As you walk into any moxibustion e you often notice the familiar smoky odor of moxa. Some people love it, others do not. New patients usually ask “What’s that strange smell?”Moxibustion is a method of heating specific acupuncture points on the body by burning an herb material close to the skin. This technique can be used alone or in combination with acupuncture – the Chinese character for acupuncture means “acupuncture-moxibustion.”
What is moxibustion used for?
Moxibustion can be used to prevent diseases and maintain health as part of tonification treatments to help strengthen the organs and immune system. It warms the meridians and expels cold. It can be used to promote circulation over areas of chronic pain or muscle tension. It is especially used for pain that is worse with exposure to cold or damp weather, as with some types of arthritis pain. When applied to acupuncture points that strengthen and lift the qi, moxibustion can boost the immune system and help with fatigue, digestive issues, and much more.
Moxibustion (Chinese: 灸; pinyin: jiǔ) is a traditional Chinese medicine therapy which consists of burning dried mugwort (wikt:moxa) on particular points on the body. It plays an important role in the traditional medical systems of China, Tibet, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and Mongolia. Suppliers usually age the mugwort and grind it up to a fluff; practitioners burn the fluff or process it further into a cigar-shaped stick. They can use it indirectly, with acupuncture needles, or burn it on the patient’s skin.
The name of the herb Artemisia (mugwort) species used to produce Moxa is and ài or àicǎo (艾, 艾草) in Chinese and yomogi (蓬) in Japan. The Chinese names for moxibustion are jiǔ ( 灸) or jiǔshù ( 灸術); the Japanese use the same characters and pronounce them as kyū and kyūjutsu. In Korean the reading is tteum (뜸). Korean folklore attributes the development of moxibustion to the legendary emperor Dangun.
Theory and practice
Practitioners use moxa to warm regions and meridian points with the intention of stimulating circulation through the points and inducing a smoother flow of blood and qi. Some believe it can treat conditions associated with the “cold” or “yang deficiencies” in Chinese Medicine. It is claimed that moxibustion mitigates against cold and dampness in the body, and can serve to turn breech babies.
Practitioners claim moxibustion to be especially effective in the treatment of chronic problems, “deficient conditions” (weakness), and gerontology. Bian Que (fl. circa 500 BCE), one of the most famous semi-legendary doctors of Chinese antiquity and the first specialist in moxibustion, discussed the benefits of moxa over acupuncture in his classic work Bian Que Neijing. He asserted that moxa could add new energy to the body and could treat both excess and deficient conditions.
Practitioners may use acupuncture needles made of various materials in combination with moxa, depending on the direction of qi flow they wish to stimulate.
There are several methods of moxibustion. Three of them are direct scarring, direct non-scarring, and indirect moxibustion. Direct scarring moxibustion places a small cone of moxa on the skin at an acupuncture point and burns it until the skin blisters, which then scars after it heals. Direct non-scarring moxibustion removes the burning moxa before the skin burns enough to scar, unless the burning moxa is left on the skin too long. Indirect moxibustion holds a cigar made of moxa near the acupuncture point to heat the skin, or holds it on an acupuncture needle inserted in the skin to heat the needle. There is also stick-on moxa.