Researchers used in vivo tests to investigate how moxibustion protects the gastric mucosa from developing cancer. In the test, Sprague-Dawley rats were given a solution that contained N-methyl-N`-nitro-N-nitrosoguanidine (MNNG) to induce gastric precancerous lesions, an indicator that the cells in the stomach are turning abnormal.
Aside from the control group, the experimental groups were divided to those that received drug treatment, those that received a "sham" moxibustion treatment, and those that received a standard moxibustion treatment. Rats in both moxibustion groups were treated for 15 minutes every other day for the duration of the study, which ran for 20 weeks. At the end of the study, the samples' gastric mucosa were extracted and analyzed for any morphologic changes.
The researchers found that rats under standard moxibustion treatment had a decreased expression of lesions, which indicated that the treatment was able to suppress the development of gastric precancerous lesions. Moreover, it also inhibited B-cell lymphoma 2 (bcl-2), tumor protein P53, and cellular Myc (C-MYC), which are all associated with cell death and the production of cancer cells.
Moxibustion is a technique that uses heat to promote healing of the body. The process involves burning mugwort, a small herb that has been used in both Western medicine and TCM, at the acupuncture point to stimulate qi flow, strengthen the blood, and maintain overall health. (Related: Acupuncture and moxibustion greatly improve chances of pregnancy when IVF has failed: Study.)
There are two forms of moxibustion -- direct and indirect. In a direct moxibustion procedure, a small amount moxa (a dried mugwort stick) is burned above an acupuncture point and is left there until it burns out completely. While this form was the favorite of ancient practitioners, it may lead to some localized blisters in some cases. Indirect moxibustion involves burning the moxa at the acupuncture point and removing it just before it gets to the skin.
Patients who undergo moxibustion report a "pleasurable, heating sensation," at no risk of pain. However, people with existing respiratory conditions should notify their health practitioner before the procedure as the smoke may hurt them.
Studies have pointed out that both acupuncture and moxibustion operate in a similar field, as they both make use of meridians and acupoints. In particular, moxibustion uses both the meridian system and the role of moxa and fire.
During a moxibustion procedure, the skin regions where the acupoints are located serve as "terminals" of the meridian system, where stimulation from the procedure is transferred into the body. This allows the body to recover from a diseased state or activate the self-recovering properties of the meridian. However, moxibustion is different from acupuncture, which cures a distinct set of diseases.
Moreover, in the book Elementary Medicine, it states that when a condition cannot be treated with medicine and acupuncture, it should be addressed by moxibustion, as it uses the unique properties of moxa and fire. The fire used in moxibustion is defined to be "hot and rapid" which allows moxibustion to remove the shadow in a soft body, with the Yang fire removing the Yin cold and phlegm quickly. This speed allows the fire to flood the channels, remove pain and numbness, and activate blood and qi.
Moxibustion also takes into consideration the types of materials that will be burned with the moxa, depending on the nature of the condition. Moxa is used for its pharmacological properties, as well as its availability.
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