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June 08, 2009

Moxibustion - Must Read

  • What is Moxibustion?
  • Direct Moxibustion
  • Indirect Moxibustion
  • The integral part of acupuncture practice today
  • The Benefits of Direct Moxibustion
  • How to do Moxibustion
  • Principle of Health: Water Up & Fire Down
  • Breathing during Moxibustion
  • Frequently used moxibustion points
  • Examples of clinical effects

  • What is Moxibustion?
    Moxibustion (Moxa + combustion) is a heat application treatment on the acupuncture points with the use of a herb called "Moxa". Moxibustion's first textual reference dates back earlier than the first textual reference of acupuncture and it seems to have been around somewhat more than 2500 years. From ancient until modern times, some doctors specialized in moxibustion and treated their patients solely with moxa. Today, moxibustion is often combined with acupuncture.

    Direct Moxibustioin
    In moxibustion, usually a grain-size cone of moxa or dry yellow spongy substance made from a herbal plant "mugwort " is placed on the acupoints and lit with an incense stick. The burning moxa is then pinched out or taken away by the therapist before it burns down completely to the skin. The patient experiences a very comfortable sensation of heat that penetrates deep into the skin (Direct moxibustion).

    Direct moxibustion is a traditional technique considered to be very therapeutic. Much of the scientific study has been done on scarring direct moxibustion. The effectiveness of direct moxibustion particularly on immune function has been reported as early as 1927 by Dr. Shimetaro Hara, at the Kyushu University in Japan. In an attempt to prevent skin damage, some acupuncturists place a medium (slice of ginger, topical paste, etc.) between the skin and the burning moxa or extinguish the burning moxa just before it reaches the skin. The possible effect derived from this type of moxibustion (sometimes referred to as non-scarring direct moxibustion or categorized as indirect moxibustion) should not be considered the same as the scarring direct moxibustion since the main effect of direct moxibustion is considered to result from actual damage to the skin (thus stimulating the formation of special protein, immunological mediators resulting in a healing reaction). top

    Indirect Moxibustion
    Another popular way of using moxa is to burn a moxa cone on the head of inserted acupuncture needles, or use a cigar-type stick moxa to warm the acupuncture points at a distance (Indirect moxibustion). In indirect moxibustion, a practitioner lights one end of a moxa stick (roughly the shape and size of a cigar) and holds it an inch or two away from the skin, usually around the inserted needles to bring mild warmth to the area without burning, until the skin becomes slightly red. The practitioner monitors the heat level, and communicates with the patient to provide a therapeutic level of heat while maintaining their comfort and safety. Indirect moxa is considered to induce a gradual localized vasodilatation response. In addition to increasing the local blood flow, skillful indirect moxibustion is extremely comforting and can create a deep relaxation response.

    Because of the difference of quality and processing of moxa between Japan and China, Japanese acupuncturists in general prefer direct moxibustion while Chinese therapists do indirect moxibustion, especially stick moxa. It requires a great deal of training for a therapist to master the direct moxibustion techniques, but it is much more effective than indirect moxibustion.top

    The integral part of acupuncture practice today
    Up until this century, before the advancement of 'modern medicine', the patient population consisted of many people with acute life threatening illnesses such as serious infection, systemic inflammation, and communicable diseases. These illnesses are typically 'heat syndrome' in traditional Chinese medicine terms manifested by noticeably high fever.

    Today, patient populations are quite different compared to in the past. Most patients are those who have chronic pain conditions, functional disorders, or a variety of stress related illnesses. In the majority of those chronic conditions, the patients have a cold constitution. Even some patients who appear to be manifesting heat, really have underlying chronic cold in their system which creates the heat-syndrome-like symptoms as their body tries to balance.

    A cold constitution is triggered or aggravated by over cooling of our body systems. Due to technological advancement, we are exposing our systems to cold of a much higher magnitude than in the past. Two such examples, both of which did not exist in the past, are wide spread use of refrigerators and air conditioners in almost every office and household. Many people are regularly drinking a large amount of icy cold beverages and their favorite ice cream. Air conditioners certainly make our lives more comfortable in hot summer days and nights, however we are then exposed to cold winds not only in winter but year-round. Unlike in the past, cold constitutions are not commonly seen in the cold climate regions only, but anywhere in the modern world including the southern tropics. Furthermore, it should also be noted that many pharmaceutical drugs including common over the counter pain medications are known to decrease body temperature. Other common causes of cold constitution are large consumption of fruits and raw vegetables and ongoing mental/emotional stress.

    More so than in the past, people today are in fact having a cold constitution based on eastern medical diagnosis. The burning of moxa is believed to expel cold and to warm the meridians, leading to the smoother flow of blood and qi.

    The herb Ai Ye (mugwort) in Chinese medicine has the function of penetrating and opening all twelve regular acupuncture channels, so as that qi and blood can flow smoothly and that the circulation is reactivated. In addition to that, moxa has a warming effect, adding heat to the body in order to warm body parts which feel cold or which become sore and painful in the cold.

    In Chinese medicine, pain is regarded as non-free flow of qi and blood. If, by way of applying moxibustion, heat is added to the body and the channels are opened, then qi and blood will flow smoothly and uninhibited again and pain or other signs of cold subside.

    Therefore, moxibustion is a terrific and effective therapy for any problem that is of chronic nature or that becomes worse during cold weather. Arthritis which is aggravated by cold and damp weather, frozen shoulders, or chronic and long-term backaches are only a few examples. However, moxibustion is not limited to such musculoskeletal diseases. Diarrhea can often be cured instantly by burning moxa on salt in the belly button and, even more noteworthy, a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has shown that acupuncture was reasonably effective in turning breech position children during their 33rd to 35th week.

    Moxibustion has been used in tandem with acupuncture to treat a variety of diseases throughout Asia for thousands of years. In fact, the actual Chinese character for what we routinely call acupuncture is Zhen Jiu (or Shin Kyu in Japanese), translated literally, it means "needle-moxibustion." Moxibustion, which is so integral to the original concepts of acupuncture has not been taught in depth in the Western acupuncture education and training system. Thus, a number of practitioners today practice acupuncture using the needling method only. Using one without the other is like playing the piano with just one hand.top

    The Benefits of Direct Moxibustion
    Moxibustion in general has more or less the same efficacy as acupuncture. However, medical experiments have shown that moxibustion exerts much wider and stronger effect on overall biochemical changes in the body than acupuncture. For example:

    (1) It increases the production of white blood cells.
    The white blood cell count begins to increase immediately after direct moxibustion, and reaches a peak 8 hours later. This peak is maintained for 24 hours. The number remains elevated for four or five days after treatment. The white blood cell count almost doubles with moxibustion, but when applied continuously for six weeks, the increase is sustained for up to even three months after moxibustion is discontinued.

    (2) It increases the produciton of red blood cells and haemoglobin.
    For subjects who had an average haemoglobin ratio of 78% just before direct moxibustion, the ratio increased steadily to reach a peak of 90% in eight weeks. Applying direct moxibustion continuously for 15 weeks, it takes 22 weeks for the red blood cell count to return to what it used to be before moxibustion. It also shows a substantial increase in the following blood components: the sedimentation rate of red blood cells, platelet count, the speed of blood coagulation, blood calcium, blood glucose count and the capacity to produce antibodies.

    (3) It improves the overall blood and lymph circulations.
    Due to rather intense heat of burning moxa on acupoints, impulses from nerve endings of the skin cause the dilation of capillaries ( the smallest vessels) to increase the blood and lymph circulations in the entire body. In fact it is well known that the patient feels very warm, relaxed and sleepy from this effect after moxibustion treatment. People who suffer from constant circulation or "cold feeling" in the hands and feet can greatly benefit from moxibustion.

    (4) It is more effective for internal chronic ailments than acupuncture.
    Because of stronger effects on the overall biochemical changes, especially in blood components and immune system, moxibustion is much more effective for various chronic diseases of internal organs. From my clinical experiences of over 25 years, I can say that acupuncture can be a better choice for the treatment of rather acute cases or when the ailment is still in early stage.

    (5) It is a safer treatment than acupuncture and can be used as a home therapy.
    Both acupuncture and moxibustion must be practiced by licensed medical professionals. However, since moxibustion is a much safer method than acupuncture, it has been widely used as a very handy and effective folk remedy for centuries in Asia. Especially in Japan, various new types of moxa for home treatment are available on the market now. You can use moxa not only for the treatment of specific ailments but also for continuously maintaining good health.

    How to do Moxibustion
    There are two kinds of moxibustion: direct and indirect moxibustion. During direct moxibustion, treatment is applied directly onto the skin. Indirect moxibustion includes placing a thin insulation layer on the skin surface before burning. Alternatively, a moxa-roll is used to apply heat about 1/2 to 1 inch above the skin. Here, we introduce the direct method as it is the simplest.

    Step #1. Place moxa between left thumb and index finger, rolling moxa gently into a cone shape.

    Step #2. With right thumb and index finger, pull a little of the rolled moxa - half the size of a rice grain - off the top.

    Step #3. Moisten the surface of your left thumbnail with water or saliva. Place the moxa cone in your right hand on top of your left thumbnail where it is moistened.

    Step #4. Now, place the moxa cone on the desired healing point. Light the moxa cone using a burning incense stick.

    Step #5. While the moxa cone is burning, apply gentle pressure around the area with your finger tips to distract from discomfort or pain.

    Repeat this procedure five times on the same healing point. Place the next moxa cone on top of the ashes of the previous one. After the first two times, you may skip steps 3 & 4 of moistening the moxa cone before placing it on the point. After five repetitions, gently wipe away the ashes with a clean cloth.top

    Principle of Health: Water Up & Fire Down
    There are two kinds of energies in the body; warm fire energy and cold water energy. When the body is in balance and optimal health is achieved, water energy is located in the head and fire energy is maintained in the abdomen. This state is called Su-Seung-Hwa-Kang.
    'Su' means 'water,' 'Seung' means 'to go up,' 'Hwa' means 'fire' and 'Kang' means 'to come down.' Su-Seung-Hwa-Kang expresses the principle that water energy must go up and fire energy must come down.

    There are many examples in nature of water moving up and fire moving down. For example, when radiant heat (fire) from the sun reaches the ocean, water evaporates, creating vapor that rises up to form clouds. The rain then falls back to the earth. This system of 'fire down' and 'water up' creates the continuous circulation of moisture throughout the planet.

    Another example from nature is the process of photosynthesis in plants. Every plant receives 'fire energy' coming down from the sun and the plants’ roots pull the water energy up from the earth. With the combination of 'fire down' and 'water up', the plant processes sunlight and water in order to flower and bear fruit. When the plants lose the power to take the water up in winter, the opposite state of Su-Seung-Hwa-Kang occurs. The leaves and fruit fall and a major activity of life is ceased.

    This principle also applies to human beings. In the state of Su-Seung-Hwa-Kang, the water energy in the kidneys goes up and the fire energy in the heart comes down. The upward flow of water energy makes the brain cool and fresh and the downward flow of fire energy keeps the abdomen warm. In this state, the body's system of energy circulation automatically functions well to maintain optimal health and peace of mind.

    If energy flow is reversed with fire energy going up and water energy coming down, the head becomes hot and stuffy and the body tires easily. The mouth dries up and will have a bitter taste. The heart will have an irregular heartbeat. In this condition, the shoulders and neck will become very stiff and one might feel tired and anxious. This is the state that occurs when people are stressed.

    The key concept behind health management in Human Technology lies in recovering the balance of water and fire which controls the regulation of life.

    Breathing during Moxibustion
    In the beginning, you might feel a little anxious about burning moxa on your body. Focusing on your breath during moxibustion will help you experience a pleasant sense of relaxation as heat enters your body and promotes blood flow. Relax your body. Slowly inhale, and then exhale. Breathe naturally without forcing your breath. Once your breath deepens, focus on your exhale. When you think you've completely exhaled all the air in your lungs, continue to exhale as you count to five. You will reach a deeper state of relaxation as you continue with this breath cycle.top

    Frequently used moxibustion points
    Note: It might be easier to have another person help you locate some of these points.

    From both ear holes, draw two imaginary lines up to the top of the head until they meet. Then, draw an imaginary line from the tip of the nose straight up to the top of the head. The Baek-hwe is located where the three lines intersect, at the crown of the head.

    Effective for: headaches, weakness from stroke, poor memory, hemorrhoids, and poor hearing.

    Pae-yu (BL13)
    Find the groove between the 3rd and 4th thoracic vertebrae. From this groove, walk your fingers directly across towards the shoulder blade. Pae-yu is located exactly halfway between the groove on the spine and the shoulder blade. Find the corresponding point on the other side of the body

    Effective for: tuberculosis, pneumonia, indigestion, and chronic coughing.

    Go-hwang (BL43)
    Find the groove between the 4th and 5th thoracic vertebrae. From this groove, walk your fingers directly across towards the shoulder blade. Go-hwang is located where you meet the shoulder blade. Find the corresponding point on the other side of the body.

    Effective for: stress-related conditions, night sweating, loss of appetite, and chronic diseases (i.e. diabetes).

    Joong-wahn (CV11)
    Joong-wahn is located exactly halfway between the navel and the bottom of the sternum.

    Effective for: high blood pressure, stomach aches, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation.

    Ki-hae (CV6), Gwan-won (CV4)
    Divide the area from the navel to the top of the pubis into 5 evenly spaced sections and mark each point. There should be 4 points between the pubis and navel. Ki-hae is located exactly halfway between the 1st and 2nd points. “Gwan-won” is located on the 3rd point.

    Ki-hae is effective for: infertility and kidney problems.
    Kwan-won is effective for: premature ejaculation, impotence, hemorrhoids, and incontinence.

    Joong-geuk (CV3)
    Divide the area from the navel to the top of the pubis into 5 evenly spaced sections and mark each point. There should be 4 points between the pubis and navel. Joong-geuk is located at the 4th point

    Effective for: infertility, reproductive diseases, and weak bladder.

    Soo-doh (ST28)
    Trace down a vertical line from the nipple until you reach the same level as the 3rd point marked between the navel. Soo-doh is located exactly halfway between this imaginary point in alignment with the nipple line and the 3rd point. Find the corresponding point on the other side of the body.

    Effective for: irregular menstruation constipation, infertility, swelling of limbs, and kidney problems.

    Gok-ji (LI11)
    Straighten out the arm with the palm facing down. Gok-ji is located near the elbow where the muscle bulges out the most, near the end of the crease. Find the corresponding point on the other arm.

    Effective for: weak intestines, migraines, numbness in shoulders or arms, and reproductive diseases.

    Jok-sam-lee (ST36)
    Place the pads of four fingers under the knee cap. Jok-sam-lee is located below the fingers, one thumb width on the outside of the shinbone where there is a slight depression. Find the corresponding point on the other leg.

    Effective for: high blood pressure, weak limbs, dizziness, and recovery from stroke. (Considered best point for overall health.)

    Sam-eum-gyo (SP6)
    Place the pads of four fingers on the ankle bone (the bone that sticks out on the inner side of the ankle). Sam-eum-gyo is located four finger pads up from the ankle bone at the depression just under the shin bone.

    Effective for: reproductive diseases, irregular menstruation, infertility, uterine contractions, and hemorrhage.top

    Examples of clinical effects

    How Does Moxibustion Work Scientifically?

    Moxibustion and Cancer

    Moxibustion, Chemotherapy or Radiation and Cancer

    Study on Antitumor of Moxibustion


    Changes in peripheral lymphocyte subpopulations after direct moxibustion

    Clinical effects and immune regulation of musk-moxa-string therapy in 39 patients with scrofula

    A study on the clinical effect and immunological mechanism in the treatment of Hashimoto's thyroiditis by moxibustion

    Moxibuxtion Testimonials

    Acupoints for Cancer Patients

    Refer to Japaneseacupuncture.ca, acupropress.com, standingpost.com, healingplaza.com top