Moxibustion or moxa therapy, 灸法 Jiŭfă, is the process of burning dried therapeutics such as mugwort, known as “moxa”, near acupuncture points.
While burning mugwort near acupuncture points, the heat allows the blocked Qi to flow freely. In addition, moxa herbs expel cold chills and moisture from the meridians. From a western perspective the heat helps improve the blood circulation, stimulates organ function, and strengthens the immune system.
A systematic recording of acupuncture and moxibustion can be found in one of the standard works of TCM, the “ABC Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion” by doctor Huang Fu Mi 260AD
Types of moxibustion
There are different types of moxibustion.
When treated with moxa cones, a slice of ginger, salt or herbs is usually placed on corresponding acupuncture points. The therapist then ignites the slowly burning cones made of moxa. Each point is heated several times until the skin is slightly reddened. With this “indirect moxibustion” the moxa has no direct contact with the skin. In China and Japan, the cone is sometimes still placed directly on the skin in a process of “direct moxibustion”. This direct form results in intentional blisters and small inflammations to stimulate the body’s defenses.
During treatment with moxa rolls (bundles of moxa rolled into thin paper resembling cigars), the therapist ignites the moxa roll and gently places the glowing tip in proximity of the acupuncture points about half a centimeter away. If the patient is giving indications of heat, he swiftly removes the tip. The procedure is repeated until the skin is slightly red.
A special kind of moxa is the Fire Dragon Moxibustion (火龙灸 Huŏ Lóng Jiǔ). Ginger is crushed and placed on the Dū Mài 督脈 (Governing Vessel). Then the moxa wool is evenly distributed on the ginger and ignited. The process is usually repeated two to three times. This form of therapy is used in extreme cold or a Yang deficiency.
Other heat therapies are also used in the TCM e.g. applying herbal plasters, hot wax, various caustic substances or TDP heat lamps.