Acupuncture and Moxibustion
(Zhen jiu 針灸)
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the techniques of acupuncture and moxibustion are based in ancient Chinese culture. These practices aim to maintain health and regulate balance in the body.
Both acupuncture and moxibustion view the human body as a microcosm, with each part connected by channels. It’s a strongly holistic view, with the body seen as an integrated whole, and humans always in relationship with heaven and earth.
A perfect example of the holistic approach is how practitioners select points on the lower body to treat disease in the upper body, or select points on the right side of the body to treat the left.
The central concept of acupuncture is to stimulate the natural healing mechanisms of the body to heal itself.
From the Western viewpoint, acupuncture works by stimulating the nervous system which in turn stimulates the body´s organs to release hormones. Through the ¨gate control theory¨ which posits that acupuncture activates the peripheral nerves to shut the ¨gate¨ on pain signals traveling through the spinal cord, and shifts your midbrain into action by creating a local micro-trauma which increases the blood circulation and oxygen supply to the area. This micro-trauma stops the pain because it increases the natural painkiller mechanisms of the body, otherwise known as endorphins.
In the practice of acupuncture (Zhen), the primary tool is the needle. Today, the needles are mostly made with stainless steel and are very fine, as thin as hair. In order to minimize the risk of infection caused by inserting a needle bellow the dermis, acupuncture is performed under the standard procedure as clean needle technique (CNT)
These filiform needles are selected according to each individual’s condition and used to puncture and stimulate specific points of the body called acupoints. The stimulation helps to dredge or boost the channels of the body and is used for both prevention and treatment of disease.
Filiform needles: Regular needling.
Cutaneous needles: This practice consists of tapping the skin lightly with a group of short filiform needles. This technique is also known as ‘skin pricking’ because the stimulation is confined to the skin. The 12 regions of the skin (Pibu) are closely linked to 12 meridians (Jing Luo) and 12 organs (Zangfu). Needling and tapping these regions enables Qi to flow from the organs to the channels, drain the channels, and regulate Qi and Blood, which is key to the health of the body.
Retained Intradermal needles: this practice derives from an ancient technique where the needles are left in place. The technique consists of securing a small needle at a point in the skin and leaving for an extended period in disease which requires superficial stimulation and needle retention of long duration. This technique is also used in auriculotherapy.
The Chinese word for moxa is Jiu, which means ‘burning’. Moxibustion, also called Heat Therapy, is used to stimulate the acupuncture points and regulate the physiological activity of the body through the combustion of different materials.
Moxibustion moves Qi and Blood, strengthens Yang, expels Wind and disperses Cold, cools Heat and dispels toxins, invigorates the Blood and dissolves stagnation. It’s administrated through the use of:
Moxa cones applied directly to the skin or indirect using salt, ginger, garlic, and others
Warm needles (needle with moxa)
The herb most often used in moxibustion is mugwort (Ai Ye), Artemesia vulgaris or Artemisia argyi. This particular plant has a recognizable fragrance and grows in most parts of China. The nature of the plant is extremely hot: when ingesting it, the plant makes energy move downwards, and when used in moxa, the energy moves upwards through the body.
Acupuncture and Moxibustion are often used interchangeably in TCM. Both practices aim for the same effect of restoring balance in the body, just using different methods.