her clear instructions on a simple protocol to follow every day, building up dosage if he strengthened.

What we suspect we witnessed at this moment was something we had not even considered previously – that teaching the carer of such a sick person a simple moxa protocol fundamentally offered her something meaningful to do for her brother, and was offering her something maybe even more important as well – hope.  We’re not sure yet how significant this might turn out to be.

To our knowledge this was the first time that a moxa protocol for TB from the 1930’s has ever been used to treat anyone co-infected both with TB and AIDS anywhere in the world. Two weeks after we got back we got the following extraordinary feedback:  “Frank’s response was truly fantastic. I wish you had seen the joy in his sister/attendant as she explained to us how he had improved. I think everyone was just so excited, as he seemed so ill.”

Two days after the treatment began, it transpired that Frank was out of bed, walking tentatively in the ward, and eating.

Cautiously, we found ourselves asking whether this simple treatment might really be able to make the sort of difference we hope it might (www.moxafrica.org, Feb. 6, 2011).

And thus, the project began and continues to inspire those afflicted by disease in an impoverished community.  To continue reading about the program & additional studies regarding Moxa, please check out their website and if you feel so inclined, please donate to the cause.

Link:  Moxafrica.org

In addition to this organization there are a number of others up and running in Africa as well as other countries including our own (the US) that I’ve written of in previous posts:

The Flying Needle: An organization also based in South Africa, helping those with HIV/AIDS

Acupuncturists Without Borders: An organization set up to help with traumatic events; i.e. Katrina and the 911 incidence

The Acupuncture Relief Project:  A project stationed out of Nepal which was founded by a fellow OCOM graduate

Until next time, ask your Acupuncturist about Moxa treatment & as always…

~Be well~

Erin

Sources:

Moxibustion: the power of mugwort fire. (2010, February 6). Retrieved from http://www.facebook.com/pages/Moxibustion-The-Power-of-Mugwort-Fire/127985768455?v=wall

Moxafrica. (2010, February 6). Retrieved from http://www.moxafrica.org/index.html

Wilson, Carla, Breaking the Silence in South Africa, www.acupuncturetoday.com, Dec. 1st, 2009The Flying Needle Project, Dec. 1st 2009




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World AIDS Day

December 2, 2009 Leave a comment

 

by, Sully Pixel

During my Western Pathology Class this year, we had a very emotional day when discussing the topic of HIV and AIDS… it’s truly a heartbreaking disease, and if only I could I would heal the whole world!  Since it is World AIDS Awareness Day, I figured I better post something and raise awareness not only of the disease but of the potential for Acupuncture to be beneficial in its treatment.  This is an excerpt on an article in Acupuncture Today reporting on the 13th Internation Conference on AIDS by Carla Wilson.  It is from October, 2000 but, it will give you a little peek into the AIDS epidemic that is still alive and growing.

More than 12,000 delegates and observers from 180 countries gathered in Durban, South Africa this July to break the stigma, indifference and ignorance surrounding the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

South Africa currently has the highest concentration of HIV cases in the world, with an estimated 4.2 million HIV-positive people. Six thousand people in Africa die of AIDS every day, while the rate of infection increases by 1,600 daily.

 

This year, I provided acupuncture treatment every afternoon in the conference’s exhibitors hall. I arranged chairs “detox style” and provided a “treatment on demand” clinic in the center of the NGO (non-goverment organization) community. My little “four-chair clinic” was never empty, and people waited in line for a chance to try acupuncture. I found that several of the conference participants were very interested in the possibility of acupuncture treatment to help manage HIV infection. Many languages were spoken, but frequently it was the universal language of gentleness and reassuring touch that mattered most, as countless people were able to have their first experience of the marvelous effects of acupuncture….

To read more please click on this link:  Breaking the Silence in South Africa

Somewhere in my archives of emails I also have a link to a blog about an acupuncture clinic in South Africa that treats victims of the AIDS virus… I’m going to try and find it, because it’s a great blog and when I do, you can bet I’ll post it for you!

… and here it is!  The Flying Needle Project!  A graduate from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine set this Acupuncture clinic up in South Africa in August of this year.  Here is a little taste of what they are all about:

The Flying Needle Project is born out of the need for a form of HIV/AIDS healthcare that is affordable, effective, mobile, supportive and widespread. It is founded on the principle that health care is a right, and not a privilege.  The vision of FNP is to offer complementary health care to anyone who requires it in order to bolster the strained national health system.

In August 2009 the project opened a clinic at the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town, where it utilizes a revolving door of health care professionals specializing in Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine, Reiki, Massage and Holistic Medicine.  In order to reach the townships and more rural areas, FNP hopes to create a mobile clinic within the first year of operation. FNP will either partner with an existing mobile clinic or purchase and design its own. This step will bring the medicine to those in need who cannot afford transportation to the city.

FNP’s vision relies of four key principles that will drive it to meet its mission:

No cost to every patient

Mobile and widespread

Effective and efficient

Educational and Empowering

Each of these goals works in conjunction with one another and foster sustainable results that reduce suffering, increase health and vitality and improve the quality of life for the HIV populations in South Africa.

Please check out this blog, and donate to the cause!  The Flying Needle Project

~Be Well~

Erin

Source:  Wilson, Carla, Breaking the Silence in South Africa, www.acupuncturetoday.com, Dec. 1st, 2009, The Flying Needle Project, Dec. 1st 2009

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