Moxibustion is the ancient art of stimulating acupressure points with heat by burning a dried herb, usually mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris or moxa). Practitioners often use moxibustion for conditions such as low back pain, stiff neck and frozen shoulder.
Today, moxibustion is carried out in various ways. Moxa is processed into a wooly material which is made into small cones. These are then placed on the end of an inserted acupuncture needle and burned, gently warming the needle and the acupuncture point. This method can be particularly effective for arthritis and joint paint.
Alternatively, the moxa cone is placed directly on to the skin over the appropriate acupuncture point. The tip of the cone is then lit but extinguished once heat is felt.
The safest form of moxibustion involves burning pre rolled, cigar like sticks of moxa and holding them close to, but not touching, the skin to warm an acupuncture point. Acupuncturists often teach this method to people with chronic conditions so they can use it safely as a self help technique.
By manipulating very fine needles inserted at precisely defined points, an acupuncturist hopes to restore the body to its natural state of harmony and well being.
A typical acupuncture needle is made of stainless steel and, occasionally, silver or gold. It is about one inch long, with the same length of grip. The needle is solid and has a rounded end, rather than the cutting edge of the modern hypodermic needle.
The rounded end of the needle gently parts, rather than cuts, the flesh as it is inserted and the procedure is painless. Acupuncture needles are either disposable or are rigorously sterilized between individual treatments.
Western Style of Acupuncture
Various new forms of the therapy have been developed in the west, including electrical and laser stimulation of the acupuncture points. Machines have been designed that are; it is claimed, able to measure electrical currents along the meridians and to identify the best points for the treatment of specific condition.
These have become quite popular, especially in some European countries, and versions for self help home use are also available. It is questionable if this is truly effective without the expertise of a trained therapist.
Many people who have experienced both the traditional and the western forms of acupuncture feel that the introduction of technology into the process shows that, once again, western medicine is missing the point.
Healing is about the relationship between the healer and the healed, and technology, however, sophisticated, frequently gets in the way of this.
Auricular acupuncture is based on the theory that specific points on the ear correspond to specific internal organs of the body. Tiny metallic studs are pressed on the points and held in place with an adhesive bandage.