Traditional Chinese Medicine has numerous ways for treating disease and illness. One of those methods is something called moxibustion (moxa), and it is a very valuable tool in a TCM practitioner’s toolbox.
What is Moxibustion?
There are various types of moxa, but the traditional type is made of mugwort. Moxa is a heat therapy that involves the burning of mugwort. The purpose of moxa is to stimulate the flow of Qi, nourish the blood, and maintain general health. Depending on your presentation, and your practitioner’s preference, moxa can be either direct or indirect application.
Direct moxibustion uses moxa (mugwort) shaped into small cones or rice pellets, and is placed on top of an acupuncture point and burned. The moxa is then removed before it burns the skin. This method creates a pleasant heat sensation that penetrates deep into the skin. Some find it to be very calming.
Indirect moxibustion is the more popular method of application. With this type of application, the practitioner lights one end of a moxa stick and holds it close to an acupuncture point for several minutes until the area becomes warm and red in color.
So why is moxibustion a valuable tool to acupuncturists and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners?
It is a heat therapy, and is therefore very effective in treating cold or stagnation conditions. For example: muscle stiffness, headaches, tendonitis, arthritis, digestive disorders, anxiety, menstrual cramps, irregular periods and infertility. It is believed that by burning moxa over specific areas you are expelling cold and warming the meridians. This can then create the smooth flow of Qi and blood. In Chinese Medicine, muscle pains can be due to either deficiency or stagnation. By applying moxa to that area it can increase fresh blood flow, and increase healing. Moxibustion also supports the yang energy, and is believed to strengthen the original Qi.
Moxibustion is very effectively used in patients that have chronic conditions due to a cold constitution. A cold constitution is triggered or aggravated by cold, for example, arthritis that is worse in cold weather. Someone with a cold constitution can also be aggravated by consuming cold foods like ice-cream, iced beverages, and cold vegetables right from the refrigerator. In Chinese Medicine, even certain pharmaceutical drugs, including over-the-counter pain medications, have been known to decrease body temperature. Even ongoing mental and emotional stress can create a cold constitution. Therefore using moxibustion is frequently warranted in the treatment of many illnesses and diseases.
A favorite point among TCM practitioners is Stomach 36, which has the function of both preventing diseases and maintaining health. It is commonly referred to as the “Point of a Thousand Diseases”. Regular moxibustion on this point can invigorate healthy Qi and strengthen the immune system, thus increasing longevity.