Moxibustion (also known as moxa) is a warming treatment that involves burning an aromatic herb, Artemesia Vulgaris, to increase circulation and stimulate the flow of ki (vital energy). In Japan, moxa applied directly to the skin is favored, so fine moxa wool (the dried herb) is gently hand-rolled into tiny rice-grain-sized pieces and then placed directly on the skin, lit with a fine incense stick, and burnt down.
The whole process is repeated several times on the same spot until the surrounding skin becomes red and warm. Some spent medical training in Japan and thereto spent many hours practicing this technique, rolling the fine moxa wool into minute sausage shapes between the thumb and forefinger. Being speedy is handy when you have to repeat the treatment many times on various accupoints, often simultaneously. One once demonstrated this through his swiftness across a set of six pairs of points on someone’s back. With lightning speed he placed the moxa grains, lit them, put them out, and replaced them all in quick succession; by the time he got to the bottom pair on the lower back he was just in time to go back to the top pair by the neck as they burnt down and extinguished themselves.
The idea of the rice grain moxa is that it is used to warm and tone the body when a person has a deficient (kyo) condition. The grains are placed repeatedly on the same point until the person starts to feel a sensation of heat. In Japanese medicine, since the moxa grains are so tiny, they are often allowed to burn right down to the skin. Doing so can produce tiny burn marks orblisters but is believed to be therapeutic by mobilising immune cell function.
Actually, the marks disappear within a few days, leaving the skin unblemished. In most people heat is felt after three to five moxa applications as the empty point becomes filled, but in some cases it can take much longer.