Moxibustion is a therapeutic technique used in conjunction with acupuncture, acupressure, cupping and Chinese herbal medicine. It is one of the common practice in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The clinical method employs a burning moxa mugwort (Chinese wormwood, Artemisia vulgaris) directly over the skin at acupoints. Practitioners use moxa to warm regions and acupuncture points with the intention of stimulating circulation through the points and inducing a smoother flow of blood and qi. Moxibustion can be administered in many different ways, known as direct moxibustion, indirect moxibustion and needle moxibustion. The treatment is practically used for common cold, soft tissue damage, multiple sclerosis, menstrual disorder, gastrointestinal disorder and chronic malfunctioned conditions. There are three common moxibustion techniques used in the clinic settings.

Moxibustion History

Moxibustion, as acupuncture, is a primary modality of Traditional Chinese Medicine with a long history and some medical historians believe that moxibustion pre-dated acupuncture. Ancient Chinese had struggled for long time before they figured out getting warm by fire relieved and even stopped pain. Contemplating an ideal burning material they had tried wood chips, bundles of hay finally they found the moxa plant, the dry moxa leaves ground into fluff, easily be formed into a cone-shaped or a roll-shapd moxa which be able to facilitated treatment on different parts of the body. Moxibustion can be working alone or can be used with acupuncture as an enhancement.

During the Eastern Han dynasty to the Three Kingdoms, the skills of acupuncture and moxibustion was further developed, Hua Tuo, a famous Chinese doctor used the techniques not only on internal treatment but also surgical. (Canon of Moxibustion and Acupuncture Preserved in Pillow)

Zhang Zhongjing, another doctor in this period has also elaborated the methods of acupuncture, moxibustion, fire needling, and warm needling management of various treatments in acupuncture; he stressed the combination of acupuncture moxibustion with medicinal herbs for treatment according to the differentiation of complicate syndromes. (Treatise on Febrile and Miscellaneous Diseases)

In the Jin Dynasty Huangfu Mi wrote a book A B Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion which consists of 12 volumes 128 chapters including 349 acupuncture points with locations, indications, and manipulations techniques. It also describes regulations, precautions of acupuncture and moxibustion; treatment of common diseases by acupuncture and moxibustion. This is the earliest exclusive book on acupuncture and moxibustion that has been one of the most influential works in the history of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Characteristics and Specialties

Direct moxibustion: Practitioner places a small cone-shaped of moxa directly on the skin at the acupuncture point and lights it up and until the moxa cone burns out, more than one cone of moxa may be applied as treatment plan requirs. Direct moxibustion is a traditional technique considered to be very effective especially on particular acute situations and for the on going promotion of immune system. However, direct moxibustion needs to be handled with extra care and patient should be well informed as it may have some undesirable effects such as blistering, burn marks, and even scarring at the moxibustion site after the treatment.

Indirect moxibustion: There are two different techniques: The first one is practitioner circles a lit up cigar-shaped of moxa over the skin, either at the acupuncture point; or along the meridian; or around the inserted needle until the skin becomes flush. The second one is practitioner places a medium (a handful of salt, a slice of ginger, a slice of garlic, etc.) between the skin and the lit up moxa cone until the moxa burns out. The intense heat brings up the blood flow thus improves the circulation. Indirect moxibustion is relaxing and comfortable, often being used for menstrual disorders, gastrointestinal disorders and musculoskeletal disorders. Suitable for all ages.

Needle Moxibustion: A lit up stick-shaped of moxa attached onto an inserted needle, the heat travels through the needle into deeper layer soft tissues. This technique is being used for chronic deficiency conditions and obstinate pain syndromes. It has been seeing of very beneficial for fibromyalgia, bursitis, tendonitis, multiple sclerosis, sciatica, Crohn's colitis, migraine and trigeminal neuralgia, etc.