Less well known than acupuncture moxibustion is at least as old. Moxibustion refers to the burning of the herb Artemesia directly on acupuncture points or on the ends of acupuncture needles.
According to Skya Abbate writing in the Journal of Chinese Medicine:
Like yin and yang, the Chinese characters for acupuncture and moxibustion are inextricably linked together in the image of needle and fire. The Chinese word zhenjiu (acupuncture and moxibustion) implies that the two techniques are virtually inseparable; they combine well and are mutually enhancing. The Qian Jin Yao Fang or “Thousand Ducat Formulas “ states “The doctor is not a good one if he is not good at both acupuncture and moxibustion.” The Ling Shu or “Spiritual Pivot” makes the astute differentiation that moxa is suitable to treat all conditions which cannot be cured by acupuncture and Yi Xue Ru Men “Introduction to Medicine” continues by saying “When a disease fails to respond to medication and acupuncture, moxibustion is suggested”
A common use for moxibustion in China is to strengthen the immune system. Researchers in China have found data which supports this traditional treatment.
The study suggests that moxibustion generates a protective response against bacterial infection by activating macrophage autophagy. Autophagy (‘self-eating’) is the cellular process by which damaged cell components are engulfed and dissolved by lysosomes. The study, carried out in mice, showed that moxibustion promoted the bactericidal function of macrophages by activating macrophage autophagy. The subsequent bacterial clearance by macrophages was shown to protect the mice from mortality due to bacterial infection.