One of the first recorded substances to ever be used in Chinese Medicine is an herb called Moxa. Ancient doctors would harvest the plant and then burn it above the skin so the heat radiated into general areas of the body and later as the medicine developed acupuncture points. This treatment was performed in order to create warmth and circulation. This might not seem that valuable in modern times because there is so have so much technology to keep us comfortable. In the dead of winter when it is bitterly cold we can take a warm shower and get ready in a heated room. This was not the case for ancient civilizations who basically lived outside and during winter being able to warm your body could be the difference between life and death. Observing this phenomenon, cold or lack of function was associated with death while the warmth, movement and activity was associated with life. The moxa plant was believed to warm the channels disperse cold, increase activity and promote circulation which made it a life giving herb. Today modern pharmacology has verified many of these ancient ideas about moxa. Research shows that moxa on acupuncture points can lead to vasoconstriction directly on the point while vasodilatation around the point. This increases peripheral arterial blood flow and microvascular permeability. It was also show to increase pain tolerance and have a positive effect on peristalsis. It does this through a variety of compounds that form inside the plant that include: camphor, borneol, and little aldehydes, ketones, phenols, alkanes, benzene series compounds, tannins, flavonoids, sterols, polysaccharides, trace elements, and many other ingredients. Here is a direct quote from one study:
“When physical and chemical factors act on the acupoint receptors, the signal enters the central nervous system through the peripheral pathways and outgos after being integrated, adjusting the nerve-endocrine-immune network and circulatory system, so as to regulate the internal environment of the body, in order to achieve the effects of preventing and curing diseases.”
This is still a great plant that can have very profound effects in our bodies. I use a wide variety of moxa treatments to benefit the decreased function that comes with a spinal cord injury. If you would like more information please email me.