For several weeks, Dr. Shimetaro Hara was the oldest living male in Japan. Only four years into his retirement as the oldest active medical doctor, the 108 year old preeminent scientific researcher of Japanese moxibustion was happy to share his secret to health and longevity.
Dr. Hara (1883-1991), after all, had been witness to the efficacy of Japanese moxibustion for over 80 years, beginning in the 1920’s when he first tried using this traditional therapy to address many severe illnesses before the advent of antibiotics, even finding success against tuberculosis before TB drugs became available.
Dr. Hara attributed his success with moxibustion to its remarkable immune-stimulating abilities, and personally validated that claim with scientific studies beginning in 1927 and published in 1933 (Hara S. Manbyo-ni-Kiku Okyu Ryoho. Jistugyo-no-Nippon Sha, Japan, 1933).
Japanese moxibustion, known in Japan as okyu and also referred to as “direct moxibustion,” is performed by burning miniscule cones of mugwort pollen on acupoints. The heat from these cones is often controlled with a snuffing technique used to bring the heat down to about 70°C before it reaches the skin where it then penetrates deeply and precisely, rather than dispersing over the surface as with more general heat applications.
This precise and penetrating technique allows the practitioner to achieve the deep stimulation of acupoints, relax the affected tissues, and apply acupuncture channel theory to affect change in other areas and functions of the body. Furthermore, moxibustion’s penetrating warmth serves to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and so brings along the myriad life-sustaining processes that occur in this relaxed state.
Dr. Hara’s scientific research removed any doubt about direct moxibustion’s immune-boosting power by revealing that the following changes occur in the body when direct moxibustion is applied to a select protocol of acupoints.
1- Similar to the body’s natural response when fighting infection or inflammation, the white blood cell count increased immediately after moxibustion and reached its peak of a 200% increase about eight hours after the application. This peak remained for 24 hours and only declined after three days, though it remained elevated for four to five days. When applied continuously for six weeks, the nearly twofold increase in white blood cells remained for up to 13 weeks after discontinuing moxibustion.
2- Phagocytic activity of white blood cells increased, meaning an increase in the activity of removing bacteria, foreign particles, and dying cells to protect the body. For example, when typhoid fever was present, the phagocytic activity increased only 15 minutes after moxibustion. This activity reached a peak in two to three days, and then gradually declined. Phagocytic activity was greater than normal for about a week after moxibustion but, when moxibustion was applied continuously, this increase in activity continued for a longer period.
3- Red blood cell numbers and hemoglobin ratios increased. For subjects who had an average hemoglobin ratio of 78% just before moxibustion, the ratio increased steadily to reach a peak of 90% in eight weeks. Applying moxibustion continuously for 15 weeks, it took 22 weeks for the red blood cell count to return to what it was before moxibustion.
4- The sedimentation rate of red blood cells increases.
5- Platelet count increases.
6- The speed of blood coagulation increases.
7- Blood glucose count increases.
8- Blood calcium increases.
9- Serum complements increase.
10- The capacity to produce antibodies increases.
(Source: Mizutani Junji, North American Journal of Oriental Medicine: Practical Moxibustion Therapy, part 7, 2012)
Following on Dr. Hara’s success with tuberculosis, the charity organization MoxAfrica (moxafrica.org) offers direct moxibustion in Uganda, South Africa, and other areas to help patients suffering from drug-resistant tuberculosis. MoxAfrica recently expanded their success in fighting tuberculosis to begin researching the use of direct moxibustion on long-covid patients, and, unsurprisingly, the trial is reporting promising preliminary findings.
In Montreal, you can experience Japanese direct moxibustion for yourself at Moxa Montreal (5773 Rue Chabot), a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) clinic with options for moxibustion, acupuncture, massage therapy, and Chinese herbalism. Four of the center’s clinicians have studied Japanese moxibustion therapy and offer it as part of their traditional Chinese therapeutic massage (tui-na), or as a package deal for long-term moxibustion therapy.
Moxa Montreal is part of the Montreal Gongfu Research Centre which includes a TCM clinic and adjacent kung fu school. To book an appointment with Moxa Montreal, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 514-907-4591.
Dan G. Reid
Tui-na massage therapist (RMT)
Japanese moxibustion therapist at Moxa Montreal
Author/translator: The Heshang Gong Commentary on Lao Zi’s Dao De Jing