Chinese Medicine Modalities

Moxibustion

Moxibustion is the application of heat to a specific area of the body for the purpose of treating disharmony, its derived from the Japanese term 'moe kusa' which means burning herb, the herb we use is Artemesia Vulgaris which is commonly known as mugwort or Chinese Wormwood. The Chinese variety is the most aromatic/stinky.

In China, there is evidence of heat applications being used with needling techniques over 10,000 years ago. The Nei Jing which is also known as the Yellow Emperor's Inner Canon, is an ancient Chinese medical text that has been treated as the fundamental doctrinal source for Chinese Medicine describes the use of moxibustion. It says that "moxibustion originated in the North, as the northern places are shut off from heaven and earth, they are high and mountainous areas that are attacked by piercing cold wind and are surrounded by much ice. People there live in camps in the wilderness and subsist on milk. They become ill when invaded by the cold and moxibustion is the method of treatment."

Artemisia vulgaris or mugwort is in the chrysanthemum family. Its leaf is also used internally and has a relationship with the blood and the moon. It is in the stop bleeding category of the pharmacopia. Its nature is bitter, warm, and acrid. It enters the Sp, LR, Ki channels and some say it also enters the Lu. We use mugwort because it is the most readily available combustible that does not flame and provides a temp. of 670 C. Analysis has shown the herb to be rich in protein, sodium, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, adenine, choline and vit. A,B,C and D.

Traditionally, the herb was harvested in the 5th lunar month before flowering and dried for three years. Sun dried moxa was more beneficial due to the added strength of yang energy from the sun's rays. The leaves are first stripped of the mid-rib then ground to create moxa wool. This results in a material that has an adhering quality. Coarser moxa comes from China and we use it for indirect pole applications. The finer texture comes from Japan and we use it for direct and needle moxa.

Moxibustion treats and prevents disease by warming the channels, activating the qi, promoting the circulation of blood and qi, tonifying blood, eliminating cold, wind, and damp pathogens, dissolving stagnations, removing obstructions, dispersing swellings, restoring yang qi, and stopping bleeding.

In other words, moxabustion can be used for conditions like asthma, tuberculosis, arthritis, vomiting, diarrhea, rheumatic pain, abdominal pain, hernia, skin ulcers, boils and menstrual cramps. The conditions and guidelines for the use of moxa depend on age, pathological condition, general constitution, and the location on the body.

Gua Sha

Gua sha has a long tradition as a folk remedy used throughout Asia in both homes and medical clinics.

Gua means to rub or friction, sha refers to the small red dots or petechiae that come to the surface in areas of poor circulation.

The Chinese have a phrase that says 'Bu Tong Ze Tong, Tong Ze Bu Tong' which translates as where there is stagnation there is pain where there is no stagnation there can be no pain. Gua Sha releases the congested metabolic wastes or stagnation thus improving circulation to the underlying tissues and organs. Gua sha stimulates the movement of blood and qi. It is used to treat both internal and external conditions as well as for health maintainance. Digestive upsets, colds and flus, headaches, fibromyalgia, and painful muscles & joints are just a few of the many conditions it can help. Patients often notice immediate improvement in musculo- skeletal pain and stiffness.

The sha usually clears in 2-4 days but can remain for 7-10 if there is impaired circulation. The color and rate of fading are diagnostic tools. The colors can range form mild red to dark red or even purple.

A variety of tools can be used in gua sha. The most common is a porcelain spoon, but animal horns, or jade pieces can be used. One could even use a regular spoon or a jar lid

If the sha is not properly cleared the patient's recovery can be prolonged and incomplete like a cold or cough that just won't go away completely.  There is potential for chronic weakness or fatigue. A surface membrane whose fluids are stagnant does not circulate warmth, so the exterior is suscepitible to Wind or Cold. Pain from stagnation will persist until the stagnation is resolved. This Chronic pain can lead to decreased activity and compromised range of motion.

After receiving gua sha you should keep the area covered and avoid wind, exposure to the sun or sudden temperature changes, You can do some Gentle stretching but avoid vigorous exercise.

Cupping

Cupping refers to an ancient Chinese practice in which a cup is applied to the skin.  The pressure inside the cup is reduced so that the skin and superficial muscle layer is drawn into and held in the cup. This crates a vacuum on the surface of the skin. Cupping is similar to gua sha in its ability to move stagnant cellular waste from the connective tissue. Cups are made from a variety of materials Like animal horns, bamboo, porcelain, plastic rubber, and glass.

The earliest record of cupping is in the book "A Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies" by Ge Hong, the famous Daoist alchemist and herbalist. At that time in history, cups were made of animal horns. They were mainly used for draining pustules, abscesses and drawing out toxins or poisons from animal bites. This technique is known as Jiaofa, which refers to the horn that was used. This technique is also seen in Native and South American cultures.

During the Qing dynasty a technique called 'fire jar qi' was commonly used to treat colds, flus, musculoskeletal disorders, dizziness, and abdominal pain. For these treatments, cups were placed over acupuncture needles. One traditional indication for cupping is dispelling cold from the channels so bamboo cups would be boiled in herbal decoctions like the herbal tea decoctions we make today. So the bamboo would absorb the medicinal value of the decoctions and that would be absorbed through the skin.

During the 20th century new glass cups were developed and preferred as the porcelain cups tend to break easily and the bamboo cups deteriorate with repeated heating. We generally use cups two different ways. Stationary cups are placed over acupuncture points to help pull stagnation out. This is especially helpful for lung disorders like asthma, allergies, chronic cough, and chest congestion. We also do moving cups. In order to provide easy movement on the skin, oil is applied. Often the oil is medicated with herbal extracts. The one we use here is by Spring Wind and it contains herbs to move and nourish qi and blood. It includes Ai Ye which is the pinyin for the herb mugwort which is also what we use for moxibustion. This form of cupping is fantastic for musculoskeletal pain. Tight muscles tend to relax easily because they respond differently to the negative pressure created by the cups. Sometimes having pressure on tight muscles like in a regular massage increasing the resistance however with cupping the muscles don't know how to resist instead they just relax. I like to think of them vacuuming all the junk out of my connective tissue so fresh blood and oxygen can get into the muscles and repair them.

Red dots or petechiae are also seen in cupping especially with the stationary cups. You want to stay covered, avoid wind, and extreme temperature after cupping as well.

Making sure you are staying hydrated, eating nourishing food and getting enough rest are also important when receiving any Chinese medicine modality.