Complementary Treatments: Moxibustion, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Gua Sha & Cupping
Cupping is an old technique performed in both China and the West. Gua sha is a traditional Chinese medicine treatment similar in effect to cupping. Moxibustion refers to the burning of an herb, moxa, to enhance an acupuncture treatment. Chinese herbs have shown their effectiveness under the scrutiny of both empirical study and modern clinical trials. They can be used to augment the treatment of a particular imbalance, working together, or sometimes in place of, acupuncture and other medicines.
Cupping is an old technique performed in both China and the West. Healers across Eurasia would take glass jars, heat them to create a vacuum and place them on the upper back to relieve acute illnesses such as colds and fevers.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
Before pharmaceuticals and even the use of acupuncture needles, herbal medicines were used to heal and balance the human body. Chinese herbs have shown their effectiveness under the scrutiny of both empirical study and modern clinical trials. They can be used to augment the treatment of a particular imbalance, working together, or sometimes in place of, acupuncture and other medicines. Unlike most drugs, the herbs are put into complex holistic medicine formulas that are specific to an individual’s condition, not just any one symptom. Additionally, the formulas are so well balanced that they hardly ever cause side effects.
Herbal medicines are usually taken a few times a day and can be used for as little as one month to as long as one year. Herbal consultations can be included in an acupuncture visit, with the only extra charge being the cost of the herbs themselves. They can also be done separately, and unlike acupuncture, follow-ups are only needed every other week. Herbal medicines are usually immediately available following a consultation, though some may take a few days to prepare due to the individual nature of every formula.
Do I have to cook it and will it taste bad?
In the past, patients had to purchase a large bag of raw herbs, cook them for a half hour every day and drink bitter teas. Though that option is still available to you, convenient patent alternative medicines have become readily available. High quality ingredients are put into either alcohol extracts and tinctures or small, round pills that are easy to take and taste much better – no brewing or simmering needed.
Are herbal medicines expensive?
Unlike prescription drugs, holistic medicines are extremely cost effective. Herbal medicine that lasts about 30 days can range between $20 – $30. This is similar to the average co-pay of a prescription drug plan, with the added benefit that you won’t be on them for the rest of your life.
Moxibustion refers to the burning of an herb, moxa, to enhance an acupuncture treatment. Referred to in English as Artemisia Vulgaris, moxa is used by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners for its warming and townifying characteristics. During use, moxa is rolled into a ball, placed on top of the acupuncture needle and burned to transmit heat and energy down the needle into the acupuncture point. It can also be burned indirectly by waving a cigar like roll or more directly on top of a pedestal. Patients usually enjoy this sensation of warmth and the heat never gets close enough to the skin to burn. This can be tremendously helpful in patients with fatigue, arthritis and swollen joints. Our most common use is in turning a breeched baby. Studies have shown this to be tremendously effect when applied at the right time in the pregnancy.
Gua sha is a traditional Chinese medicine treatment similar in effect to cupping. Gua stands for rubbing or friction. Sha stands for congested or stagnant blood at the surface of the body. When friction is applied in repeated, even strokes, the sha surfaces as small red petechiae. Usually a chinese soup spoon is used to create this effect. It is effective in treating stiff upper necks, backs and extremely tight muscles. Gua sha’s effects are immediate since the tension and pain release begins the moment the spoon touches the skin and the sha comes up.