The Chinese character for acupuncture, zhenjiu, means “acupuncture-moxibustion”.
Needles and heat therapy are the foundations of a balanced acupuncture treatment, and many acupuncturists find moxibustion to be an indispensable tool to their practice.
Moxibustion can provide penetrating warmth, pain relief, and increased circulation. Moxibustion uses the leaf of the mugwort plant Artemisia vulgaris, that has been processed into a “wool”, or compressed into a charcoal.
Moxa can be applied indirectly where it is burned in a metal or wooden box near the skin or on an acupuncture needle as depicted in the photos. Moxa is used frequently in Japanese acupuncture practice as as “rice grain” moxa, where tiny rolled pieces are burned directly on acupuncture points.
Yin and yang, the principles of relativity and duality, are the foundation of Chinese medicine in the cosmology, diagnosis, and treatment. In Chinese medicine the goal is to achieve balance between hot and cold, internal and external, up and down etc.
Many diseases and disorders arise from a preponderance of cold in the body, which some people can be more sensitive to do to their constitution and other factors.
Cold in the body can occur from exposure to cold in the environment which can get into the energy channels in the limbs, or into the lungs via the nose and throat. Cold can enter into the internal organs from cold food and drinks or too much raw food. Cold slows down organ function and can be a contributing factor in muscle pain, digestive problems, menstrual problems and PMS, and chronic colds and flus.
By using the fire element along with the inmate yang quality of the mugwort herb, moxibustion is very effective for dispelling cold in the organs, bringing in warmth and increasing the circulation of blood, fluids and qi.
Here is an interesting article from an acupuncturist that grows and processes her own moxa.