Chinese and Japanese style moxabustion, or moxa, has may applications in Chinese Medicine. Its an integral part of any authentic acupuncture practice. Moxabustion involves warming the acupuncture area/point with the processed leaves of Artemesia Vulgaris, wild Mugwort, a plant whose heat is steady, even, and pleasant. Mugwort is also a very spicy herb, so its “Qi” is considered very penetrating.
In western medicine Moxa it is considered a “counter-irritant,” but Moxa’s qualities go far beyond the topical counter irritants Western medicine is familiar with, like Menthol or Wintergreen…. We use moxa to warm points in several instances.
Moxabustion for Weakness:
Moxa for Inherent Constitutional Weakness
Moxa is most often used to Add Qi to the body for people with inherent constitutional weakness. These patients will have poor stregnth, weak immune systems, and tend to get cold easily, have weak voices, and dry skin. This corresponds, by the way, to the Vata dosha in Ayurvedic Medicine. You see this in chronic pain, digestive weakness, depression, some anxiety, people with low back pain, low sexual energy, and simply people who are naturally weak types. Further evidence of weakness are people who speak in a very low voice and cannot project their Qi outward.
Moxa for Weakness Acquired By Lifestyle
Weakness is also seen in cases where perfectly strong people have created weakness through “taxation” Taxation is what Chinese Medicine calls exhaustion from physical or mental work, poor sleep, or excessive exercise involving running. There is a long history of Long Distance runners developing Chronic Fatigue syndrome, see the case of American miler Marty Liquouri in the 1960s…
In males, taxation can also be seen in men who have exhausted themselve with too much sexual activity. Chinese medicine calls that “bedroom taxation!” Indeed, most men want to role over and nap post-orgasm, and, unlike cats and lions, male humans have really limited capacity there. In fact Chinese medicial “sexology:” texts recommend less ejaculation the older men are, something like once a day in youth to once a month by age 50. This of course depends on the relative stregnth of the individual.
The reason men can become exhausted by excessive ejaculation is hinted to by the Chinese word for sperm, Jing. In fact even in modern Chinese this is the exact same term as the medical term we use for the deepest level of energy in the body, Jing, translated as Essence in English. Jing, Qi and Shen are one way to describe a human in Chinese Medicine, essence, energy, consciousness. All structure of the body begins as essence, just as each of us began as sperm and egg.
While females in Chinese medicine are much more harmed by lack of orgasm than excessive orgasm (becuase orgasm circulates the Qi, and women do not lose a substance like sperm with orgasm) the corrollary in females to male exhaustion from loss of fluid is heavy bleeding with periods, excessive child bearing, and excessive breast feeding. Just as the male body manufactures energy dense sperm from the testes and prostate, the female body manufacture breast milk from its own blood, and babies from her own food and blood. Heavy bleeding in periods is very pathological and, indeed, one of the herbs used internally by mouth to stop heavy bleeding is, Artemesia Vulgaris!
So in these cases of Inate and Acquired Weakness, we actually ADD energy to the acupuncture channels (see below), because heat is an energy source, unlike needles. Other ways to add energy and restore what’s been lost is good sleep and restorative foods like Bone Broth made with Chinese herbal tonic medicines. This is why post pregnancy, just like post surgery, moxabustion and tonic soups are so valuable.
Moxa for Pain and Sports Injuries
Because moxa is spicy and warm it strongly “moves the Qi” . Qi is itself warm. So adding warmth helps move Qi. Spicy quality also moves qi, just like Wintergreen in liniments and Chiles in food. So in the milennia of use of Acupuncture and Moxabustion in the Martial Arts, moxa has been used to speed healing of bone breaks, ligament sprains and tendon strains or tears. It works so well because is both brings healing Qi to the injured area to promote laying down of new healthy tissue, and moves the Qi to flush inflammatory chemicals and fluids out of the area Together this speeds healing. Moxabustion is also used to relieve pain.
In the video attached, we have a ballerina with a fractured toe that healed incredibly well after only two treatments and adqueate rest.
Acupuncture versus Moxabustion
In fact, Acupuncture points are not truly points, that’s a western denomination that reflects the limited understanding of the first Europeans to learn acupucture in the 17th century…In fact they are “caves” or “springs” where the Qi-energy of the channels that flows deep in the body, just like the blood vessels and nerves do, rises to the surface. Its because the Qi rises to the surface at the Acupuncture “points” that we can influence the qi of particular vessels or channels..
What is the Difference between Acupuncture and Moxabustion (commonly shortened to Moxa)?
We can use Acupuncture needles primarily to “unblock Qi stagnation/stasis”. “Where there is pain and disease there is Qi stasis, where there is Qi stasis, pain and disease will develop” So when we place needle in the poin we unblock, akin to sweeping leaves out of the gutter that was blocking the flow of water from the rain…..What we are not doing is “adding” Qi to the body with needles.
Whereas Moxa, because it is heat, and heat is quite literally energy (think: the Sun) when we do Moxa we add energy to the body, especially when we do it on points on channels such as Zu San Li that are energy producing points on energy producing channels. Those channels are related to process of food and air into Qi and Blood, namely the Stomach and Lung channels…..
Another popular channel for Moxabustion is the Kidney channel where we restore what’s been lost by overexertion..This is because the Kidney Qi is the deepest level of energy in the boy, just as the Kidney’s physically are the densest and lowest of the solid organs. Its for this reason that the Kidneys are associated with the water element, whose color in Chinese is Black, like the depths of the ocean. And the Kidney Qi governs all Growth and Reproduction in the body, and is associated with the bones. On some level the corrollary in Ayurveda is Kapha dosha.