Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves the burning of mugwort, a small, spongy herb, to facilitate healing. Moxibustion has been used throughout Asia for thousands of years; in fact, the actual Chinese character for acupuncture, translated literally, means “acupuncture-moxibustion.” The purpose of moxibustion, as with most forms of traditional Chinese medicine, is to strengthen the blood, stimulate the flow of qi, and maintain general health.
Health maintenance, “preventing illness before it shows its symptom” is the core idea in acupuncture and moxibustion theory. Clearly, ancient people had a concept of that stage of illness that comes before illness shows its symptom, and they believed it best to treat illnesses at this stage. This stage is called, in Chinese, “Mi Bing,” and in Japanese “Mi Byo,” which means “before illness.”
“Mi Bing” is closely related to the idea of longevity and moxibustion on the acupuncture point St 36 (stomach 36: Zu San Li in Chinese, Ashi-no-san-ri in Japanese). A Japanese folk tale from the Edo era (1603-1867) about Farmer Manpei tells that when Manpei was asked whether he had any secret to maintaining long life, he answered that he had no secret other than burning moxa on St 36 every day, just as his ancestors had done. It is recorded that Manpei lived 243 years; his wife, Taku, lived 242 and their son, Mankichi, lived 196 years. In recent records, it is well known that Doctor Shimetaro Hara (deceased) used to burn moxa on his St 36 every day and he lived to be over 100 years of age.
A story about St 36 which is very familiar to the Japanese is the first sentence of Haiku Master Basho Matsuo’s diary (1689) “Okuno Hosomichi (Narrow Passages In The Back Country).” He writes, “I have sewn a torn part of my undergarments. I have changed the strings of my hat. I have burnt moxa on my St 36. My mind is now totally occupied with the moon over the Matsushima islands…” He was ready for a long walk of 1,500 miles after burning moxa on St 36. This means that our ancestors knew very well that moxibustion on St 36 has the effect of speeding recovery from fatigue.
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