One of the most important techniques available to the practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is the use of moxibustion (also called moxa). It is a method of utilizing burning herbs as a way to heat a point on the body. All the tools of the modern acupuncturist in one way or another stimulate the body to change. A needle is a stimulus that the body has to respond to. If done correctly the response to the stimulus helps the body to function better. Heat like a needle can provide the stimulus to cause change in the body.
As a stimulus heat in the technique of moxibustion tends to draw the attention and function of the body to be directed to the place where heat is applied. Acupuncture by contrast tends to move and disperse energy and function related to the point that is being stimulated. Moxibustion is particularly helpful in treating pain related to old achey injuries, particularly in the joints. Moxibustion is also used on various conditions that are defined by TCM as “cold conditions”. These may include poor digestion, infertility, impotence, and various types of low energy or weak immune system.
It is natural and feels good to apply heat in many situations when there is illness. The body naturally does this through fever, which is a way to use heat to overcome an infection. Many people find heating pads, saunas and hot tubs to be very therapeutic and relaxing. In moxibustion the intent is to direct the heat to precisely the areas that need it to help the body focus on healing that particular area.
There are many traditional and modern ways to apply heat to the body in a therapeutic way. The important component is a diagnosis that will determine how to most effectively apply heat for the greatest benefit.
In the modern clinic there are many tools that a practitioner can use to apply heat. The modern methods include various electric heaters, infrared heat lamps and lasers. The traditional methods include burning moxa directly on the skin, moxa on an acupuncture needle and in various heating devices used to heat an area or are used to massage heat into the muscles.
If you are interested in moxibustion therapy, it is best to seek out a nationally board certified Acupuncturist.