Medical Research

Moxibustion Activates Host Defense Against Herpes Simplex Virus in Mice

Kristen Sparrow • January 28, 2011

As time consuming as it is to use moxibustion in modern practice, it does seem to be the mainstay of enhancing immune function. I use it most often in patients with allergy and HIV. During my training the treatment rooms were full of moxa smoke. Here, at least in my practice, even using smokeless moxa, many notice and comment on the smell. This study reinforces my own biases, so of course I love it! 😉
Of note is that they used the moxa preventatively, before the virus was introduced. (Anecdotally this makes sense vis a vis my attempts to get patients in for treatment before the allergy season, and ongoing treatment to prevent illness in HIV positive patients.)
Also, of interest is that not only cytokine production but also natural killer cells.
The abstract follows, emphases are mine.

(To read more about acupuncture and my practice, please click here.)

Microbiol Immunol. 2010 Sep;54(9):551-7.
Moxibustion activates host defense against herpes simplex virus type I through augmentation of cytokine production.

Takayama Y, Itoi M, Hamahashi T, Tsukamoto N, Mori K, Morishita D, Wada K, Amagai T.

Department of Immunology and Microbiology, Meiji University of Integrative Medicine, Hiyoshi-cho, Nantan, Kyoto 629-0392, Japan.

Moxibustion is a technique used in traditional oriental medicine, the aim of which is to cure and/or prevent illness by activating a person’s ability for self-healing. In this study, we assessed how moxibustion would affect the immune system and whether it would augment protective immunity. Mice were treated with moxibustion at Zusanli (ST36) acupoints; we analyzed mortality and cytokine activity in sera after infection with herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), and cytokine gene expression in the skin and the spleen without a virus challenge. Our study demonstrates that pretreatment of BALB/c mice with moxibustion resulted in a marked increase in the survival rate after infection with lethal doses of HSV-1, and elevated serum levels of IL-1β and IFN-γ on days 1 and 6 post-infection with HSV-1. Semi-quantitative RT-PCR assay showed that moxibustion treatment augmented the expression of IL-1α, IL-1β, IL-6, universal-IFN-α, MIP-1α, and TNF-α mRNA in the skin, and IL-1α, IL-1β, IL-12p40, IL-15, u-IFN-α, MIP-1α, and TNF-α mRNA in the spleen. Moreover, moxibustion induces augmentation of natural killer cell activity. Collectively, our study demonstrates that moxibustion activates protective responses against HSV-1 infection through the activation of cytokine production including IFN, and of NK cells.