How Cupping and Moxibustion Can Help You

Cupping and moxibustion are Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments that work on the same principles as acupuncture. Throughout your body, there are acupuncture points located along meridians through which qi or vital energy runs. When you feel unwell or sick, there is an imbalance in this meridian system which can be corrected by stimulating specific acupoints so the energy flow can be restored and balanced. Both cupping and moxibustion work on stimulating these acupoints.

What Is Cupping?

Cupping and moxibustion, image of Glass cups used in cupping therapy

Glass cups used in cupping therapy

Cupping is one of the oldest methods used in Traditional Chinese Medicine – the earliest recorded use dates back to early 3,000 BC. Traditionally, cups were made out of hollowed-out animal horns or bamboo, but today glass or plastic cups are most commonly used.

There are two methods for applying cups to the body for treatment. The first is called “fire-cupping” in which a glass jar is warmed using a cotton ball soaked in alcohol which is lit and placed inside the cup. This removes all oxygen from the cup and creates a vacuum. The jar is then quickly turned upside down and placed on the skin, usually on an acupoint specifically.

The second method simply uses the mechanical action of an air pump to drawn the air out of the cup and create a vacuum on the skin. In both types, the vacuum anchors the cup to the skin and the skin is gently pulled upward inside the jar. By drawing up the skin, the pores are opened up, stimulating qi and blood flow. This allows the body to naturally balance and realign, and helps draw toxins out of the body. The cups are typically left on for five to ten minutes, depending on the condition of the patient.

Alternatively, the cups can be moved up and down the meridians to stimulate the flow of qi and blood. To enable movement, a small amount of herbal oil is applied to the skin before attaching the cup.

Benefits and Uses of Cupping

Cupping can be used in many different treatments, but the most common conditions treated include:

  • Respiratory conditions such as common cold, flu, bronchitis, and asthma
  • Arthritis
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Stiff and/painful neck, back, and shoulder muscles
  • Depression
  • Risks and Precautions of Cupping Therapy

    Cupping is generally safe to use and has limited to no side effects. However, when the skin is drawn up, the blood vessels on the surface of the skin are expanded, causing swelling and bruising. These bruises are painless and disappear within a few days.

    Should you experience one of the following conditions, you should steer clear of cupping:

  • If you have any inflamed skin or rashes.
  • If you have a high fever.
  • If you bleed easily.
  • If you are pregnant, it should not be used on your stomach or lower back.
  • Also, if the cups are moved, they should not cross the bony areas of the body.

    Cupping and moxibustion, image of rolled moxa used for indirect moxibustion

    Moxa roll used for indirect moxibustion

    What Is Moxibustion?

    Moxibustion has been used throughout Asia for thousands of years. Treatment is done by heating a Chinese herb, called Moxa or Mugwort, over a specific acupuncture point. The radiant heat stimulates the point which warms the meridian channel, strengthens the blood, and stimulates the flow of qi.

    There are two types of moxibustion treatment, direct and indirect:

  • Direct: A small, cone shaped moxa is placed on the acupuncture point and lighted. The patient experiences a pleasant healing sensation that penetrates deep into the skin. The treatment is not painful, provided that the moxa is removed in time before it can burn the skin.
  • Indirect: This method is more popularly used as it has a low risk of burning the patient. The moxa is rolled into a cigar-shaped stick; the end of the stick is lit and held close to the area being treated and kept in place for several minutes until the skin turns red. Another form of indirect treatment uses moxa in conjunction with acupuncture needles. The needles are inserted into the acupuncture points, with the burning moxa placed around the handle of the needle. This is called “warm-needle” moxibustion.
  • In my clinic I primarily use indirect and warm needle moxa with a charcoal version of the mugwort herb that gives off hardly any smoke.

    Benefits and Uses of Moxibustion

    Cupping and moxibustion, warm needle moxibustion image

    Moxibustion atop an acupuncture needle is called warm needle moxibustion.

    Moxibustion can treat many conditions. Here is a list of a few common treatments:

  • Moxibustion can turn breech babies as the warming and raising effect of the moxa encourages the baby to become more active and turn himself or herself around into a head down position. In 2001, a study was done comparing a group of women with breech babies who received moxibustion treatment and a group who did certain exercises and received external cephalic manipulation. The correction rate among the moxibustion patients was 92% while the other group only had a 73% correction rate.
  • It can also increase movement in the fetus during pregnancy.
  • It can reduce menstrual cramps, especially when used in conjunction with traditional acupuncture.
  • Moxibustion is commonly used for colds. It draws out cold and dampness trapped inside the body and warms the meridians, causing a smoother flow of blood and qi.
  • Moxibustion also has a strong energizing and tonifying/fortifying effect, which makes it ideal for patients with fatigue or weaker immune systems who get frequent colds and flus.
  • Risks and Precaution of Moxibustion Therapy

    Moxibustion has been used safely for centuries, but it’s not for everyone. A person with too much heat should steer clear of moxibustion. If you suffer from respiratory problems, the smoke from the burning moxa can aggravate your condition, so ask your practitioner to use a smokeless alternative.

    Cupping and moxibustion, moxa roll used for indirect moxibustionCupping and Moxibustion in San Francisco

    As you can see, cupping or moxibustion can treat a broad range of conditions. I will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan specifically catering to your condition and preferences, whether you need cupping, moxibustion, or just traditional acupuncture. I take a holistic view with your condition including your illness, general health, and diet, and work out a treatment plan that will best suit your needs.

    Contact me if you need more information on cupping and moxibustion or any of my other treatments. I’d love to hear from you!

    photo credit: 8/i365 via photopin (license)

    Tags: Acupuncture clinic San Francisco, Chinese herbal medicine clinic, Chinese medicine clinic San Francisco, Cupping and moxibustion, cupping and moxibustion San Francisco, cupping therapy, moxibustion San Francisco, San Francisco, Timothy Asher,

    Leave a comment

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *