Moxibustion treatment is the application of heat therapy from the burning of an herb, Mugwort. In modern Traditional Chinese Medicine, you will find “Moxa” is typically an adjunct therapy to acupuncture, tuina, herbs etc. In Japan, moxibustion is often practiced as a standalone therapy.
How Does Moxibustion Work?
Moxibustion Therapy warms and promotes circulation. It treats root causes of disease, reinforces the body's resistance to pathogens, promotes rapid healing from injuries and rectifies imbalances.
The Mugwort plant is of the Artemisia family, Artemisia Vulgaris. In Chinese Medicine we refer to Mugwort as Ai Ye. It has been said that the name Moxa is derived from the Japanese term mogusa, translating to the “herb that burns.” Mugwort grows as a bush and grows wild throughout many countries.
There are many methods of Moxibustion. Indirect moxa is what is most commonly used in the USA however you will find direct moxa (non-scarring) method also performed by many providers. Moxa may be placed as a small refined piece then quickly removed from the body or placed on the acupuncture needle for “warming needle.” It may be performed on one point on the body or over an area of the body. We will find moxa in various forms, rolled in balls, shaped in cones or rolls, sticks or even placed in wooden boxes or metal delivery systems. Smokeless moxa can also be found.
What Does Moxibustion Treat in Chinese Medicine?
Moxa is often performed when there is a diagnosis of: Blood Deficiency or Deficient Cold. It can be helpful for diarrhea, abdominal pain due to cold, pain in the joints due to cold, arthritic pain, low back pain to name a few. Moxa is contraindicated in those with high fever, excess heat, yin deficiency, or high blood pressure and never to be applied to the abdomen or sacral area during pregnancy.
What Are Common Moxibustion Treatments?
A common way of administering therapeutic properties of moxibustion is to use a medium between the burning moxa and the skin. Various substances can be used for this purpose and in this example, ginger. Dry mugwort is shaped into a pyramid shape and placed over little punctured holes in a thin slice of ginger then placed together, lit to burn on an acupuncture point on the abdomen or on a Spleen or Stomach point. This is often used with ginger for acute vomiting and nausea, diarrhea or the common cold.
Moxa for Breech Baby:
Another common method of indirect moxibustion uses thin rolls of Moxa wrapped as a stick. The stick is lit and then moved in small circles close to the skin for about 10 minutes. Moving the stick close and far from the affected area is said to drive the heat deeper into the body and is used when strong treatment is desired. The burning of the moxa stick stimulates heat receptors on the skin of the toe and found in ancient texts this heat encourages the release of two pregnancy hormones which can lead to uterine contractions. If women are interested in using Chinese medicine (moxibustion and acupuncture) to help turn a breech baby they will want to consult a licensed acupuncturist.
Want to learn more about common modalities used in Chinese medicine? Click here to read What Is Gua Sha?