Traditional Chinese Medicine is a medical system that incorporates numerous methods for treating disease and illness. One of the tools found in the toolbox of the TCM practitioner is known as moxibustion.
Moxibustion is a technique that involves the burning of mugwort, known as moxa, which is an herb that facilitates healing. The purpose of moxibustion is to stimulate the flow of Qi (pronounced “chee”), strengthen the blood and maintain general health. Qi is translated as life energy. There are two types of moxibustion, direct and indirect. Direct moxibustion uses moxa shaped into a small cone and is placed on top of an acupuncture point and burned. This type of moxibustion has two subcategories, scarring and non-scarring. Scarring moxa burns until it distinguishes on its own. This may lead to localized scarring and blisters. Non-scarring moxa allows for the moxa to be placed on the acupuncture point, lit, extinguished and removed before it burns the skin.
Non-scarring moxibustion creates a pleasant heating sensation that penetrates deeply into the skin, but does not create a scar or any pain. Indirect moxibustion is the more popular of the forms. In indirect moxibustion, a practitioner lights one end of a stick of moxa and holds it close to the acupuncture point for several minutes until the area turns red.
Moxibustion is used to help people with cold or stagnant conditions. Burning moxa is believed to expel cold and warm the energetic meridians, which creates the smooth flow of Qi and blood. Moxibustion also supports the yang energy, which strengthens and increases the original Qi. Moxibustion can be used to treat many conditions including back pain, muscle stiffness, headaches, tendonitis, arthritis, digestive disorders, anxiety, menstrual cramps, irregular periods and infertility. Moxibustion is not recommended for diabetic patients, since they have decreased sensitivity to pain and compromised circulation.
Moxibustion is very effectively used in patients that have a cold constitution. Many chronic conditions, even the ones that manifest as heat conditions, can have chronic cold as the underlying situation. A cold constitution is triggered or aggravated by over cooling the body systems. Because of technological advances, our bodies are exposed to cold at a much higher rate than in the past. Things like refrigeration, air-conditioning, iced beverages and even ice cream have created a society of people with cold constitutions. Also many pharmaceutical drugs including over-the-counter pain medications are known to decrease body temperature. Large consumption of fruits and raw vegetables and ongoing mental and emotional stress can also create cold constitutions. Therefore using moxibustion is frequently warranted in the treatment of many illnesses and diseases.
Moxibustion on the acupuncture point Stomach 36 also has the function of preventing diseases and maintaining health. In ancient China, this technique was known as reverse moxibustion. Even if a person is quite healthy, regular moxibustion on this point can invigorate healthy Qi and strengthen the immune system, thus increasing longevity. Perhaps this is why the point has been nicknamed the “longevity point”.
As with acupuncture, only a licensed practitioner should be called upon for treatments such as moxibustion. If you believe that moxibustion may be helpful with your medical conditions, be sure to discuss it with your acupuncturist.
Rebecca M H Kitzerow is a Licensed Acupuncturist practicing in La Center, Washington. With over a decade of experience she has won 10 Nattie consumer choice awards from Natural Awakenings Magazine since 2014.