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Moxibustion as a Treatment for Hot Flashes?

Hot flashes are one of the most common symptoms of menopause. In one study of 638 menopausal women ages 45 to 54, approximately 75 percent reported experiencing hot flashes (1). Another study shows that loss of sleep due to hot flashes may lead to daytime fatigue and irritability (2).

Now, a study published in the July-August 2009 issue of Menopause may have a solution (3). Moxibustion therapy has been used to treat other obstetric/gynecologic conditions such as ovulation problems, breech presentations and dysmennorhea (4-6). According to researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine in Seoul, it can also alleviate menopausal hot flashes.

The researchers divided a group of 51 women, ages 45 to 60 with at least five moderate to severe hot flashes every 24 hours, into three groups. The first group received a moxibustion based upon evidence from clinical experts (Moxa 1). The second group received their moxibustion treatment based upon published literature (Moxa 2). The third was a wait-list control group. Both moxibustion groups received 14 treatments over the course of four weeks. Outcomes were measured by the frequency and severity of hot flashes for one week, as well as the Menopausal-Specific Quality of Life Scale (MENQOL) and the Menopause Rating Scale.

At the end of the four-week period, the frequency of hot flashes was reduced significantly; 60 percent in the Moxa 1 group and 59 percent in the Moxa 2 group. In the control group, however, the frequency increased slightly at the second week before returning back to baseline at the fourth week. There was no significant difference in frequency of hot flashes between the two moxa groups.

In terms of severity of hot flashes, both moxibustion groups also showed significant reductions at the end of four weeks. The Moxa 1 group reported a 50 percent reduction, and the Moxa 2 group reported a 43 percent reduction. The control subjects, however, showed only a minor reduction in severity.

The researchers concluded, “Our study explored the efficacy of moxibustion in reducing menopausal hot flashes. In our study, participants who received moxibustion treatment exhibited a stronger reduction in both hot flash frequency and severity. Furthermore, we investigated the point-specific effects of moxibustion by using different acupuncture points based on clinical expert opinions (Moxa 1) and published literature (Moxa 2). Moxa 1 was found to be no different from Moxa 2 in reducing hot flash frequency and severity … Our results suggest that moxibustion improves menopausal hot flash symptoms in terms of both frequency and severity, as compared with a control group.”

Commentary: Although Moxibustion can be used to hot flashes, there are natural medicines and herbs which are equally as effective without the risk of burns. As an acupuncturist I do use moxa, but I prefer treatments that can be used by the patient on a long term basis eliminating the need for subsequent treatments. Dr. D

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Scott Denny, PhD, AP, DOM, FAAIM
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Scott Denny, PhD, AP, DOM, FAAIM
Integrative Hospital Associates
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1. McKinlay SM, Jefferys M. The menopausal syndrome. Br J Prev Soc Med 1974;28:108-15.

2. Kronenberg F. Hot flashes: phenomenology, quality of life, and search for treatment options. Exp Gerontol 1994 May-Aug;29(3-4):319-36.

3. Park JE, Lee MS, Jung S, et al. Moxibustion for treating menopausal hot flashes: a randomized clinical trial. Menopause 2009 Jul-Aug;16(4):660-5.

4. Peng Y, Hou LH, Wu XK. Advances of modern studies of acupuncture and moxibustion for treatment of ovulation disorders. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu 2006;26:756-9.

5. van den Berg I, Bosch JL, Jacobs B, et al. Effectiveness of acupuncture-type interventions versus expectant management to correct breech presentation: a systematic review. Complement Ther Med 2008;16:92-100.

6. Kim SO, Cho SH. The effect of hand acupuncture therapy and moxibustion heat therapy on dysmenorrhea. Korean Acad Womens Health Nurs 2001;7:610-21.

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