Acupuncture and Herbs are well known about in the West- over the last few decades millions of people have experienced their healing effects. What is less known is that both acupuncture and herbal medicine are branches of a larger tree that is Traditional Chinese Medicine and that there are many other modalities and techniques, such as cupping, gua-sha, moxabustion, tui-na massage, medical qigong, facial reflexology and dietary therapy. All branches of TCM have their own strengths and special benefits and therefore can be chosen specifically to address different issues. All share the same underlying principles, foremost of which is that prevention is better than cure. All the following treatments can therefore be experienced and enjoyed just for their preventative and health enhancing effects as well as to tackle specific illnesses.
Gua-Sha is a hands-on medical treatment that’s been used throughout Asia for centuries. Traditionally it is most often used as a first-aid treatment at the immediate onset of cold and flu symptoms- it’s fantastic to ward off colds! This is due to its powerful effect on the immune system. In any case where the immune system is compromised Gua-Sha may be of benefit. It is also commonly used for pain conditions and muscle stiffness around the neck, shoulders and back- it resolves spasm and pain by strongly increasing micro-circulation to the area between the skin and muscles. Gua-Sha also has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect, and on not just muscles and other soft-tissues, but also on organs as well, which accounts for its use in conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, gastritis and liver disease.
The technique involves using an edged massage tool and rubbing deeply along the surface of the body, usually with the aid of therapeutic oils. It feels like strong massage and has the same after-effects. However, the key to its potency lies in producing what is known as ‘Sha’- the appearance of redness on the skin. The appearance of Sha is different depending on the amount of tension and stagnation in the muscles and fascia, but in all cases will gradually clear in a few days. Gua-Sha creates a four-fold increase in micro-circulation to the surface tissue, can boost immunity and reduce inflammation. It also feels great!
Moxabustion is a form of heat-therapy that is often combined with acupuncture. It is used for its prized ability to bring warmth deeply into body, and is particularly useful when coldness has penetrated and become lodged in the body. This can be thought of as when blood-circulation is poor or when muscles contract and go into spasm. For this reason it is used in many pain conditions, from stiff neck to period pains.
It involves the burning of a specially processed herb known as moxa, which is the blossom from the Mugwort plant. It can be rolled up into cigar-like sticks and then held over points and areas of the body, or it can be rolled into little pyramids which are burnt directly over acupuncture points and lifted off as soon as the heat is felt. What makes moxa special is that it burns very slowly, at a very high temperature, and emits a high amount of infra-red light. It is not only used for colds, muscle pain and stiffness, but traditionally it is used to strengthen and nourish the body, and so is useful in many conditions where tiredness and weakness are present. A great example of this strengthening effect can be seen in the Moxafrica charity, which has been using Moxabustion to combat tuberculosis in Africa. (www.moxafrica.org)
If you experience moxabustion yourself you would certaintly appreciate the effects- it feels soothing, relaxing and nourishing at the same time.
3. Tui-Na Massage
Tui-Na massage is steadily growing in popularity as more and more people are discovering its potency. Although it can be used for relaxation and for its preventative benefits, it’s real forté lies in its medical uses. In China, there are whole departments in hospitals that specialize solely in Tui-Na.
Some of the massage techniques share similarities to deep-tissue or Swedish massage, however there are many techniques which are quite different and unique- such as rolling techniques, plucking, patting, vibrating, or acu-point massage. Another difference is that most Tui-Na is performed with clothes on or through a cloth. It is often thought of as being an intense and vigorous type of massage, although actually there is an entire spectrum of styles depending on what is being addressed and the practitioner’s background. Of course it excels in treating pain and physical problems, but also can be beneficial for all types of things from gynecological and digestive issues, to stress, insomnia or headaches.
In the hands of an expert it is real treat to experience, and will leave you feeling both relaxed and vitalized!