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Moxa for Graft Versus Host disease AML


Hi, I have been doing treatments with a relative who was diagnosed with Acute Myloid Leukemia a year ago. She has been doing really well but recently had to get a top of of stem cells and has since developed graft versus host disease in her liver. She is very fatigued as a result. I am not allowed needle her at this time due to the high risk of infection. I have suggested just using moxa on the back shu points but she is a bit concerned I could activate the graft versus host. Anyone with any experience in this field i’d love to hear from you!


First of all there is virtually no risk of infection by insertion of the needles if you are using basic clean needle technique and sterile single use needles. Given that, it is important that your patient is comfortable with what you are doing but they really should be informed that the possibility of infection from acupuncture is effectively non-existent when done correctly.

Moxa could potentially aggravate her GVHD it really depends on the underlying pattern she is presenting with and how you are trained to use the moxa. Moxa could also potentially help.

As we say over and over again, it is [virtually] impossible to recommend any specific points or herbs or other types of treatment when only given a western diagnosis. It would help if you know her underlying TCM pattern, if not then what specific symptoms she has, what the tongue looks like, the pulse, etc.


Hi Stephen, thank you for your reply. It’s the doctor’s decision re the
needling, nothing I could do! Her symptoms - mainly fatigue, she has a
rash on her torso and mouth, this was itchy but has improved. The rash in
her mouth is almost gone. I haven’t seen her yet so can’t say about tongue
or pulse. I don’t want to offer treatment and then have to withdraw it if
it’s not appropriate. In what circumstances would the moxa aggravate the
GVHD, if there are heat symptoms perhaps?


Moxa is not contraindicated for heat symptoms per se. You can actually use moxa to clear heat but if you are not familiar with how to use moxa to clear heat I very strongly recommend not using moxa in this case. In my experience moxa should not be used when there are strong signs of yin deficiency. Generally speaking most immune and autoimmune disorders tend to correlate with strong signs of yin deficiency, but again without more details I’ve no way of knowing if this is the case here.

Herbal therapy could certainly help, though given the doctor’s take on acupuncture this probably wouldn’t be accepted either.

You could try gua sha along the whole ub line, or cupping along the upper and middle back could help as well. A fellow student of mine had very good success treating heat symptoms by doing gua sha along the ub lines first, then doing cupping over the most/brightest red areas revealed by the gua sha. But that type of treatment might be too harsh especially for someone with chronic or serious illness.

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