Moxibustion – This fancy word is a type of traditional Chinese medicine that involves burning moxa on or near a body’s meridians and acupuncture points. Moxa is a collection of dried mugwort leaves.
Practitioners have utilized moxibustion as a therapeutic intervention for a variety of conditions from supporting a cancer patient’s immune system to help relieving the common cold.
Moxibustion has even be utilized for insomnia relief!
Moxibustion and How it Improves Immune System Biomarkers
A randomized controlled trial completed in 2020 interestingly explored the therapeutic effects of moxibustion on COVID19. Yes, that disease we are all quite annoyed with by now.
The study took 95 COVID19 patients and randomly divided them to either receive moxibustion or be placed in a control. Both groups at the same time received the same conventional treatment.
The practitioners applied moxibustion to Dazhui (GV 14), Feishu (BL 13), Qihai (CV 6) and Zusanli (ST 36) once daily for 14 consecutive days. After treatment, the severity ratings of cough, chest oppression, and asthmatic breathing in the moxibustion group were significantly lower than those in the control treatment group.
Additionally, inflammatory markers, such as IL-6 and CRP were lowered in the moxibustion group compared with those before treatment. These results suggest that the addition of moxibustion to the conventional treatment of COVID19 can support a patient’s recovery.
Common cold patient
In the immune system, a balance between white blood cells is key to the initiation, progression, and resolution of an immune response. A randomized controlled trial in 2018 evaluated moxibustion’s effect on the balance of Th17, Treg, and Th1 in ankylosing spondylitis patients. Ankylosing spondylitis is a severe form of arthritis with widespread inflammation and joint fusion.
Sixty patients either randomly received moxibustion or were placed in the control group. The moxibustion covered acupoints from Dazhui (GV 14) to Yaoshu (GV 2) and bilateral Jiaji (EX-B 2). The moxibustion group received four courses of moxibustion once daily for 7 days consecutively.
The immune system biomarkers CRP, IL-6, IL-17, Il-23, Th17, and TNF-alpha all were reduced significantly in the moxibustion group compared to the control group. These reductions revealed a regulation of Th17/Treg/Th1 levels that are typically imbalanced in ankylosing spondylitis patients.
This regulation supports the use of moxibustion to effectively resolve an inflammatory response that when mismanaged, can be the culprit of ankylosing spondylitis symptoms.
Famous Acupoint Zusanli (足三里) and Its Effects on The Immune System
Zusanli (ST 36) is a specific target of moxibustion that researchers have focused on in cancer patients. This acupuncture point has been famous for millennia throughout Chinese medical history, so it has become a special area of focus and interest for researchers.
This focus has included attempts to further support a patient’s immune system during the taxing treatments and reduce symptoms that patients are experiencing from the treatment or cancer itself.
A randomized controlled trial in 2019 randomized 60 patients with advanced malignant tumors to either receive moxibustion or partake in a control group. In the moxibustion group, moxibustion was applied to bilateral Zusanli (ST 36) once a day. The observation group’s scores of evaluated symptoms such as dizziness and poor appetite decreased significantly in comparison to those in the control group.
In a randomized controlled study on advanced gastric cancer, scientists explored moxibustion on Zusanli’s effects on an immune system biomarker and quality of life. This immune system biomarker was the ratio of neutrophils to lymphocytes, two types of immune system cells. In addition to Zusanli (ST 36), practitioners applied moxibustion to Weishu (BL 21).
Sixty patients were either randomly assigned to the moxibustion observation group or a control group for consecutive treatment for 90 days. The neutrophil to lymphocyte ratio in the moxibustion group was significantly lower after treatment than before treatment, while there was no significant difference before and after treatment in the control group.
To measure quality of life, the study measured rates of diarrhea, loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. The study ground the quality of life in the observation group after treatment to be significantly improved. There was no significant difference in the quality of life before and after treatment in the control group.
This study suggests that moxibustion at Zusanli (ST 36) and Weishu (BL 21) can both support a patient’s immune system both in terms of immune system biomarkers and clinical symptoms.
immunocompromised patient moxibustion
A similar randomized controlled trial in 2016 explored both neutrophil to lymphocyte ratio and quality of life in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer. The study randomized 70 patients to receive moxibustion on Zusanli (ST 36) and Feishu (BL 13) once a day for 6 weeks or partake in the control group.
The moxibustion group produced statistically significant improvements in general health state, physical functioning, fatigue, pain, insomnia, and anorexia. The scores of general health state/life quality field, physical functioning and cognitive functioning were statistically higher in the moxibustion group than the control group.
Lastly, the scores of fatigue, pain, insomnia, and anorexia after treatment in the moxibustion group were reduced compared to those in the control group.
The above study is not the only one to explore this intervention on these outcomes. A randomized controlled study in 2018 evaluated the effects of scar-producing moxibustion on acupoints Zusanli (ST 36) and Feishu (BL 13) on neutrophil to lymphocyte ratio and quality of life in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer. The study measured these outcomes after 6 weeks of treatment.
After the final week, the neutrophil to lymphocyte ratio in the moxibustion group was significantly lower than that in the control group. The study measured quality of life through the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire (EORTC QLQ-C30). The EORTC QLQ-30 scores in the moxibustion group were significantly greater in terms of quality of life and function and lower in terms of symptoms compared with those in the control group.
Remember Moxibustion and Its Immune-Boosting Effects
Moxibustion can be a valuable tool for your health. When you think about targeting an acupuncture point, traditional needle insertion is what might immediately come to mind. However, moxibustion is a time-tested and research backed way for improving immune system functioning. It