Principles of Moxibustion (灸法要領)

In moxibustion moxa floss (艾絨) made from mugwort leaves — a plant of the Compositae family – is placed on specific acupoints and ignited using a variety of methods. The intention is to treat illnesses through direct or indirect application of heat stimulation, the effects of which are dispersed through the main and collateral channels.  “Shenjiu Jinglun” (神灸經論) written in the Qing Dynasty explains the process in this way, “In moxibustion fire is utilized.  The characteristic of fire is “heat” and it works speedily.  Using an element that is hard and firm on a soft and yielding body enables the dissipation of yin blockages.  The heat generated does not stay on the surface; rather, it enters the internal organs.  The moxa cone is used to open up the twelve meridians, enter the three yang meridians and adjust the energy and blood.  It is an easy and convenient treatment for over a hundred illnesses.”  This sums up the characteristics and effects of moxibustion as a treatment.

Moxibustion can also be used for the prevention of illnesses.  According to medical records and treatment records, moxibustion can stimulate the functions of the internal organs, accelerate the process of metabolism, and elevate the body’s immunity.  Use of health-maintaining moxibustion long-term is beneficial to both the body and the mind.  It will raise the energy level, prevent illness and extend one’s life.  Moxibustion can be used to adjust the blood pressure, breathing, the pulse, heart rate, the nervous system and the blood vessels.  It can lower cholesterol levels, lower the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (血沉沉降速率), and is effective for adjusting the blood sugar level, blood calcium levels and the functions of the endocrine system (內分泌系統).

Acupuncture and moxibustion are both performed at the acupoints along the main and collateral channels.  They are often used together because they share certain similarities.  However, it must be pointed out that moxibustion is unique in its own way and cannot be replaced by acupuncture.  In the past, many outstanding physicians were specialists in moxibustion, and they were valued on a par with acupuncturists.  “Lingshu Jing” (靈樞經) states, “Where the needle cannot work, moxibustion is the preferred therapy.”  It is clear, therefore, that in some instances, moxibustion is superior to acupuncture.

The characteristic of moxibustion is that it can suppress the over-active functions, as well as stimulate functions that are in decline, so that the state of natural balance is restored.  Moxibustion is a benign form of stimulation for the human body.  It is useful for strengthening the body, and can be used both for treatment and for maintaining health.  It is particularly useful for treating feeble children and stimulating growth in them.  There is a wide range of uses for moxibustion.

Although in some cases, moxibustion is associated with minor pain that results from ignition on the skin, but, unlike acupuncture, it is non-invasive.  For this reason, as a treatment method, it is easy to promote as it can be easily accepted by most people.

The ancients considered moxibustion an important form of therapy.  Medical records show that prolonged use of moxibustion in cases of serious illnesses was common.  The reasons it is used less as a treatment are first, the burning of the moxa in a room may be seen as trouble; second, some patients are unwilling to accept the pain from the slight scorching; and third, the effects are slow to become obvious.  It is unfortunate that this efficacious traditional treatment is going into a slow decline.  Moxibustion is often effective where needles and medicines do not work well.  It is a study that is worth one’s time.