What is moxibustion therapy?
Moxibustion is a vital part of Chinese medicine. It utilises moxa, which is a soft wool-like substance composed of mugwort leaves. In moxibustion, moxa is either directly applied to the skin or suspended just above it, over carefully assigned meridians or acupuncture points. The herb is set alight and slowly smoulders, creating a therapeutic heat which enters the skin and alters the flow of Chi (energy) and blood in the body area where it is being applied.
Direct moxibustion is most commonly practised for regions that need treatment. The acupuncturist shapes the moxa into a small cone and places it directly onto the area of the body that requires treatment before lighting it. The lit cone of moxa is removed the moment the patient reports feeling a hot sensation.
The technique of moxibustion is highly specialised, and it demands skilled clinical judgement that can lead to it being contraindicated for some situations. The simplest way to ensure a acupuncturist you plan to see has the appropriate training is to visit a member of the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC).
There are direct and indirect methods of administering moxibustion treatment. Both have their pros and cons, and often the preference of the clinic or patient is the deciding factor.
Direct moxibustion involves direct contact with the skin. The patient relaxes on the treatment couch, whilst the acupuncturist lights the moxa. The warmth of the smouldering herbal wool is applied to the relevant acupoints, which are dependent on the patient's health condition.
Indirect moxibustion usually involves holding the smouldering moxa close to the skin to warm the acupoints. Sometimes a box is used, acting as a buffer between the smouldering stick and the patient's skin, but the aim is still to create deep warmth in the relevant areas.
How is moxibustion beneficial?
From a Western medicine perspective, there is no complete consensus as to the exact mechanisms of moxibustion therapy. Some theorise that it works in a similar way to heat-based therapies like steam rooms, heat packs and warming creams. In Chinese tradition, the system of acupoints and meridians is complex and based on the flow of Qi (chi) energy, and this is the basis for the proposed mechanisms within the practice.
What can moxibustion be good for?
With fire (yang) as the central element, moxibustion is most commonly used to dispel the stagnation of cold (yin) and conditions that this stagnation causes. Common problems in Western medicine that 'cold stagnation' covers include:
- Oversensitivity to the cold
- Slow digestion
- Weakened immune system
- Fluid retention
- Joint pain (like arthritis)
As with acupuncture, the healing powers of moxibustion have been demonstrated by a reasonable amount of clinical research. As the awareness of this ancient therapy increases, more studies will be undertaken to demonstrate its mechanisms.
If you have failed to see real results with other treatments, moxibustion may be just the treatment for you. Many people suffer from a variety of health issues that see little benefit from both conventional and other alternative therapies. If you haven't tried it already, the power of moxibustion is something a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine can offer for a wide range of problems. To find out more, speak to our team at London Acupunture Clinic today.