Moxibustion Found To Suppress Colon Inflammation in Ulcerative Colitis

By Chad Dupuis
Tagged in Acupuncture and Research

Patients with ulcerative colitis (UC) are seen and regularly treated by practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  UC is a potentially chronic inflammatory condition of the colon.  In the US, it appears in approximately 500,000 people at any given time, and global incidences vary but range from ~.5 to ~24.5 per 100,000 people.  Largely considered an autoimmune condition, the inflammation of the colon is caused by an abnormal or excessive response by the body's immune system.  This inflammation can lead to ulcerations which can complicate the issue leading to internal bleeding, infections, frequent bowel movements, poor assimilation and other issues.

Recently researchers from the Department of Acupuncture and Massage at Liaoning University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Shenyang, China conducted a study evaluating the affects of moxibustion (see "What is Moxibustion?") on a rat ulcerative colitis model.  They were looking specifically to see the tissue and immune related responses from the application of moxibustion.

They utilized 32 rats that were divided into a control group (6) and a group with induced uc (26).  Within the treatment group they were further divided into various moxibustion treatment methods including a 9 moxa cone (~9 minutes of moxa), a 6 cone group and a  3 cone group as well as a wait list group.  The rats were treated every other day for 28 days (14 treatments in all).

The evaluated the following factors:

  • disease activity
  • local tissue morphology
  • serum levels of interleukin (IL)-8 and (IL)-10
    • Increased levels of Interleukin-8 cause the recruitment of inflammatory cells and induces a further increase in oxidant stress mediators, making it a key parameter in localized inflammation.
    • Interleukin-10, or human cytokine synthesis inhibitory factor (CSIF), is an essential immunoregulator in the intestinal tract and is found to counteract the hyperactive immune response in the human body.
    • With UC you have elevated IL-8 and decreased IL-10 (healing would be the opposite).
  • expression of Toll-like receptor (TLR)9
    • TLR9 is expressed by numerous immune related cells in the body (b lymphocytes, monocytes, natural killer (NK) cells, etc.).  It functions to alert the immune system of viral and bacterial infections and it's signal leads to activation of the cells initiating pro-inflammatory reactions.
  • expression of nuclear factor (NF)-kB p65
    • NF-κB is found in almost all animal cell types and is involved in cellular responses to stimuli such as stress, cytokines, free radicals, and bacterial or viral antigens.  NF-κB plays a key role in regulating the immune response to infection. Incorrect regulation of NF-κB has been linked to cancer, inflammatory, and autoimmune diseases.

The researchers found that the largest decrease in disease activity was in the 9 moxa cone group and it was highest in the wait list (no treatment) group.  In general all of the moxa groups showed positive changes with the 9 moxa cone group showing statistically better results than the 6 and 3.  They found that:

  • Treatment showed positive tissues changes
  • Treatment showed decreases in IL-8 and increased in IL-10 (less inflammatory markers, less targets for the bodies immune system).
  • Decreases were seen in auto-immune markers such as NF-kB and TLR9.

They concluded that "Moxibustion repairs damaged colonic mucosa, suppresses serum IL-8, activates serum IL-10 level, and decreases expression of TLR-9 and NF-κB p65 in UC rats."  Which largely implies that moxibustion stimulates the body to decrease inflammation and promote the healing responses.



Moxibustion Found To Suppress Colon Inflammation in Ulcerative Colitis

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Authored by: Chad Dupuis on 29 May 2015

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