Chinese medicine is both a medical system as well as an entire philosophy based on ancient and modern theories of seeing the human body as a reflection and a part of the rest of nature and our environment. This profound medicine has been in existence for over 2000 years and its development continues today with research and clinical experience continuing to shape the practice in China, the United States, and elsewhere.
Acupuncture is just one part of Chinese medicine which also includes moxibustion, herbal medicine, cupping, gua sha, massage, nutrition, and medical martial arts including Qi Gong and Tai Chi. Acupuncture itself is the practice of inserting extremely fine needles into specific acupuncture points along bio-energetic pathways called meridians or channels. These acupuncture channels traverse all areas of our bodies from our limbs to our internal organs. When an acupuncturist stimulates these acupuncture points, it helps to strengthen the body as well as triggering the flow of qi or energy through the body.
Moxibustion is the practice of burning an herb called mugwort to facilitate healing. Moxa (mugwort) can be administered either directly on the skin or indirectly without touching the surface of the skin. In my practice, I mainly use smokeless moxa sticks in order to eliminate the smoke allergens in my office. Much like acupuncture, moxa is used to both boost areas that need nourishing and move qi or blood that is stagnant in the body. The added benefit to moxa is its ability to warm areas that are cold. This can be especially beneficial in a place like Portland, Oregon where the weather is often both cold and damp leading to cold and damp in our own bodies.
Moxibustion has been practiced in China for at least as long as acupuncture. The Chinese character for acupuncture includes the symbol for moxibustion and the word for acupuncture in Chinese is Zhen Jiu. Zhen translates as needles and Jiu translates as moxibustion or fire. Moxibustion is a treatment that is considered as essential as acupuncture in Chinese medicine.