The Chinese character for acupuncture is actually derived from two sources: an acupuncture needle and moxibustion.
Moxibustion is the process of using an herb called moxa (Latin Artemisia Vulgaris) to stimulate acupuncture points. The combination of heat, infrared stimulation and essential oils are thought to be key in utilizing the healing powers of moxa. Treatments are even more effective when acupuncture and moxa are used together. Moxa can be burnt over the skin at a distance, directly on the skin with some protective cream, or sometimes the moxa is burnt on the top of acupuncture needles.
It is very helpful to use in the treatment of children, who are often nervous about needles. They enjoy the feeling and warmth of the moxa and the doctor is still able to stimulate their acupuncture points. The response is not as strong as acupuncture and sometimes this is all that is needed for children with more sensitive systems.
Moxabustion has been shown in lab tests to increase the red blood cell count to a specific area of the body and therefore promotes healing. From a TCM perspective, it warms the body, is nourishing and sometimes gives that extra nourishing that is not achieved with acupuncture alone.
Moxa can be smoky and has a similar smell to burnt sage. If you have respiratory issues and/or are very sensitive to smoke, please advise your DrTCM. At Starr healing we use mostly a smokeless moxa, which has very minimal amour of smoke created while burning. It has a feeling of deep penetrating heat and most people find it very enjoyable.