Have you ever smelt a smokey incense smell walking into your acupuncturist’s office? If you did, it was most likely the burning of Moxa - dried mugwort. Moxibustion is the process of burning moxa on acupuncture points, channels, or injury sites to increase circulation, remove toxins, and create healing. Many patients report beneficial results and a relaxing effect to us from moxibustion. It is something that more experienced acupuncture patients will ask about and sometimes choose a practitioner that utilizes this technique over one that does not. Similar to sage and cedar in Native American culture, mugwort smoke is believed to remove negative energy or stagnation from a person or place. We are happy to say that we utilize moxibustion and also use ventilation fans to help alleviate the smell and smoke.
As with any herbal therapy, quality of ingredients and the type used comes into play when your acupuncturist uses moxa. There are many different ways it can be used. Usage reflects quality and processing of the herb. For clients with asthma, emphysema, or severe allergies moxibustion can still be utilized using a smokeless variety that offers the therapeutic aspect of heat and herbal therapy without the smoke. If you find yourself sensitive to smoke, let your acupuncturist know so the correct application can be used on you.
Stick moxa is used to bring heat and healing over a larger area of pain or inflammation or to directly apply to a series of points on a Chinese Meridian Channel. In our practice, we have even used moxa to help turn breech babies! Of course we have no scientific evidence to back this up, just our own observation and we know that many factors are always involved. The acupuncturist holds the stick about a half an inch over an acupuncture point and asks the patient to vocalize when the heat is felt. Then the stick is moved to another point with the same request. Points are visited until heat is felt be the patient quickly. A warm skin sensation often follows the treatment.
Another form of moxibustion our practice uses is bowl moxa. This is when the acupuncturist takes pre-made moxa and bowls to bring heat to a large area on a client’s body. This is often used in stable places on the body. Examples of treatment includes lower back for back pain possibly or abdomen for uterine prolapse. The smoke then travels over a larger area for a less directed healing effect.
Moxa on the end of needles is used to encourage heat into an organ or channel. Cones are used on acupuncture points themselves with or without needles. These can be used in cases where the acupuncturist senses deficiency or lack of flow. While the idea of this may seem scary, acupuncturists have been trained to know how to prevent burns. Techniques to utilize moxa started in 500 B.C. in China and spread throughout the Far East. As the title of the article suggests, in China acupuncture is not independent of Moxibustion. The term for what we in the west call Acupuncture is in fact 針灸 - zhēn jiǔ - which literally translates to Acupuncture AND Moxibustion. One is not used without the other. There are many different ways it is used and multiple theories behind how to use it. But for an acupuncturist, moxa is another tool in an already large tool belt.
Ask your acupuncturist how moxa can be used for pain relief, immune support, increased circulation and wound care.