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Cure in Burning Stick of Mugwort
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In Chinese, "moxibustion" literally means "warming with fire".

Modern moxibustion experts speculate that the practice was probably developed when ancient Chinese discovered that the symptoms of some diseases could be alleviated by warming up near the fire.

Through trial and error, ancient Chinese found that burning the dried leaves of the herb mugwort produces the best therapeutic effects.

The burning moxibustion stick is waved a few centimeters above the acupuncture points. During the process, mugwort vapors and other TCM ingredients enter the pores of the skin, which helps clear the cold in the body.

According to moxibustion practitioner doctor Fan Changwei, the earliest record of moxibustion can be traced back to the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC). It was a widely used treatment until the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Moxibustion can serve as a treatment on its own, or it can work in concert with acupuncture.

During the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the government declared both acupuncture and moxibustion illegal, because it deemed needles and fire unsafe.

However, ordinary Chinese people continued these practices at home, because they were cheap and effective.

The practices underwent a revival in the 1950s, when government vigorously promoted them.

A proverb from the time says: "If there's mugwort at home, one need not see a doctor for years."

China's opening up exported acupuncture around the world. However, moxibustion's spread remained stagnant.

One of the challenges to moxibustion's spread is that the practice is time-consuming, so the practitioner can only treat one person at a time. Also, moxibustion sticks are very cheap. Doctors only made small profits from moxibustion treatments, so many stopped using it, according to Fu Shoufeng, an old TCM practitioner in Beijing.

The smoke from burning mugwort sticks discouraged both the practitioners and patients to resort to the treatment, he said. Some people have an aversion to the fumes.

As younger generations of Chinese turned away from tradition, public awareness about the practice waned, Fan said.

Last month, the Moxibustion Health Care Special Committee was established as an official organization to save the dying practice. Fan heads the committee.

In addition to researching and promoting moxibustion, the committee has also established standards for the medical practice and organized training courses for both professionals and amateurs.

If practitioners are properly trained, moxibustion can become an effective home therapy, providing pain relief and treatment for many common ailments.

(China Daily January 17, 2007)

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