Cupping and moxibustion are separate treatments, but are often used to best effect when combined, as they both use heat to stimulate circulation in order to break up stagnant areas of blood and qi. They are both oriental methods dating back over 2,000 years, and have been used in conjunction with acupuncture therapies . Cupping specialises in treating blood congestion, as well as colds or asthma by drawing blood to the surface of the skin. Moxibustion, on the other hand, involves burning common herbs on the patient’s skin. Directly applying heat to certain points in this way is believed to promote the flow of blood and qi.
Moxibustion uses the herb Moxa, a mugwort herb, to facilitate blood flow, tone the patient’s qi (energy), and remove cold, dampness and stagnation in the body. This therapy most commonly involves a Moxa stick, which is a large cigar-shaped roll of the herb that has been compressed, being held over specific points on the patient’s body. Moxa, however, can be made into any number of different shapes and placed over acupuncture points on the body, depending on the patient’s ailment or requested treatment. Moxa can also be put onto the end of a needle and inserted into the skin for a deeper feeling of heat in the muscle, be burnt in a box in order to spread the heat over a greater area, or used on the face in a Tiger warmer. Research has shown that Moxa stimulates blood-flow in the pelvic and uterus, and has been used to turn breech babies.
Fire cupping is a method designed to facilitate improved blood-flow and generate qi movement in the patient. It involves applying pressure by creating a vacuum against the patient’s skin. This is achieved by placing a heated glass, plastic, or bamboo cups on the skin with a vacuum. As the air cools, a vacuum effect is created that pulls the blood vessels to the surface of the skin, which creates an acupressure effect. Cups come in various sizes for different parts of the body, and some practitioners use cups with a suction bulb attached to them. How hard the suction is really depends on how skilled the practitioner is in putting the cup against the skin. The cups may be removed from the skin after a few seconds and replaced again, left in position for a long time, or put on oiled skin and moved around to promote more general blood flow.
Cupping and moxibustion are believed to help patients deal with lower-back pain (especially that which is affected by the cold), ease menstrual cramps and other forms of abdominal pain, ease joint aches (again, particularly those that are heat-sensitive), reduce the appearance of cellulite, and get rid of swelling. It has also been used to treat infertility, and turning around breech babies. More generally, cupping and moxibustion is believed to remove toxins from certain areas in the body and resupply nutrients in the blood. It is also believed to have a calming affect on patients, and promote good digestive functioning.
There are dangers associated with both cupping and moxibustion that patients should be aware of. Cupping is not recommended for people who are pregnant, suffer from cardiac disease or aneurysms, or suffer from extreme fatigue or anaemia. Cupping should not be performed on the spine, or on areas with moles or other skin abnormalities. It is not recommended for patients who have a fever, convulsions, inflammation, or those who have recently finished intense exercise. Moxibustion should not be performed on the face, nipples, genitals or skin abnormalities. It is not recommended for patients suffering from fever, diabetes, or elderly people, and patients are asked not to shower or bathe for up to 24 hours after the treatment has been completed.