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Natural Killer Cells and Moxibustion


I have a patient with an auto immune disorder where she has too many NKCells or Natural Killer Cells (not to be confused with Natural Killer T Cells). These are part of the make up of White Blood Cells. Her NKCells attack her body and prevent her from getting or keeping a pregnancy.

I do Moxibustion a lot. I believe it to be adaptogenic and some evidence shows that moxibustion modulates NK Cell activity. Other studies show that it activates NK cells. The research I am most familiar with shows that moxibustion doubles the white blood cell count in general and is fantastic at boosting the immune system. Some protocols call for intense moxa for auto immune disorders like auto immune hepatitis.

What do you think? Have I harmed my patient by doing moxa? I did it one time only on her down the UB mai. I will not do it any more, but am searching for specific details on:

1. how many days is moxa done to boost the WBC count?

2. how many cones are burned at each treatment?

3. can moxa encourage the body to be sick rather than strenghtening it?

Thank you for your thoughts.


Those are very good questions and I&#39ll only be able to offer an opinion as the research is not there to support anything more. The term "autoimmune" is an interesting one from a Chinese Medicine perspective (and from a "westerners" perspective as a Chinese Medicine practitioner). The general idea in the west is if we are sick build ourselves up. This is the flawed logic behind the very profitable supplements market and a seemingly cultural logical flaw in many western Chinese medicine practitioners. What I mean by this is there is too strong of a tendency from our collective unconscious and cultural logic to tonify, tonify, tonify.

To complicate matters the term "autoimmune" simply means an out of control immune system doing things it shouldn&#39t. The result of many autoimmune conditions can be weakness, etc. (among, of course, far worse things). As a practitioner you (and I mean a general you - not "you" specifically) need to decide which side of that equation you are going to be on. Do you want to (a) regulate the immune activity or (b) deal with the repercussions of that activity. Generally from a Chinese Medicine perspective you want (a) - the root.

Personally I would step back and think the case through more (perhaps you have, but your question is missing quite a bit of information I would need to offer more information). First, what condition does she have specifically? And what is her overall Chinese Medicine diagnosis - does she have signs of deficiency? Autoimmunity can (not always) be related to yin deficiency which leads to a hyperactivity in body functions from chronic hyperstimulation. If you look at the major autoimmune conditions from a Chinese perspective yin deficiency stands out very often. Do you moxa someone who is yin deficient? perhaps, but only with a very clear purpose (other than simply "building" immunity).

Another avenue of thought on this issue is whether "tonifying" immunity from a Chinese perspective can make autoimmune conditions worse by adding more fuel to the fire. The clinical studies haven&#39t been done to support this idea one way or the other. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, then, a clear diagnosis is important and from that you can deduce whether or not moxa would be appropriate.

To specifically answer your questions, I have included them below:

What do you think? Have I harmed my patient by doing moxa? I did it one time only on her down the UB mai. I will not do it any more, but am searching for specific details on:</li>

No - one treatment of moxa is not going to help or harm anyone in any significant way.

1. how many days is moxa done to boost the WBC count?</li>

From clinical studies it happens almost immediately but is relatively short lived - Similar to the effects of practicing Tai Chi or Qi Gong. In other words, it would have to be done consistently to make systemic changes in the body. Moxa except for healing trauma and other local uses is generally fairly slow - particularly when compared to internal herbal medicines. This often makes it a safer way to tonify particular conditions.

2. how many cones are burned at each treatment?</li>

There are a hosts of theories on this and it would depend greatly on the patients case - what points you are using - and the season. If you have someone who is significantly deficient you could easily do 6-9 cones at particular points daily. For general vitality many practitioners (and patients) do daily or perhaps 2-3 days/week of moxibustion at ST 36 - perhaps just 3 cones.

You may wan to read the relevant sections within our Japanese theory section:

Chinetsukyu - Cone Moxa Theory

Okyu - Thread Moxa Theory

3. can moxa encourage the body to be sick rather than strengthening it?</li>

See the above discussion on autoimmunity. My general sense is no, but it can add too much heat into the body in people with hot/excess/empty heat patterns and this can be damaging. Again, you are generally using moxa to warm and tonify - so in anyone who has empty heat from yin deficiency, excess heat, it&#39s the middle of summer, they are agitated, etc. you need to use it sparingly if at all.

Now this doesn&#39t quite include Japanese theories of okyu (thread moxa) which are more complicated as far as their usage in a wider variety of cases.

Hope this helps! The brief sentence answer to your question is to use moxa on your patient if it is clinically appropriate for her underlying tcm diagnosis and for no other reason.


Chad, thanks for your well thought out response. I do appreciate the time you took. Your statements are in line with my training. I just panicked a little when I realized how many thousands of dollars she is spending on trying to conceive and the look on her face when I answered her question about what moxa does made me second guess myself. Nina


For Qi and Blood def.( help WBCcount) use moxa ST36, Sp10 and Ub17.

One time treatment use moxa 3-7 cones is better.

If the patient is heat or yin def., no good for moxa; the face and big blood vessal area is no good for moxa; for pregnant patient no moxa at lower back, abdomen, Gb21, Li4 and Ub67.


Her NKCells attack her body and prevent her from getting or keeping a pregnancy.

I wold recomment that you needle the allergie point on the top of the ear.

In cases of auto imuun disease this can be very helpfull.

The same efect can be acompliched bij treating the groop luo points at the ankle.


I'm not an immunologist, but it is my limited understanding that NK Cells are usually reduced or lower functioning in autoimmune disease. Their role is not completely understood in those diseases. Autoimmunity is clearly an imbalance in the various aspects of the immune system, but it's not clear enough to micromanage that with therapies like moxa. I suspect that on the whole, moxa will be helpful provided you are treating the root. It probably increases local cellular metabolic activity and reduces inflammation. In addition to Chinese Medicine, gut flora alterations are implicated in auto-immunity, so there are dietary strategies that might be of use as 70-80% of the immune system is in the gut (YangMing). Sufficient butyrate production from fermentable food substances (resistant starch, arabinoxylans, beta-glucans, inulin/FOS, etc.) will help regulate Th17 cell production. Eating plenty of plant foods with "bacteria food," plus possibly supplementating some fibers might in theory be useful. There is evidence that vitamins A and D reduce th17 cell production this as well, so cod liver oil might be of some use. A probiotic containing a butyrate-producing species like clostridium butyricum might be helpful along with increasing "fiber," for example AOR Probiotic-3.

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