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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2013, Article ID 198584, 8 pages
Review Article

How Does Moxibustion Possibly Work?

1Institute of Traditional Medicine, National Yang-Ming University, No. 155, Section 2, Linong Street, Beitou, Taipei 112, Taiwan
2Division of General Surgery, Department of Surgery, Taipei Veterans General Hospital, Taipei 115, Taiwan
3Department of Surgery, Cheng-Hsin General Hospital, Taipei 115, Taiwan

Received 16 January 2013; Accepted 4 March 2013

Academic Editor: Jaung-Geng Lin

Copyright © 2013 Jen-Hwey Chiu. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


“Acupmoxa” is a hybrid word of “acupuncture” and “moxibustion” that more closely resembles the Chinese ideograph for this treatment. People in Western countries are more familiar with acupuncture, while moxibustion is less popular, partially due to the paucity of scientific studies. Although the evidence-based efficacy of moxibustion needs to be further clarified, the mechanisms by which moxibustion may work include temperature-related and nontemperature-related ones. Local somatothermal stimulation (LSTS), one type of moxibustion, is achieved by application of a heat source to and above the acupoint. Such mild heat stimulation of the acupoint induces little skin damage, in contrast to the burning effect of moxibustion, but does provoke mild oxidative stress in the viscera. Thus, preconditioned LSTS at the peripheral acupoints LR 14 and PC 6 of animals is able to induce visceral HSP70 expression and to protect the liver and the heart against ischemia-reperfusion injury. Nontemperature-related mechanisms include smoke, herbs, and biophysical (far infrared) stimulation. We conclude that LSTS, a remote preconditioning method, has potential clinical usefulness. However, evidence-based efficacy and safety studies involving large-scaled clinical trials are needed in order that this approach will pass muster with Western scientists.