What is Moxibustion? It’s most important benefits and treatment points. Guide 101
Moxibustion is a therapeutic technique of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which uses pure Moxa rolls (made from a plant called Artemisia Vulgaris, or mugwort) to apply heat therapy on acupuncture points.
The aim is to generate an effect that will assist to balance the body with heat stimulation that penetrates specific acupuncture points and meridians targeting our physiological functions and our internal organs.
INDEX OF THE MOST IMPORTANT TOPICS ON MOXIBUSTION
Qualified Traditional Chinese Medicine professionals can apply moxibustion in various forms. The most common method is to use a Moxa roll.
The moxa roll or stick is made of dried leaves from the Artemisia Vulgaris plant; it allows to apply heat to moxibustion and acupoints in various areas and parts of the body.
Moxibustion may be applied individually or may be combined with other therapeutic techniques of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) such as Acupuncture, Chinese Phytotherapy (herbal medicine) or Chinese Massage in order to attain a stronger effect.
Moxibustion use originated in China although there is increasing use in other Eastern and Western countries.
In November of 2010 Moxibustion and Chinese acupuncture were inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
What are the uses of Moxibustion? What ailments does it treat?
Benefits and Indications:
Generally, Moxibustion is used to prevent and treat illnesses by applying heat. This is possible because it allows better blood and energy (Qi) flow, it helps to eliminate internal colds and humidity and activates the body’s organic functions.
Moxibustion can treat many different illnesses, both acute and chronic. The following are some of the most common illnesses treated with Moxibustion.
- Digestive problems
- Prevention from colds and flus
- Gynecological problems and menstrual pain
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Obstetrical conditions
- Sport injuries
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Poor concentration or memory
- Joint pain
- Sexual disfunction
- Hot flushes during menopause
- Blood problems or poor circulation
- Metabolic or immune system problems
- Other conditions
The treatment for these types of illnesses is possible thanks to the effects produced by the heat applied in certain acupoints and on other areas of the body.
Benefits, indications and effects of moxibustion within the context of Traditional Chinese Medicine:
(Some terms indicated below are Chinese and/or technical terms used by Chinese Medicine health professionals, which requires a training background to know their meaning):
- Prevents illnesses
- Promotes circulation of Qi (energy) and Xue (blood)
- Tonifies Yang Qi
- Warms our meridians and/or channels energy
- Eliminates body coldness and warms the blood
- Targets pain (analgesic effect)
- May eliminate toxins
- Tones the body’s Wei Qi (outer protection Energy)
- Increases the production of red blood cells, white cells and hemoglobin.
- May tone some physiological functions.
- Strengthening Wei energy and external protection
- Yin-Yang deficiency
- Lowering of Qi (due to insufficiencies)
- Warming meridians and eliminating coldness
- Xue (blood) stasis syndrome due to colds
- Treatment of heat due to insufficiency (false heat)
- Improvement of obstructive painful IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
- Toning of the middle Jiao (area between the diaphragm and the umbilicus)
- Strengthening the immune system
- Dispersing wind due to external pathogenic factors
- Chronic illnesses or those difficult to treat
How is a Moxibustion Acupuncture session carried out?
It is performed by a qualified health professional formally trained in Chinese Traditional Medicine.
Occasionally the therapist may apply Moxibustion as the sole therapeutic technique or combine it with other methods such as Acupuncture, Tuine Massage, Cupping, Chinese Phyto therapy (herbal medicine), Gua Sha.
After the therapist carries out a proper diagnosis, a session where Moxibustion is applied may last between 5 and 20 minutes, approximately.
Depending on the type of Moxa stick or roll applied, the therapist may use a manual technique in specific points in the body, or may use boxes or Moxa cones that may reach various body areas and a feeling of heat will be felt until the moxas totally burn out.
What are the effects of Moxa sticks made from the Artemisia plant?
The Moxa stick used to apply the Moxibustion technique is made from the Artemisia Vulgaris plant.
In its dry form, the Artemisia plant allows the application of heat – directly or indirectly – in moxibustion and in acupoints for a considerable amount of time.
This plant is also known by other names such as mugwort, chrysanthemum weed or wormwood.
Its properties are studied in botany and among the properties indicated for this plant we have – tonic, aperitive, digestive, hydrating, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, calming, disinfecting, antimicrobial, antiparasitic, anticonvulsive.
In many places Artemisia has been used as an infusion or poultice, however for the purpose of Moxibustion we will use only the dry leaves. This will allow for the slow burn of the Moxa sticks.
Types of Chinese Moxa sticks and application of Moxibustion
Moxibustion with Moxa cones:
There are times when the moxa stick may be applied directly.
But there is also Indirect Moxa application: (using, as a base, products such as ginger, garlic or salt).
Moxibustion with boxes and other equipment:
Moxa sticks are introduced in the boxes in powder form, cones or the moxa sticks loosened into chunks.
Moxibustion with Moxa sticks:
Usually applied manually with circular motions or pecking motions. At times it may incorporate specifically designed moxa boxes.
Smokeless Moxa rolls – made with charcoal instead of Artemisia Vulgaris.
IMPORTANT POINTS WHERE TO APPLY MOXIBUSTION
Moxibustion must be carried out or supervised by a qualified health professional.
Below I will show give you some information about some of the most common points that serve to prevent illnesses and to improve and strengthen one’s health.
RECOMMENDED BIAN QUE 扁鹊 POINTS
(known as the “magic doctor” of antiquity):
It is recommended to apply moxibustion to four points when a person is well, in order to strengthen health and promote longevity.
- 4 Ren Mai: Guanyuan
- 6 Ren Mai: Qihai
- 4 Du Mai: Mingmen
- 12 Ren Mai: Zhongwan
POINTS RECOMMENDED ACCORDING TO A PATIENT’S AGE:
(These points are important for the different age ranges of a person, as they strengthen different parts of the body)
|Patient over 7 years of age||Dumai 12: Shenzhu|
|Patient over 17 years of age||Bladder 12: Fengmen|
|Patient around 24 years of age||Stomach 36: Zusanli|
|Patient around 30 years of age||Spleen 6: San Yin Jiao|
|Patient over 40 years of age||Large Intestine 11: Quqi|
(Remember to never apply Moxa E-36-Zusanli to children to avoid interference with their development)
Does Moxibustion cause side effects or are there any contra-indications?
Like any other therapeutic technique, Moxibustion must be performed by a qualified professional.
It is therefore essential to check this before any application. The proper professional is the one who will assess each case individually and decide on the use of Moxibustion. The following section gives some basic information to keep in mind.
Moxibustion may be contra-indicated in the following cases:
- Syndromes that display excessive heat may be aggravated by Moxibustion heat
- patients who are quite dehydrated and thirsty or are excessively fatigued
- Avoid applying Moxa sticks on damp or wet skin to avoid blisters
- Do not apply Moxibustion to patients who are very fatigued, on an empty stomach or who feel fearful
- Moxibustion is not recommended for children under 7 years of age
- Usually not recommended where there are open wounds, scars, mucus membranes, tendons or blood vessels
Furthermore, the intensity of Moxibustion application must be adapted to the patient’s specific conditions, such as physical state of health, age or energy and vitality.
For the above reasons, a progressive process is recommended to give the patient time to get used to the sensation it produces and to ensure the patient’s position allows for a comfortable and correct application.
ACUPUNCTURE POINTS WHERE MOXIBUSTION IS NOT INDICATED:
|Bladder 1:||Jing Ming|
|Bladder 40:||Wei Zhong|
|Lung 8:||Jing Qu|
|Pericardium 3:||Qu Ze|
|San Jiao 23:||Si Zu Kong|
|Gall bladder 1||Tong Zi Liao|
|Stomach 9:||Ren Ying|
Why is Moxibustion so well known as a treatment during pregnancy?
For some years now scientific studies carried out have shown the effects Moxibustion has on specific acupuncture points to promote the rotation of the fetus when in breech position.
So, Moxibustion helps to correct the fetal malposition into the correct position prior to delivery, preventing complications during normal or programed caesarian births.
Studies have shown satisfactory results in a significant number of pregnant women. Given its non-invasive and easily applied technique, it’s use is increasingly accepted among medical practitioners.
HOW TO DO MOXIBUSTION TO TURN A BABY WHEN IN BREECH DURING PREGNANCY
The technique is very safe for both mother and baby.
Health professionals often teach the pregnant woman or a family member how to apply the Moxa technique so that it can be performed at home during the pregnancy period.
The Moxa technique is carried out in a specific point, Bladder 67 – Zhi Yin and usually between the 33rd and the 35th week of gestation.
Moxibustion applied on that point lightly stimulates the uterus sending information through the Bladder Meridian thanks to the heat penetration through the Moxa stick.
Studies concluded that Among primigravidas with breech presentation during the 33rd week of gestation, moxibustion for 1 to 2 weeks increased fetal activity during the treatment period and cephalic presentation after the treatment period and at delivery. Link to the Moxibustion Study of Moxibustion for correction of breech
Explanatory video how a pregnant women could receive Moxibustion to turn a baby when in breech position
For more information on the correct application and technique you may consult a professional in Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Moxibustion: origin and history within Traditional Chinse Medicine
Moxibustion originated in China where for over two millennia it developed into a complete medical system with a holistic approach called Traditional Chinese Medicine.
It includes theoretical models that currently allow us to tackle health problems in a methodical and systematic way, connecting the physical emotional, energy and mental health aspects.
Within this medicine there are various therapeutic techniques and Moxibustion is one of them. The ones more widely known are Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine (Phyto therapy) and Chinese Tuine Massage among others. On many occasions it has been said that “Moxibustion it the ultimate therapy when Acupuncture or Chinese Herbal Medicine is not enough”, therefore it has been considered one of the most important methods in Chinese Medicine over its long history.
Historical discoveries revealed that Moxibustion came before Acupuncture, according to archaeological findings in Ma Wang Dui’s Tomb no. 3 (168 B.C.) in China’s Hunan province.
The tomb contained various works in silk with writings describing acupuncture meridians, the body’s energy circulation as well as indications on some of the Moxibustion applications.
Some of those works, like ”The process of (thermo) cauterization on the eleven Yin and Yang meridians” date back to the Warring States period (476-221 B.C.)
Where the first mention of Moxibustion appears however, is in the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic (“Huang Di Nei Jing”) and it is integrated in the theoretical corpus and medical system of Chinese Medicine.
The origin of the name in Mandarin Chinese of the Moxibustion technique
MOXIBUSTION in Chinese is referred to as 艾炷灸 (pinyin: àizhùjiǔ) or simply as 艾灸 (pinyin: àijiǔ).
Let’s see the meaning of each character (showing their pronunciation in pinyin alphabet).
- 艾 (pinyin: ài) refers to the leaves of the Artemisia plant 艾叶.
- 炷 (pinyin: zhù) means to light up or “burn a wick”
- 灸 (pinyin: jiǔ) refers to “Moxibustion” as a therapeutic technique. Its origin comes from the term 针灸 (pinyin: zhēnjiǔ), which literally means Acupuncture (针) and Moxibustion (灸).
The term MOXA in Chinese is 艾条 (pinyin: ài tiáo). We already saw that the character 艾 refers to the actual Artemisia plant, while 条 means “product”, therefore ‘Moxa’ as the product made from the Artemisia plant.
It is said that the translation of the term into Western languages comes from the Japanese word “mogusa”, which is the term for Moxa used in Japan. This is because it was in Japan where the first Jesuit missionaries saw moxibustion.
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