Accessory Techniques:The Other Part of Acupuncture

The Chinese word for acupuncture is zhen jiu, and translates as ‘needle and fire’, or as ‘acumoxa therapy‘. Where does the fire come from? Well, there is a technique that has been employed by acupuncturists over the ages, and it is called ‘moxibustion’.  It is a special form of heat therapy. Below, we will describe this and some of the other techniques which, while lesser known here in the U.S., are quite valuable.  They are commonly used by acupuncturists all over the world, and we at New England Acupuncture & Herb Clinic utlizie them whenever they can be of value to the patient, offering another way to move closer to the desired therapeutic outcome and achieve success.


As alluded to above, moxibustion is a special form of heat therapy commonly used as part of acupuncture. Not every patient will receive moxibustion. But when it is used, its effects can sometimes be remarkable.

Essentially, the practice of moxibustion involves the burning of various substances near the acupuncture points on the body. While there are some forms of direct moxibustion (i.e. burning it right on the skin), we do NOT use the direct method here at the clinic. Instead we use the indirect method, which means the moxa is comfortably held at a distance from the body while the heat gently penetrates the body and benefits the patient.  Patients find this therapy very enjoyable.

The most common substance used for moxibustion is artemisia vulgaris, an herb. Wen it is ground up and prepared for use in the clinic, it can resemble brown cotton, or ground up twigs. Other substances can be used for various therapeutic reason. Indications for the use of moxa include pain worse with cold and better with heat, a tendency to feel cold all the time, fatigue, conditions which in chinese medicine would be termed, ‘damp conditions’, and others. It may even be indicated in breech presentations in pregnant women.

The moxibustion is said to increase the yang energy of the body, dispel cold, promote cirulation of qi and blood, and transform damp. One of the wonderful uses I have found for moxa, is its use in helping older women who experience a feeling of distention and discomfort in their urinary bladder, but who have no infection. They often also have a feeling of  incomplete voiding of urine when they go to the bathroom. Another specific example of the use of moxi is cases of arthritis where the joint pain is worsened by cold weather. For more examples of real life cases treated here at the clinic please go to our case history page. There we have posted some of the cases we have treated, in order to illustrate some of the principles of how Chinese medicine works and the results that can be attained.


Cupping is pretty straight forward. It is the application of ‘suction cups’ to specific areas of the body, most often the back and shoulders. This technique can be combined with others, or used by itself. It can be very effective for relieving muscle tension. This is its most common use. Sometimes the cup(s) is placed in a particular spot and left for a few minutes. Other times hypoallergenic massage oil may be rubbed into a broad area and the cup can be moved back and forth over this area. That is termed ‘moving cupping’, or ‘sliding cupping’. There are some people who may be sensitive to the pressure, but most patients seem to find it fine, and even quite pleasant.

Tui Na (no, its not pronounced “tuna”.  It is “tway na” or “twee na”, depending on who you ask).

This translates as ‘pushing and grasping’. While it sounds a bit rough, it is not. Actually, it is a sophisticated and ancient form of massage developed in China. It has been imported to other coutries where it was modified to fit their needs and cultures. The prime example that comes to mind is Shiatsu, which is what tui na became after it was imported to Japan.

Tui Na, sometimes called Anmo, or amma, is based on the same theories and principles as all of Chinese medicine. Thus, it too works to stimulate or relax the acupuncture points and channels that lay on the surface of the body. It also works directly on the muscles, ligaments and tendons. Some patients have described it as a ‘complex form of acupressure’.

In summary, Chinese medicine offers many therapeutic techniques. Each one brings with it a good deal of value and benefit. They are non-invasive, quite safe, and often highly enjoyable.

Coconut Risotto

Sweet, creamy, and fragrant risotto.  Ready in 20 minutes.

Serves 4 Coconut on the leaf

Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup arborio rice
2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 can coconut milk
1 tomato, diced
2 sprigs parsley, chopped
2 sprigs cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon butter

Heat broth to just below simmer.

In a medium saucepot, sweat diced onion in olive oil for 2 minutes over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low.

Add the risotto rice, and stir with a wooden spoon to coat it in the butter. Slowly add the chicken broth in 2 equal portions, not adding the second addition until the first has been almost completely absorbed.

Stir constantly during the entire process. After all of the chicken broth has been absorbed, add the coconut milk, and then add enough of the braising liquid until the risotto is cooked to your taste.

Fold in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, tomato, and herbs. Serve immediately.

Garnish with parsnip chips or fried shallots, if desired.

Dino Kale and Cranberries

High in iron and minerals, dino kale is a powerful vegetable.  Couple it with cranberries packed with anti-oxidants and you have a healthy and tasty side dish.

Difficulty = Easy
Serves 6

6 cups dino kale, stemmed and cut into small, bite-size pieces
1 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries
salt to taste

  1. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, red pepper flakes and cranberries.
  2. Stir 10 seconds, and add the kale and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Sauté until tender.
  3. The water that adheres to the greens should be enough water to cook them. If needed, add 1 tablespoon of water to finish cooking.

Avocado and Papaya Salad

This dressing is so delicious you will want to pour it on everything.

Serves 8Avocado Papaya Salad

2 Florida avocado, peeled and cut into large dice
2 ripe papaya, peeled and cut into large dice
1 Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
2 bunch baby arugula
4 tablespoons tarragon leaves
Orange and Vanilla Vinaigrette, recipe follows

Layer salad with arugula and tarragon, then avocado, papaya and onions. Finally drizzle with vinaigrette.

2 cup orange juice
2 vanilla bean, split
2 garlic clove, pureed with knife
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Fresh ground black pepper

To a saucepan add orange juice, split vanilla bean and scrape seeds into juice. Add vanilla bean to juice, bring to a simmer and reduce liquid by 2/3.

Meanwhile, smash garlic clove with a pinch of salt using flat side of a knife.

Allow orange juice reduction to cool, remove vanilla bean, then add garlic puree, rice wine vinegar and olive oil. Stir well and season with salt and pepper.