Most Westerners have heard about acupuncture but only a few have heard about a Chinese complementary therapy called moxibustion, which adds a new aspect to acupuncture.
Acupuncture Palm Harbor has been recorded in Chinese medical documents that date as far back as the second Century BCE and is one of most ancient healing practices in the world. It’s a branch of a medical system known as TCM or traditional Chinese medicine. Acupuncture aims to preserve and restore health by innervating selected points on the body known as acupoints through the use of filiform needles.
But the thing is the Chinese character for acupuncture is (针灸), which in English translates to “acupuncture moxibustion.” Acupuncture, we know that, check. But what is moxibustion?
Moxibustion is an acupuncture variant that involves the administration of heat to the same acupoints, by means acupuncture needles or by direct application of heat on the points.
The Principle behind Acupuncture and Moxibustion
According to TCM, the human body is an organism that has two complementary and opposing forces called yin and yang. They exist in a delicate balance that helps keep the whole body in a good state of health. Yin represents the passive, slow, or cold principle, and yang, the active, excited, and hot principle. When balance is maintained between these two forces, good health is the result.
From the standpoint of Taoist philosophy (that, in turn, is the foundation of Chinese philosophy), each person is filled with a life force known as Chi or qi (pronounced “chee”). When the forces of yin and yang are in relative balance, chi is also in balance and equally distributed all over the body. Vital life energy then circulates harmoniously and smoothly across invisible energy channels in the body called meridians that are interconnected to 2,000 various acupoints throughout the body.
Every one of these acupoints influences certain parts or organs of the body. Health is impaired and negative symptoms begin to appear when the flow of chi is blocked or becomes imbalanced for whatever reason.
Based on TCM principles, disease is simply an internal imbalance of yin and yang resulting in a blockage to chi flow or an imbalance of chi. When the acupoints are stimulated throughout the meridians connected to the affected region of the body, acupuncturists will work on the patient’s health restoring the smooth flow of chi by eliminating the blockage to its flow. This will repair any imbalances and restore the chi of the body to its normal state.
What Transpires During an Acupuncture-moxibustion Therapy?
In a regular acupuncture therapy session, the acupuncturist will stick clean stainless steel slender needles into selected acupoints in the patient’s body. Moxibustion complements this by administering heat therapy to the acupoints.
Acupuncturists administer heat to the points by burning a bunch of tightly bound plants called moxa. These herbs are produced by collecting dried mugwort leaves and shaping them into small cigar or cone-like shapes.
In European folk medicine, the mugwort plant has been used for centuries to heal a number of illnesses. Used traditionally for healing, mugwort is a ubiquitous plant that can be found along roads and streets and during ancient Roman times, is believed to bring good fortune to travelers who would place these plants in their shoes to soothe their tired aching feet. They were used in Pagan celebrations during the summer solstice, to bring protection for the rest of the year.
Initially, “direct” moxibustion therapy in association with acupuncture was first practiced in the cold, mountain areas of northern China whereby people lit a cone of moxa and directly placed it on the acupoints on the skin. This manner of heating the body was thought to facilitate healing and prevent illness.
Direct moxibustion was not obviously widely practiced since it was painful and has resulted in scarring.
Another moxibustion technique known as “Indirect” moxibustion involved the administration of heat to needle points from an electrical source or by burning of moxa on the upper tip of an acupuncture needle stuck on the patient’s skin. Acupuncturists usually hold the smoldering moxa over the patient’s skin or place a slice of salt, garlic, or ginger over the skin and then place the smoldering moxa on top of that. The result is a soothing, penetrating and profound therapeutic heat.
Other techniques include warm needle moxibustion, which uses heated acupuncture needles; incense thread moxibustion wherein the practitioner lights up thin strips of moxa; and lighter burnt match moxibustion whereby the therapist rapidly taps one or two points on the ear with the head of a burnt match.
But Isn’t Acupuncture Alone Strong Enough to Provide Adequate Treatment to Illnesses?
Good question. By using needles alone, acupuncture can be a powerful treatment for certain types of illnesses. However, practitioners believe that moxibustion is more effective than acupuncture in the treatment of menstrual cramps, spastic colon, colds and back pain. It’s even alleged to work for chronic diseases such as arthritis.
A lot of scientific research on moxibustion has so far been done in combination with acupuncture, so it is very difficult to isolate the cause and effect which makes it scientifically hard to ascertain whether moxibustion alone has a definite therapeutic effect on the body.
To be frank, scientists are still at a loss on how acupuncture exactly works, either. The only thing they know for sure is that it works. In fact, we have an incredible long list of health issues problems where acupuncture can be used — even in hospital settings.
Clinical studies have proven that moxibustion can help prevent breech births. This therapy has also shown to boost circulation of blood to the uterus and pelvis making it effective in the treatment of menstrual cramps. It also has an effect on prohibiting delivery of breech babies by helping the baby move into its proper position in preparation for a normal birth.
In an open controlled, randomized, clinical trial re moxibustion therapy use for the prevention breech birth, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported in 1998 that moxibustion therapy in women resulted in the proper turning of breech presentation babies in 75 percent of women who received moxibustion therapy for seven to 14 weeks. In the control group that did not receive moxibustion therapy, only 47 percent of the babies turned.
Acupuncturists also use moxibustion to address inflamed regions of the body making this modality extremely helpful in treating ailments such as lower back pain. Moxibustion’s therapeutic heat serves as a safe analgesic to help alleviate stiff joints and painful muscles.
Because there are very few complications or contradictions related to indirect moxibustion and acupuncture, they should definitely be considered a treatment for painful conditions.