I’m hearing a lot of coughing as patients come into the clinic. Moxibustion or Moxa is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves burning an herb called Mugwort, to promote healing. Moxibustion has been used throughout Asia for thousands of years. It is debatable which came first, moxibustion or acupuncture? The purpose of moxa is to stimulate the flow of qi and blood and maintain general health.
3 Ways of Administering Moxa
There are several different ways for the practitioner to administer moxa. At RiverWest Acupuncture, we typically use one of the three listed here. How it is administered is usually determined by what symptoms are being treated.
- Moxa stick – is one form of moxa. A practitioner lights one end of a moxa stick, about the shape and size of a cigar, and holds it close to the area being treated for several minutes until the area turns red. (Similar to coming out of a hot shower)
- With a needle – another form of moxa uses both acupuncture needles and moxa. A needle is inserted into an acupuncture point and retained. The handle of the needle is then wrapped in moxa and ignited, generating heat to the point and the surrounding area. After the desired effect is achieved, the moxa is extinguished and the needle(s) remain in for the duration of the treatment.
- Burned loose in a can or box – the last form we use is a special can or box filled with moxa that is then lit. Once lit, it slowly smolders in the container, releasing heat. The container is wrapped in a towel, to control the amount of heat the patient feels.
What is Moxa used to treat?
In general terms, practitioners use moxa to warm body regions and acupuncture points along the meridians. The moxa then stimulates circulation and activates a smoother flow of qi and blood, along with stimulating the internal systems (digestive, respiratory, gynecological, etc) and boosting overall immune function.
- Pain: In Chinese Medicine perspective, external cold can get trapped in our bodies. The result of that can be increased pain in our joints and muscles. Thus a very common use of moxa is to place the moxa can or box on the affected area, warming it in a way that a hot bath for example cannot. Because of how the moxa works, it penetrates at a much deeper level. A moxa stick can be used in the same way.
- Coughs and other respiratory problems: Since our coughs are much more prevalent in the winter, i.e. during the cold, moxa is really effective in moving the qi and stagnation in the lungs to clear up the nagging, hacking coughs. It can also be used preventatively in order to stave off seasonal allergies and future illness.
- Digestive symptoms: Since the heat from the Moxa stimulates the digestive system, it is effective in helping with constipation, IBS, and digestion in general.
- Menstrual cramps: Moxa is really effective in relieving menstrual cramps and irregular cycles. Many common activities can cause cold to become trapped in the uterus, like wearing shorts or skirts in cooler weather. Moxa can reverse these effects.
- And More: Moxa can have impact on many internal medicine issues. Sometimes patients end up with a recalcitrant symptom that hasn’t responded to many different approaches. There’s a point on the upper back between the shoulder blades that an ancient Chinese medical text claims, when moxabustion is performed, “there is no disorder that it cannot treat”. It’s worth a try!
One way to use Moxa is to turn breach babies by burning moxa on a point on the mother’s little toe. Like, who figured that out the first time?
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