Published: 11:27, April 15, 2024
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Chinese make use of ancient medical therapy to stay healthy
By Liu Zhihua

Moxibustion involves burning moxa to heat acupuncture points, treat illnesses

A medical worker explains moxibustion knowledge to elementary school students in Qinhuangdao, Hebei province, in October 2023. (CAO JIANXIONG / FOR CHINA DAILY)

When Kang Liguo opened a moxibustion unit in Beijing in 2007, little did he know that his company would go on to operate several such traditional Chinese medicine therapy centers in the future.

The therapy, which uses burning moxa, or mugwort herb, to heat acupuncture points in the body to improve health and treat illnesses, is finding favor among the Chinese, especially the young, and driving up allied sectors such as wellness services.

"Thanks to people's increased awareness about health after the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the growing recognition of traditional Chinese medicine, we are seeing more interest in TCM methods for better health in recent years," said Kang, who now operates 13 moxibustion centers in the city.

"Moxibustion is gaining popularity. Our centers target high-end groups, and we see hundreds of customers each day."

During a typical session at a moxibustion center, a moxibustionist will light one end of a moxa stick, or dried mugwort herb roughly the shape and size of a cigar, and hold it close to the skin of a client to heat several acupuncture points one after the other.

Most customers are middle-aged people who suffer from conditions such as lumbar pain and are willing to pay significantly for each session. There are also a growing number of busy young people seeking help from the time-honored health-improvement method, Kang said.

Previously a sales manager at a major IT company, Kang himself once led a busy work and social life, but soon his health started deteriorating. Following a course of moxibustion therapy, Kang was pleasantly surprised to find that his condition had much improved with the therapy that predates even Chinese acupuncture.

Inspired by the business opportunities, Kang quit his job to develop a career in the moxibustion industry.

He also opened a factory in Beijing to produce moxa sticks and other moxa health products, including a waist protection belt filled with moxa.

According to a report by marketing consultancy Zhiyanzhan last year, there are more than 2 million moxibustion facilities in China, providing more than 10 million jobs and servicing more than 200 million people.

It estimates that the moxibustion market will reach 88.66 billion yuan ($12.26 billion) by the end of 2024.

Ai Dandan started using moxa health products in 2016, when, as a young mother, she used to suffer from intense colds as well as frequent perspiration. She soon started wearing a dudou — traditional Chinese underwear — and a waist belt filled with layers of moxa. After her health improved, she bought the moxibustion products for her family because of their proven efficacy.

Ai, a mother of two, also became an agent of moxa health products, developing in the process a new career.

"At first, I just thought as an agent I could buy the products for my family and friends at discounted prices," Ai said, adding that she soon figured out that the products were quite popular.

"Most of my customers are young people who want to improve their health through TCM methods, but do not have the luxury of visiting TCM hospitals and clinics regularly," she said.

Zhou Mi, a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said that moxibustion as a TCM therapy has played a positive role historically in managing disease and improving life quality, and that its growing popularity demonstrates people's increased awareness of how TCM can help improve health without medication.

The popularity of moxibustion and moxa health products will boost the development of a slew of sectors, from cultivation to logistics as well as services, which will in turn increase the convenience of using moxibustion and moxa health products and add to their popularity, he said.

Kang, however, pointed out that despite their popularity, moxibustion services and moxa health products currently lack uniform national standards. This, he said, needs to be addressed to promote the fast development of the sector.

liuzhihua@chinadaily.com.cn