Moxibustion is part of traditional Chinese medicine. Similarly to acupuncture, moxibustion involves stimulation of the same acupuncture points, but unlike in acupuncture, in moxibustion, stimulation is done by the means of heat, rather than a needle. Traditionally, moxibustion has been done using the same herb, moxa or mugwort or, officially, Artemisia vulgaris. When the plant matures, it is harvested, dried, and then ground into a coarse powder. Oftentimes, it is not even powder, and bits and pieces of leaves and stems can be seen with a naked eye. Dried mugwort is coarsely ground for a purpose, however, so the herb can be shaped into cones of various sizes, making it easier to use in the clinic in different situations and various conditions. What is so special about this herb is that it burns slowly and holds the heat for a long while.
Similarly to acupuncture, moxibustion can be used to treat almost anything. Moxibustion, Chinese medicine’s subdivision, follows the same principles of balancing internal organ activities and can treat any condition that is a result of that imbalance. In fact, the same system of points and channels is used for moxibustion and acupuncture, and the moxibustion methodology works on every physiological system of the body (digestive, respiratory, reproductive, musculoskeletal, and the others), but the greatest difference is in the nature of the procedure. Since what moxibustion therapy essentially does is warming up specific points and areas, it is more effective in the treatment of chronic conditions that are associated with deficient organ functions.
At the same time, some Japanese practitioners specialize in moxibustion exclusively, but they do not usually specialize in the treatment of specific types of disorders; they treat everything. Similar to most other methods, moxibustion becomes increasingly more effective in experienced hands. And the more practitioners use moxibustion in their practice, the more effective it can be. But the reality is, a muscle spasm, for instance, can be relieved in seconds using acupuncture needles, while moxibustion would take minutes. (There are moxibustion techniques that can bring results faster, but they usually leave scars.) But if a patient suffers from, say, chronic bronchitis, then moxibustion can improve lung and other involved organs faster than acupuncture, although the number of sessions would be somewhere between six and twenty. Either method can work quicker, however, if practitioners adjust their treatment strategy in point selection and stimulation. Research has shown that moxibustion can be even more effective for the treatment of certain conditions, such as hypertension or osteoarthritis, for example, if it is used in conjunction with other therapies. Moxibustion blends perfectly with other TCM modalities—for instance, it is often used with acupuncture in the technique known as the warming needle—but it also works well with pharmacological methods, physical therapy, meditation, homeopathy, and many others. Most Chinese and western TCM practitioners nowadays typically combine several modalities for achieving the best results.
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