Research Update: Moxibustion and Dysmenorrhea

A study conducted by Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has determined that the use of moxibustion at specific days during a woman’s menstrual cycle can decrease pain associated with menstruation. Dysmenorrhea or painful menstruation is a big problem for many women. This study used moxibustion, an accessory modality of TCM, to treat the pain associated with menstruation. The study and its systematic review showed moxibustion treatments were more effective at relieving pain only when the moxibustion began prior to the onset of actual menstruation. This is also the theory behind Traditional Chinese Medicine, that it should be used as preventive care. The efficacy of using moxibustion during the premenstrual time period holds great promise for those who are debilitated by dysmenorrhea.

What is dysmenorrhea?

Dysmenorrhea, or painful menstruation, is experienced by more than half the menstruating women in the world. It is one of the most commonly encountered gynecologic disorders and for those suffering from severe dysmenorrhea, it can mean they are incapacitated for up to three days or more every month. The main cause of dysmenorrhea is increased or abnormal uterine prostanoid production and release, which then gives rise to abnormal uterine contractions and pain. The treatment of dysmenorrhea usually involves some sort of pain medication and rest, but there are alternatives.

TCM Treatment

TCM is a medical system that incorporates numerous methods for treating disease and illness. One of the tools found in the toolbox of the Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner is known as moxibustion.

Moxibustion is a technique that involves the burning of mugwort, known as moxa, which is an herb that facilitates healing. The purpose of moxibustion is to stimulate the flow of blood throughout the body. Moxibustion creates a pleasant heating sensation that penetrates deeply into the skin, but does not create any discomfort or pain. To perform moxibustion, a practitioner lights one end of a stick of moxa and holds it close to the acupuncture point for several minutes until the area warms.

Moxibustion can be used to treat dysmenorrhea because it stimulates the flow and release of the hormones that cause uterine contractions. By stimulating the release of these hormones, the body can then expel them which leads to decreased pain. Moxibustion is also great for women who suffer from fibroids, which is a stagnation and buildup of blood in the uterus. The warmth from the burning mugwort actually increases blood flow and this can help decrease the size of the fibroids over time.

 

As with acupuncture, only a licensed practitioner should be called upon for treatments such as moxibustion. If you believe moxibustion may be helpful with your dysmenorrhea, be sure to discuss it with your acupuncturist.

 

SOURCE: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2016/6706901/

acupuncture, self care

5 Self Care Tips for Winter

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) teaches that humans should live in harmony with the seasons. According to TCM, there are five seasons: winter, spring, summer, late summer, and fall. Each season has many associations that help us change our habits, allowing for a more balanced mind and body. When these systems were being developed, people were living in harmony with nature. People rose with the sun, ate what was available during the different seasons, and were much more aware of their natural environment. What to wear, when to wake up, when to go to sleep, and what activities to engage in were all dependent on the weather and the environment. Because of this, people were capable of staying healthy throughout the year and their immune and organ systems were strong enough to ward off disease. Here are 5 tips to help you live in harmony with the season!

1. Get some rest

In TCM, the season of winter is a time of repair and rejuvenation. Rest is important for revitalizing the body’s fundamental energies. This is why some animals hibernate during the winter months. We should also spend more time resting during the winter months to help prepare our bodies for the months ahead when most people expend more energy.

2. Incorporate self reflection

Winter is a really good time to turn inward and do some reflection. Practices like tai chi, qi gong, and yoga can be very beneficial during the winter season. These practices help us connect to our inner selves. They also help relax the mind and calm our emotions. Things like journaling and meditation are other ways of reflecting during the winter months. Long term, these practices can be very helpful at extending a person’s life.

3. Drink water, lots of water

Water is a fundamental necessity for our bodies. In the winter time, water is especially important to support our immune systems and help the body flush out toxins. It is important to remember to drink lots of water during wintertime, even in the colder months. Drinking warm water or herbal teas can be a great way to incorporate in more fluids. However, caffeinated or sugary beverages should not be substituted for water.    

4. Eat warm, seasonal foods

Choose foods that grow naturally during the winter. Items such as squash, potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, root vegetables like beets, greens, carrots, mushrooms, apples, pears, and cabbage are great. During the winter months, cold foods like salads and raw foods should be avoided as they can be harsh on digestion and the immune system. Focus on eating warmer, easy to digest foods to support a healthy system such as soups, stews, congees, and cooked vegetables.

5. Treat yourself to some TCM

Traditional Chinese Medicine utilizes numerous modalities and tools to help keep the body balanced and prepped for the seasonal changes. Acupuncture and moxibustion are two of the tools that are regularly used in the winter months to support a healthy system. Moxibustion is a practice where dried mugwort is burned near the skin to warm the body. There are certain acupuncture points that applying moxibustion to can boost immunity and digestion as well as help with different aches and pains that may worsen with the colder weather.

When we align ourselves with the natural processes of life and the seasons, our bodies will adjust and perform optimally, just as they are intended to.

Moxa

What is moxa?
Moxibustion, or moxa, uses the heat from burning mugwort on the body to create warmth and promote healing. Moxa may be burned directly on the skin and removed before actually burning the skin. Or, it can be burned indirectly so there’s no chance of a burn just the nice warmth from the herb. Moxa comes in loose/wool, roll, stick-on, and stick forms. The variety of forms allows moxa to be used for multiple conditions on various parts of the body.

Why is moxa used?
Burning moxa creates warmth, which alone encourages muscles to relax. Burning an herb on the skin also takes advantage of the herb’s medicinal properties. Moxa tonifies Qi (the energy of the body) and blood (the nourishment of the body). The warming and nourishing effects of mugwort encourage the smooth flow of Qi and blood throughout the body. The stagnation, or poor circulation, of Qi and blood creates pain. Moxa warms and encourages movement of Qi and blood to reduce pain.

Is moxa for me?
Talk to your acupuncturist about using moxa for your aches and pains. Licensed acupuncturists receive training in the use of moxa and can discuss the benefits of moxa for your condition.