Acupuncture and moxibustion help invigorate the spleen and stomach, strengthen yang, and ward off the cold through puncturing or burning specific herbs over acupoints. These techniques make a critical part of traditional Chinese medicine therapy, potent for treating many diseases such as waist pain, gout, stroke, and rhinitis with almost no side effects, which are relatively safer.

Mechanisms of Acupuncture and Moxibustion

Acupuncture requires the therapist to insert filigrees (needles) into the patient’s skin at a specific angle guided by Chinese medicine theory, and apply manipulations such as lifting, thrusting, and twirling to stimulate a particular part of the body and dredge meridians.

The point where the needle is inserted is an acupoint. There are over three hundred acupoints in the human body, and the selection of acupoints depends on the type of disease.

Moxibustion means to burn and fume certain herbs or herb sticks above acupoints to exert warm stimulations. Due to the primary use of moxa, it is also named Ai Jiu. Apart from Ai Jiu, there are other options such as moxibustions using a mulberry branch, rush, or wicker, indirect moxibustion, etc.

Functions of Acupuncture and Moxibustion

To dredge the meridians

Many diseases of the human body are often caused by the obstructions of the meridians.

When the meridians are blocked, the body may experience symptoms such as swelling, numbness, pain, or ecchymosis. Acupuncture and moxibustion can help clear the meridians so that qi and blood could run properly.

To tonify the spleen and stomach

The spleen and stomach are acquired foundations of the human body. If there’s any problem with one’s digestive function, it’s going to affect the overall health conditions.

The human spleen is fond of dryness and reverses to dampness. Once invaded by dampness and pathogen, the digestive system will be easily affected.

Acupuncture and moxibustion, if applied in summer to strengthen the spleen and stomach, can invigorate the spleen and resolve dampness, which can help keep away symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal pain, and distension.

To strengthen yang and dispel cold

In dry seasons, in addition to the high incidence of respiratory diseases, yang deficiency and neck, shoulder, waist, and leg pain are also very common.

Yin qi is rather strong in winter, and diseases due to the cold and pathogen in winter could not be eliminated in the very season until next summer when the yang qi in the body is full again.

When carried out on the summer solstice, acupuncture and moxibustion can stimulate or activate the meridian qi in the body, which could help cure or prevent diseases.

Moxibustion therapy has a history of over 2000 years in China and was the often-preferred treatment for serious diseases in ancient times. Nowadays, moxibustion is not only used to treat serious diseases but common diseases, and it’s very helpful in preventing diseases and maintaining health. Moxibustion is very common and there are records of it being widely applied in History of the Southern Dynasties. There are about fifty to sixty kinds of moxibustion methods.

Benefits and Efficacy of Moxibustion

Moxibustion provides warm stimulations that go through the meridians and acupoints to prevent or cure diseases through the heat it creates when burned. It is easy to perform and convenient. The primary function of moxibustion are as follows:

1) Warming the meridians and dispelling cold – it involves heat, with which those with cold are treated.

2) Supporting yang and stopping collapses – it could heal diseases such as enuresis, metrorrhagia, chronic diarrhea, and chronic dysentery that are associated with the severe situation of yang qi subsidence.

3) Reducing swelling, dissipating and resolving stasis, and activating blood – qi commands blood. Qi will flow when the meridians and vessels are warmed and cleared, and qi flow promotes blood transportation.

4) Preventing diseases and maintaining health – popular folkways of doing moxibustion to maintain health, such as performing over acupoints like Qihai, Guanyuan, Mingmen, Zhongwan, Zusanli, can activate healthy qi in the body, increase the capacity to resist diseases, and energize the body.

Can you use moxibustion every day?

1) If moxibustion is used daily for a long period, it may cause symptoms like dry mouth, dry throat, and dry eyes, which indicate fire or yin deficiency. Therefore, it is not necessary to do it every day.

2) Use moxibustion 2-3 times per week (once every other day), or every two days within a time range of 20 – 30 minutes. Moxa sticks should be kept away from the skin for 3-5 cm. During the process, it is sufficient to feel a slight heat or pain in the designated area, but not to feel very hot. If you feel burned or tingled, it may lead to burns.

3) For some elderly patients with severe qi and blood deficiency, they can choose to do moxibustion every day with a general duration of 7 – 10 days, after which the frequency should be changed to every other day or every two days.

Precautions for moxibustion

  • The time for moxibustion varies depending on individual situations.
  • Moxibustion over each acupoint is usually about 15 minutes (or a bit longer).
  • Avoid applying moxibustion over special or sensitive parts of the body or to people with special cases, and attention should be paid to the dosage, frequency, and keeping warm.
  • Drink a glass of warm water before and after moxibustion to stay hydrated and alleviate dryness in the mouth.
  • Moxibustion can dispel colds and treat certain chronic diseases such as uterine cold, arthritis, and rheumatism.
  • During moxibustion, it is not recommended to ingest cold water or food; areas where moxibustion is performed should be covered afterward.
  • After moxibustion, try to avoid immediate baths or showers, cold water, wind, or cold air from air-conditioning.

Discharge Reaction to Moxibustion

The discharge reaction to moxibustion may occur during or after treatment, and the symptoms vary from person to person. Generally, there will be soreness, numbness, swelling, and pain in the corresponding meridians, and there could also be blisters, macula, and itchiness in corresponding areas. Common discharge reactions to moxibustion could manifest locally or all over the body.

Local reactions
  • Blistering: as the body might dispel cold from within after moxibustion, there may be blisters or pustules forming but usually without obvious symptoms. After the blisters burst, be careful not to have water over the ruptured areas. Taking measures of disinfection could facilitate wound healing.
  • Itching: the skin could be itchy after moxibustion, which could be caused by cold reaching the body surface. Avoid scratching to prevent skin damage. The itchiness will lessen after repeated moxibustion.
  • Macula: some patients may have red macula over their bodies, an indication of having excessive cold and dampness in the body or blockage of the meridians. Generally, no measures need to be taken, for the macula will gradually disappear after repeated moxibustion.
Reactions over the body
  • Fire: the heat generated by the burning moxa stimulates the meridians to promote the circulation of qi and blood in the body, which will help discharge bad qi that brings one discomfort. When the circulation of qi and blood accelerates, the patient may experience “fire,” having symptoms like red and swollen gums and dry mouth. Some will become irascible after moxibustion, which usually resolves itself after a while.
  • Others: a patient could also experience fatigue, dizziness, doziness, increased gas, foul defecation, diarrhea, and sweating, which are all normal reactions. Normally, the physical conditions will improve when the discharge reactions lessen.

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