Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves the burning of mugwort, a small, spongy herb, to facilitate healing. It is a form of fire heat treatment that stimulates specific acupuncture points of the body.
According to practitioners, the heat generated during moxibustion helps increase the flow of vital energy (also known as “qi” or “chi”) throughout the body via certain pathways (known as “meridians”). In traditional Chinese medicine, stimulating the flow of chi is considered essential to achieving health and wellness. In fact, physical and mental health problems are thought to develop (in part) as a result of blockages in the flow of chi.
This technique is also based upon the theory of 12 standard meridians in the human body, which are divided into ying/yang groups. In this therapy, mugwort herb is used to burn certain points in the body to alleviate the disease. It can involve direct burning of body points or indirect transmission of heat through heating acu-needles with mugwort. The mugwort is aged and ground to a fluff, which is then burnt or processed into a stick.
There are two types of moxibustion: direct and indirect.
In direct moxibustion, a small, cone-shaped amount of Ai Ye is placed on top of an acupuncture point and burned. The moxa is placed on the point and lit, but is extinguished or removed before it burns the skin. The patient will experience a pleasant heating sensation that penetrates deep into the skin, but should not experience any pain, blistering or scarring unless the mugwort is left in place for too long. A medium can be placed between the skin and mugwort, such as salt, ginger or garlic to change the aspects of the treatment.
It is the more popular use of moxibustion because there is a much lower risk of pain or burning. In indirect moxibustion, a practitioner lights one end of a moxa stick, roughly the shape and size of a cigar made with mugwort, and holds it close to the area being treated for several minutes until the area turns red. Another form of indirect moxibustion uses both acupuncture needles and moxa. A needle is inserted into an acupoint and retained. The tip of the needle is then wrapped in mugwort and ignited, generating heat to the point and the surrounding area. After the desired effect is achieved, the mugwort is extinguished and the needle(s) removed.