Today, it is generally accepted, there are two forms of moxibustion: direct and indirect. In the former, a small amount of mugwort is placed on top of an acupuncture point and burned. This form of moxibustion is further defined as scarring and non-scarring.
With scarring moxibustion, the mugwort is placed on a point, ignited and burns out completely, which will lead to blisters and scarring after healing.
With non-scarring moxibustion, the mugwort is extinguished or removed before it burns the skin.
In indirect moxibustion, a practitioner uses a lit mugwort stick or a can with burning mugwort, to warm the desired points, which is the therapy Xi underwent.
Although acupuncture is widely done by both Chinese and foreigners, moxibustion is not so highly regarded, especially in hospitals.
"Most hospitals don't practice moxibustion," says Guan Ling, an acupuncture and moxibustion specialist with the 301 Military Hospital in Beijing.
The reasons, she explains, are that moxibustion, which requires one-on-one service, is time- and energy-consuming and therefore not profitable, and people are not willing to tolerate the smoke or scarring.
The recent resurgence of moxibustion is largely due to indirect moxibustion.
Six years ago, Kang Liguo, at that time a sales manager at a major IT company, led such a full working and social life that his health started suffering.
He underwent a course of moxibustion therapy and to his great surprise, found his health much improved.
Inspired and curious, Kang learned all he could about moxibustion and was fascinated by its history. He finally decided to quit his job.
"I saw a great business opportunity, for I believed in the effects of moxibustion," Kang says.
In 2005, he founded a company selling moxibustion tools and training programs, and in 2007, he opened Guo Ai Tang, in Beijing, which now has three branches.
"Guo Ai Tang is one of the earliest moxibustion centers in Beijing, even in China," Kang says.
"At first, people knew little about moxibustion and we needed to explain, to encourage people to try it out. Now, dozens of moxibustion centers are emerging and more people are enjoying its benefits.
"I'm encouraged. As a businessman I want to make money first, but I'm also glad the ancient therapy is acquiring new life."
(China Daily/Agencies June 22, 2011)