Acupuncture combined with moxibustion and herbs is more successful for reducing menstrual pain and cramping than ibuprofen. The results were published in new research of a randomized investigation of patients with primary dysmenorrhea, painful menstruation. Data points were taken at three, six and nine months after the beginning of treatment. The long-term positive clinical outcomes for patients having received acupuncture, moxibustion and herbal medicine was significantly superior to patients having taken ibuprofen.
Research conducted at the Affiliated Hospital of Hubei College of Medicine and Pharmacy involved a trial of 90 patients with primary dysmenorrhea. They were randomly divided into two study groups. Group 1 received acupuncture, herbal hot compresses and moxibustion. Also referred to as moxa, moxibustion is the burning of herbs near the skin to produce a penetrating and warming sensation. Group 2 receiving oral administration of ibuprofen at 300mg per dose, three times daily. The treatment lasted for three menstrual cycles.
During the course of treatment, dietary restrictions were applied to both group 1 and group 2. Patients were advised to avoid eating raw, cold, pungent or very spicy foods. Patients were advised to increase their consumption of fresh vegetables and fruits. In addition, patients were advised to avoid prolonged exposure to cold conditions on the lower abdomen. The total curative effect observed in the acupuncture group was much higher than that in ibuprofen group.
Let’s take a closer look at the acupuncture and herbal medicine procedures employed in the study. The hot compresses were applied to the umbilical region and local regions of pain in the lower abdomen. The herbal medicines in the compress were Dan Shen 10g, Yan Hu Suo 10g and Yi Mu Cao 30g. Yan Hu Suo is a standout in the compress selection in that it is commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for the relief of pain in both internal and external applications. The herbs were decocted for one hour and strained. A 10cm X 15cm flannel cloth was soaked in the decoction, removed and squeezed to remove excess fluid. The cloth was applied to the patient. One hot compress treatment lasted for fifteen minutes.
In TCM, herbal medicines are ascribed specific properties and functions. Dan Shen (Salviae miltiorrhizae radix) is an invigorate the blood category herb. Dan Shen, salvia root, is slightly cooling and bitter. It enters the heart hand Shaoyin, pericaridum hand Jueyin and liver foot Jueyin meridians. Dan Shen eliminates blood stasis, stops pain, clears heat in the blood and ying levels and calms the spirit. Common indications for the use of Dan Shen include dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, abdominal masses, tumors and breast abscesses. Other uses include the treatment of chest pain, high fever due to blood heat, insomnia, irritability, palpitations, mental restlessness and angina pectoris. Dan Shen is contraindicated for internal use during pregnancy.
Yan Hu Suo (Corydalis rhizoma) is another invigorate the blood category herb. Yan Hu Suo is warming, pungent and bitter. It enters the lung hand Taiyang and stomach foot Yangming meridians. Yan Hu Suo invigorates the blood, stops pain and promotes the circulation of qi. Yan Hua Suo is indicated for the treatment of generalized pain, abdominal pain, abdominal masses, dysmenorrhea, irregular menstruation, uterine bleeding, hernia, chest pain and headaches. Yan Hu Suo is contraindicated for use during pregnancy. This is herb found in formulas such as Jin Ling Zi San, Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang and Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang.
Yi Mu Cao (Leonuri herba) is also commonly referred to as Chinese motherwort. The term Yi Mu Cao is translated as benefit the mother grass. This herb enters the heart hand Shaoyin, liver foot Jueyin and urination bladder foot Taiyang meridians. Yi Mu Cao invigorates the blood, eliminates blood stasis and promotes menstrual flow. As such, this herb is contraindicated for use during pregnancy. Yi Mu Cao promotes urination and clears heat and toxicity. Yi Mu Cao is indicated for use in the treatment of abnormal uterine bleeding, amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, irregular menstruation, lochia retention and postpartum abdominal pain. Other uses include the treatment of angina pain, edema, painful urination, hypertension, chronic nephritis and skin disorders such as eczema, pruritus and non-healing sores. This herb is notable for appearing in the famous herbal formula Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin.
Customization of acupuncture points was applied according to TCM differential diagnostics. Primary acupuncture points used in the study were:
Sanyinjiao (SP 6)
Zusanli (ST 36)
Guanyuan (RN 4)
Qihai (RN 6)
In cases of excess, the following were added:
Taichong (LR 3)
Diji (SP 8)
For cases of deficiency, the following acupuncture points were added:
Xuehai (SP 10) and Geshu (BL 17)
Reinforcing and reducing acupuncture needle manipulation techniques were applied until a deqi sensation was achieved. Moxa was applied to needles. The needles were withdrawn after the use of 3-5 cones of moxa. The approximate treatment time was 30 minutes. Acupuncture, moxibustion and hot compresses were applied once daily for a period of six days. The treatment started one week before the menstrual period began and ended by the first day of the menstrual cycle. The treatment resumed before the next menstrual period. One course of treatment comprised one menstrual period and the entire treatment lasted for three courses. The acupuncture group significantly outperformed the ibuprofen group at three, six and nine months after the beginning of treatment. The results indicated that acupuncture combined with moxibustion and herbal compresses is safe and effective for the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea.
Zhou, Juan. “Acupuncture and Moxibustion plus Herbal Hot Compress for Primary Dysmenorrhea.” Journal of Clinical Acupuncture and Moxibustion 60.2 (2014): 11-13.