Moxibustion is an ancient Chinese medicine treatment that involves burning moxa, an herb believed to facilitate healing. It is a type of external treatment based on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) theory and usually bakes acupuncture points with burnt moxa wool. This technique can be used alone or in combination with acupuncture; the Chinese character for acupuncture means “acupuncture-moxibustion”. Moxibustion can dredge meridians and regulate blood qi, and has been used to prevent and cure diseases for more than 2500 years.
The moxa is placed directly on the skin that covers an acupuncture point or on the end of an acupuncture needle and is burned. If placed on the end of an inserted acupuncture needle, the patient feels a soft, pleasant warmth, and it is believed that this heat can penetrate deep into the body, strengthening the qi and energizing the system. A common form of moxa is Chinese mugwort, a dried herb. Because of the strong characteristic odor of mugwort and the smoke it produces, some practitioners prefer the use of smokeless moxa.
Most Eastern societies teach acupuncture and moxibustion through teacher-disciple relationships or clan members. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the use of moxibustion in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome revealed 20 randomized controlled trials. A total of 240 people were randomly selected to receive active treatment (acupuncture plus moxibustion) or to be assigned to the observation group. The risk of bias in the included studies was high, but it suggests that moxibustion combined with acupuncture may be more effective than pharmacological treatment, but no additional benefit was seen when moxibustion was added to pharmacological or herbal medications compared to those treatments alone.
Indirect moxibustion involves placing a moxa rod close to the skin until the area turns red, or inserting an acupuncture needle, wrapping it in moxa and turning it on until the desired warming effect is achieved. In direct moxibustion therapy, it can burn at an acupuncture point and leave it to burn completely once ignited, or it extinguishes before it burns the skin. If you're pregnant, be sure to tell your acupuncturist before treatment so you can use moxibustion with caution, if you do. If you already receive acupuncture, ask your acupuncturist if he does moxibustion or if he can recommend a trusted professional to do it.
Existing scientific evidence on the use of moxibustion to treat inflammation of the intestine is inconclusive. Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese medicine therapeutic method and is commonly used in conjunction with acupuncture. The heat combined with the powerful healing properties of mugwort gives moxibustion a proven advantage. Therefore, if you are looking for an alternative form of healing that has been used for centuries, consider trying out moxibustion.