DO-HO Park Acu-moxa Clinic -tsukuba international Acupuncture-Moxibustion Institute


洞峰パーク鍼灸院 ーつくば国際鍼灸研究所ー

About Acupuncture and Moxibustion

1.)  The Development of Simple Healing Methods

Let us say that the most rudimentary methods of easing the suffering of the ill involve clearing symptoms that show up in the body. Human beings have tried many approaches to healing such as using the hands and fingers to compress, push and rub the body, as well as warm, scratch and adhere medicine, among other methods. Applying stimulus to the area of the body where the patient feels the pain is one typical method of improving their condition. In addition, people have also tried eating unusual leaves, roots and tree bark to ease their symptoms.

It could thus be said that acupuncture and moxibustion were developed amongst such primitive methods. East Asian Medical Theory is the synthesis of data accumulated from patient symptoms, attempted stimuli and clinical improvement. In accordance with the five senses, these treatment methods augment our healing potential and are used in order to lead patients to be empowered to heal themselves.

While the use of needles and moxa may be rather simple healing methods, by drawing out the patient’s innate healing ability, a great number of clinical cases have brought about significant improvement in the patient’s condition. Healing sessions can therefore be said to be what initially establish the patient’s strength to heal themselves.

2.). What is Acupuncture and Moxibustion?

Generally speaking, since we combine the words “acupuncture and moxibustion” in Japan, there is a tendency to think of the two treatment methods as one concept while they are, in fact, two uniquely separate approaches.

Acupuncture is a treatment method that involves the insertion of short sterilized stainless steel, gold or silver needles of up to 0.20 millimeters in diameter at a depth ranging from several millimeters to several centimeters below the skin. 

On the other hand, moxibustion is the burning of the refined leaf matter of the mugwort plant, Artemisia princeps (Japanese variety), which we call “mogusa or moxa.” This treatment method is performed through the application of thermal stimulation to the mogusa wherever it is placed on the patient’s skin. 

When moxibustion is performed, the practitioner may place the mogusa directly on top of garlic, ginger or miso and light it up from there (Figure 1). If the mogusa is rolled up in a bundle and wrapped in paper to form a stick of 1-2 centimeters in diameter then we call this application “stick moxa.” The moxa stick is then held above the patient’s skin at a distance of several centimeters and placed over acupuncture points to warm and nourish the body through the point (as seen in Figure 2). 

In the case of a breech presentation, we use a method of direct moxibustion called “rice-grain moxibustion” where the practitioner warms the skin in the area above the point UB-67 which is located at the base of the nail bed of the baby toe (see Figure 3 below).

Furthermore, acupuncture and moxibustion are often combined and used together in a treatment. This is called “needle-top moxibustion” (see Figure 4), as it is performed by placing moxa on the handle of the needle which is already inserted into the body. The patient may expect to receive the synergistic benefits of simultaneous needle stimulation along with the warming nourishment of moxibustion.   

Figure 1: Garlic Moxibustion (Left), Miso Moxibustion (Right)

Figure 2: Stick Moxibustion (Self-Application)                      

Figure 3: Rice Grain Moxibustion on the 5th toe for Breech Presentation

Figure 4: Needle-Top Moxibustion on the Lowback

3.) How is Acupuncture Effective?

Many people understandably doubt that there is any way that they can receive pain relief and improved organ function from the insertion of a needle no bigger than a strand of hair mere millimeters into the surface of the skin. 

This can perhaps be understood through the concept of “Ki,” a movement or energy flow that was explained in the classical texts of East Asian Medicine dating back to over 2,000 years ago.

In other words, when you are sick, the flow of “Ki” throughout the body is no longer smooth and this leads to a state of stagnation here, there and everywhere in your body. This manifests as knots and tension in the muscles, connective tissue or skin. If you treat the knots and tension with acupuncture needles, you will return the smoothness to the flow of Ki and this will cascade into the restoration of health and well-being simply by unblocking the Ki flow. This philosophy is the guiding principle behind all other East Asian Medicine modalities, including moxibustion, Anma massage, Kampo (Japanese herbal medicine), Tai Chi and Qi Gong. 

On the other hand, Western medicine, which has existed in Japan since the beginning of the Meiji era (1868), would attempt to explain how acupuncture works through the results of research studies that observe the response of the body’s nervous system, endocrine system, cardiovascular system and immune system when a patient is receiving acupuncture and moxibustion. Since the 1970s, specifically the mass coverage of the use of acupuncture as anesthesia, many theories have sprouted up and been presented all over the world to explain the scientific mechanisms behind acupuncture and moxibustion. One common explanation of the pain-relief effect is that acupuncture augments the production of beta-endorphins much in the same way that morphine does. 

Even in Japan, universities of acupuncture and moxibustion are placing a central focus on carrying out a reassessment of East Asian medicine not only from the classic medical texts of antiquity but also from the perspectives of modern science and modern medicine. 

4.)  How is Moxibustion Effective?

Basho Matsuo left behind an abundance of haikus along his journeys that carried great posthumous influence. In the beginning of his book, “the Narrow Roadto theDeep North.” (Oku no Hoso Michi), Basho writes about placing mogusa on San Ri and burning it before setting off on a journey.

San Ri refers to an acupuncture point located approximately 7-8 cm below the kneecap on the outer border of the shin bone (See Figure 5: Stomach 36). 

The purpose of burning mogusa on Stomach 36 before setting out on a journey is to recover from fatigue in the legs. It has been known for over 2,000 years that the point at Stomach 36 has the effect of activating the stomach and the digestive system processes. East Asian medicine hypothesizes that the flow of Ki travels along meridians and channels that connect the surface of the body with the internal organs, and thus Stomach 36, as a point on the Stomach meridian, is said to be an acupuncture point that strongly interrelates with the Stomach organ. 

Long journeys on foot not only exhaust the legs and hips, they also exhaust the Stomach organ. Water and food from unfamiliar places as well as unsuitable climates may worsen the condition of the Stomach. People from ancient China knew empirically that burning mogusa on the legs is effective for such times, and I believe they were thus able to associate the acupuncture point now referred to as Stomach 36 with the Stomach Organ. 

In modern research, we have learned that moxibustion treatment on the legs will activate the digestive system, and additionally, through the use of ultrasound diagnostic imaging, it has been made clear that the gallbladder will expand or contract when we burn mogusa on points on the lateral border of the lower legs. In this way, the 350+ acupuncture points that begin on the legs and hands and cover the entire body have been researched through modern medical methods to understand why the internal organs and other bodily systems are affected by such instruments of East Asian medicine. Although we are gradually gaining more insight into the effects of East Asian medicine through the functioning of the autonomic nervous system, endocrine system and immune system, there is still much more research left to do on this subject.

Indeed, the experience and wisdom of Chinese people from the last 2,000 years of medical practice is quite surprising. 

Figure 5: Moxibustion on Stomach 36