Navel Moxibustion, and What It Can Do For You

In Chinese medicine, the Navel (umbilicus) is regarded as one of the key places in the body. Moxibustion applied to the naval has been a popular treatment method since ancient times in China.
 (Image: Faeboy via Welcome Images/cc 4.0)
In Chinese medicine, the Navel (umbilicus) is regarded as one of the key places in the body. Moxibustion applied to the naval has been a popular treatment method since ancient times in China.  (Image: Faeboy via Welcome Images/cc 4.0)

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) believes that the navel (umbilicus or belly button) plays a significant role in the treatment of patients. The acupuncture point in the center of the navel is called “shen que” (Spirit Gate), and it plays a key role in a variety of therapeutic treatments in TCM, including moxibustion.

In TCM, the shen que point is also considered to be the first human mouth and the focal point of all the meridians.

Today, moxibustion is widespread and used together with acupuncture and cupping for syndromes ranging from bronchial asthma to arthritis. It can also generally be used to promote healing and retain health. Many TCM practitioners and their patient report positive results.

In moxibustion, the leaves of the Chinese herb mugwort (Artemesia vulgaris or ai ye in Chinese) are dried and then burned. The herb in its dried state is called moxa and can either be rolled into balls and cones or bought commercially in very short or long rolls.

Using moxibustion on specific acupuncture points is said to strengthen the body’s immune system, or wei qi.

What is navel moxibustion?

Acu-moxa point chart, showing the hernia (shanqi) point, fromChuanwu lingji lu(Record of Sovereign Teachings), by Zhang Youheng, a treatise on acu-moxa in two volumes.  (Image: Faeboy via Welcome Images/cc 4.0)

Acu-moxa point chart, showing the hernia (shan qi) point, from Chuanwu Lingji Lu (Record of Sovereign Teachings), by Zhang Youheng, a treatise on acu-moxa in two volumes.  (Image: Faeboy via Welcome Images/cc 4.0)

 The navel is the area located at the lower part of the torso and is what remains after the umbilical cord is cut, right after birth. In TCM, it is also referred to as the “golden point,” and the acupuncture point related to it is called shen que (Spirit Gate). During navel moxibustion, the Chinese herb used for moxibustion is burned right above the navel.

Benefits

Navel moxibustion is said to stimulate the stomach gas, clear the meridians, promote blood flow, regulate the body’s organ functions, and stimulate the body’s healing properties during different diseases.

The navel is densely populated by blood vessels and considered to be an alternative place to administer medications to a patient because its absorption rate is higher than that of the stomach. This method, however, is considered dangerous in many Western countries, and is thus hardly practiced.

Chinese medicine believes that drugs administered through the navel will quickly spread and affect the meridians and internal organs. Furthermore, administration through the navel is believed to be less of a burden on the gastrointestinal system compared to taking medication orally.

Scientifical backing

Clinical research has been done on moxibustion and its effect on Crohn’s Disease (CD). Moxa was used together with acupuncture. According to the study, moxibustion with acupuncture provided significant therapeutic benefits in patients with active CD beyond the placebo effect.

How does it feel?

It is common to hear from patients that they sensed a sudden flow of warmth that radiated along a specific pathway of their body, oftentimes corresponding to the meridian being treated. TCM doctors consider this a good sign, as it indicates the arrival of the qi and the opening of the channel in question.

In China, navel moxibustion is commonly used to promote digestion and demote abdominal pain, diarrhea, insomnia, and other dysfunctions.

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