Self-Treatment of Lyme Disease with Moxibustion

According to Heiner Fruehauf, Phd, in Chinese Medicine terms Lyme disease is considered a form of Gu syndrome:

"Gu syndrome is an ancient technical term for a particularly severe form of parasitic infection that generally involves what I call parasitic super-infection: multiple types of infections that all thrive upon each other’s existence and symbiotically assist each other in the process of feeding upon their more and more deficient host.

"In addition to that, these pathogens are affecting the patient’s mental state and her ability to think. At the very least, there is a brain fog, and in the worst case scenario there may be hallucinations, nightmares, extreme emotional ups and downs, insomnia, palpitations, anxiety, stabbing headaches, and bizarre symptoms that come and go without anybody being able to explain or diagnose them. Those all have contributed to the “ghost” aspects of Gu syndrome, meaning the presence of strange phenomena that are otherwise not explicable. In addition, some of these symptoms will cause the patient to look like a ghost." - An Ancient Solution for Modern Diseases: “Gu Syndrome” and Chronic Inflammatory Diseases with Autoimmune Complications (An Interview with Heiner Fruehauf)

In another article Fruehauf lays out herbal, acupuncture, moxibustion, dietary, and qigong treatments for Gu syndrome. Freuhauf (his source being "Qugu Ranxi Lu (Master Ranxi’s Treatise on Expelling Gu Toxins), 1893") recommends moxibustion at the following acupuncture points: BL 43, BL 13, ST 36, and multiple "Ghost or Demon" points.

In that article Freuhauf mentions that "Gu is a yin pathogen, hidden and stagnant, and it takes a constant inundation with yang energy to drive it out." (From “Yangsheng Fang Daoyin Fa” (Energy Guiding Method to Nourish Life), in Zhubing Yuanhou Lun (Discussion on the Origins and Symptomatology of All Disease), early 7th century.) We will come back to this statement shortly.

Continuing with the work that Fruehauf provided, Nathanial Whitmore describes how he uses moxibustion to treat patients with Lyme disease. He uses "direct half-rice grain moxa (or smaller)" on the following acupuncture points: [CV 6, CV 12, & TB 4 for chronic fatigue] then [LI 11 and often ST 36 to descend the heat].

Whitmore mentions that "many chronic Lyme patients have cold below, heat above" so it is important that most moxibustion is done "below the umbilical plane." Whitmore also says that "chronic Lyme patients all have disturbed shen." Shen is a Chinese Medicine term that means 'spirit' and it refers to a person's mental state. "What this type of moxa can contribute to anchoring and calming the shen is quite remarkable. It still surprises me even after years of witnessing it. Good moxa is magical."

So what is moxibustion?

According to The Moon Over Matsushima - Insights into Moxa and Mugwort by Merlin Young, moxibustion is part of the popular Chinese Medicine healing modality known as 'acupuncture-moxibustion.' When Chinese Medicine was brought to the West moxibustion was de-emphasized because the traditional method of moxibustion involves creating burns on the patient's body. Ancient Chinese texts indicate that the practice of moxibustion likely pre-dated acupuncture, was widely used by lay people, and is more effective than acupuncture in many cases - "When all else fails, use moxibustion!"

Getting back to the previous point about Lyme disease requiring "yang energy to drive it out", According to Young moxa is "pure yang." What could be more yang than something burning on the skin?

In her amazing book Moxibustion: A Modern Clinical Handbook, Lorraine Wilcox, Phd collates the results of her translation of many ancient Chinese texts on moxibustion and provides a list of the most popular and important acupuncture points used for moxibustion and their uses. This list overlaps with the points mentioned above by Fruehauf and Whitmore and provides a template for a Lyme disease moxibustion self-treatment since most of these points can be reached without assistance (although one of them will require assistance).

1. ST 36 - This point is "probably the most commonly used moxibustion point for prevention of disease and the nourishing of life." Chinese sages recommended keeping this point "wet" (from moxa burn pus) when travelling abroad and an early 20th century Japanese moxibustion society had its members promise to moxa ST 36 daily.

2. UB 43 - This point "is reserved for moxibustion and is used to treat cases of taxation and severe vacuity. Old books say it can resolve otherwise incurable diseases. Generations all take this point as possessing the miracle of raising the dead and returning life." Treating this point will require some assistance from a friend.

3. CV 8 - This point "is used to nourish life as well as treat disease." It's also useful for something called "corpse reversal" -- which has to be a good thing. The traditional method for treating this point is to fill the navel with salt and place moxa directly on the salt.

4. CV 6 & CV 4 - These points are similar in their function and can be alternated if desired. "There are many stories of people who lived long, healthy lives in ancient China due, in part, to regular moxibustion on CV 6 or CV 4."

5. KI 1 - This point "reduces symptoms of heat in the head or upper body, supplements the kidney, and calms the shen." It should take care of cold feet as well.

6. SP 1 - Known as "Ghost Eye of the Foot", this point treats the 'ghost' symptoms mentioned above. To treat this point place a moxa cone "on the right and left points at the same time" so that it sits "partly on the flesh and partly on the nail of both big toes."

So if we rearrange this list so that we start at the top of the body and work our way down it will warm the lower body and cool the upper body, thus reversing the "cold below, heat above" situation plaguing Lyme disease patients that Whitmore mentioned. Here's the revised order:

1. UB 43

2. CV 8

3. CV 6 or CV 4

4. ST 36

5. SP 1

6. KI 1

So how does one do a moxibustion self-treatment?

Both Wilcox and Young mention different methods of performing moxibustion. The easiest way to do a moxibustion self-treatment is using the direct cone 'snatching' method with soybean-sized cones. This is similar to how the ancient Chinese used to do it except they likely did not 'snatch' the moxa cones away before it burned their skin.

I've tried this method many times on myself and though it sounds strange the end effect is amazing. I feel more relaxed and energized, my digestion improves and I have more energy, my legs feel stronger (and super tingly qi-energized the day after), pains in my legs and feet disappear, my eyesight feels clearer, and I sleep better.

***You're going to want to do this in a garage or outside because no matter how well you try to ventilate the room the smoke smell will remain for a few days.

***You are not going to create horrible scarring burns on your skin with this method but you might create some red marks. These typically heal in a week, so you could do this treatment once a week. (The old Chinese texts recommend scarring burns with hundreds of moxa cones in some cases. The following method is no where near that intensity.)

***You'll need the following items: petroleum jelly, tweezers, moxa floss, small incense sticks (with holder), a lighter, and a plate with two cotton balls (or balls of tissue) on it that have been soaked in water.

1. First locate the points and mark them with a pen. (Obviously you'll need some help with UB 43.)

2. Light the incense stick.

3. Using your pinky finger smear a bit of petroleum jelly on the first point - just enough so that the moxa cone will stick to it (it doesn't take much). (CV 8 requires no petroleum jelly, just put the moxa cone directly on the salt.)

4. Take a pinch of moxa floss and tightly roll it between your thumb and index finger. Pull the moxa roll apart into two evenly-sized pieces - you now have two moxa cones that are about the size of a soybean. (It's fine if the pieces are larger; if they are smaller they can be harder to work with.)

5. Place a moxa cone on the first point (it should easily adhere to the petroleum jelly).

6. Light the top of the moxa cone with the incense stick and have the tweezers ready. Watch as the cone magically lights and starts to glow!

7. When the heat becomes too intense 'snatch' the burning moxa cone away from the skin with the tweezers and extinguish it with one of the water-soaked cotton balls. As you get more experienced you'll find the right temperature at which to snatch the moxa cone away. (There is an odd tingling, almost tickle point in the heat intensity that I do not go beyond.)

8. Repeat two more times for each point for a total of three cones per point.

9. Once you have some practice you can finish the entire treatment using just one incense stick (or in about 30 minutes).

Please feel free to contact me if you'd like me to assist you with this treatment. Unfortunately you need an acupuncture license to give someone else a moxibustion treatment, so you'll need to bring a friend with you to assist you with the hard-to-reach point UB 43 (or the entire treatment if you are too frail).

There are many ways to perform moxibustion. Ancient people had access to many different heat sources that they could have used for moxibustion and yet moxa floss was the method of choice. The use of moxa floss on the skin and moxa smoke in the air is a tried and true treatment that has been used for thousands of years. A multi-year supply of high-quality moxa floss from China costs about US$14. Can a modern moxa-less technology replace this ancient wisdom?

Here's one last quote from Young for your physician in case she asks you what you've been up to: Dr. Shimetaro Hara, one of the foremost Japanese proponents of moxibustion who lived to the ripe old age of 108 "suggested that moxa could put doctors out of business!"