Moxibustion is one of the most commonly used healing methods in traditional Chinese medicine (some simply call it Moxa). It involves the burning of mugwort as a main herb to strength the blood and the flow of Qi, which are the basis for the health of the human body. The Moxa is burned either directly or indirectly on the skin to facilitate the healing.
In the direct method, Moxa is placed and burned directly on the skin, which often scars the skin as a result. It is not unusual for a patient to experience burns and the pain in the process. Therefore this type of practice is becoming less common.
The indirect method of burning the Moxa is the preferred method of Traditional Chinese Herbalists, because of the lower risk of injury. A patient experiences a pleasant warm sensation running throughout the body and still greatly benefits from the indirect method without experiencing the pain and the burns. Traditionally, mugwort is rolled into a shape of a cigar (picture 1). And one end of the stick is lit before an herbalist holds it right above the area being treated for as long as necessary.
Over the years many Moxibustion tools have been made available for both practitioners and individuals. Some of the tools are designed in the way an individual can perform Moxibustion on himself without the risk of burning himself. They are especially beneficial for those who wants to make Moxibustion a part of their regular health regimen at home because of the ease of use. One particular type is called Moxa rolling pin (picture 2). This tool holds the burning Moxa stick inside at certain distance without making a contact with metal parts. When the tool is pressed against the skin, the heat from the Moxa is transferred to the skin through the pin and the smoke is directly applied to the skin as well. Though this tool doesn’t allow you to directly target the pressure point, it enables you to reach the area (i.e. your back) without worrying about burning your skin. It also provides therapeutic massaging effects when the pin is rolled against the area. Juliana encourages many of her patients to practice Moxibustion using this tool. (Moxa sticks and tools are available at www.hensenherbs.com/store.)
For some very ill patients who require greater care, Juliana offers Moxibustion treatment (in addition to herb prescription) using a more sophisticated tool and method called “Thermie” developed by Dr. Ito of Japan in 1929. This set of tools (picture 3) allows her to cover the area much more efficiently. And it also enables her to apply the pressure accurately and effectively to the pressure points while the heat and smoke from the Moxa penetrates deep into the skin (picture 4).
The exact ingredients of this proprietary Moxa stick (picture 5) has been kept secret since the invention. However, the effectiveness of this Moxibustion method has been well known to the practitioners and their patients for many years in Japan. Whether this particular method has been scientifically proven or not is unknown, but the theory surrounding it explains why it is beneficial to the health: When the heat from the Moxa penetrates the cells, it increases the flow of the blood and the lymph. This also results in the increase of lymphocytes, which is the one of the components of white blood cells. It is not hard to understand the good blood circulation is critical for the health, but the importance of maintaining the good flow of lymph is not well known.
So if you understand the functions of lymph in our system, you will know how important it is to our health. Some of the functions of lymph are: Transport oxygen, food material, hormones to the body cells and brings carbon dioxide and other wastes from the body cell to blood stream for elimination, keeps body cells moist, carries lymphocytes produced in lymph nodes, destroys the invading microorganisms in the lymph nodes, and maintains the volume of the blood to name just a few of the most important ones. The theory also further explains that Moxibustion also helps improve the function of parasympathetic nervous system; it governs and stimulates the digestive system, salivation, tears, sexual arousal, urination and bowel movement.
One of the practitioners of this method in Japan with many years of experience once said to Juliana, “With repeated treatment, it can rejuvenate and revive the dying cells and bring health back to the system.” There is no proof that their proprietary Moxa stick is any better than the ones widely available. However, it is hard to argue that the “Thermie” method works much more efficiently and distributes the heat throughout the body and targets the important pressure points most effectively.