Moxibustion (or moxa) is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that uses a combination of heat and a Chinese herb called mugwort to treat certain health conditions. This popular and effective therapy is to relieve pain and discomfort through organic and natural methods. Moxa may be applied directly to the skin or used in conjunction with acupuncture needles or thermal warmers. If you are interested in natural ways to heal your body, take a look at how moxibustion works and which conditions it is best for treating.
History of Moxibustion
The concept of moxibustion started in ancient China, where it was used to treat rheumatism as early as the Ming Dynasty. At that time, doctors would roll up mugwort leaves in paper, packing them so tightly that they’d resemble a stick. They would then light the moxa stick on fire and press it against the skin in the area that needed treatment. They believed that when the patient started to sweat, that meant the treatment was working. This practice evolved as doctors realized they didn’t need to press the burning stick against the patient’s skin since placing it a few inches away was just as effective. Soon, moxibustion spread to nearby areas, such as Japan, Korea, Tibet, Mongolia, and Vietnam. Now, most Western nations are home to people who believe in the healing properties of moxibustion as well.
How Moxibustion Works
The theory behind moxibustion is that the heat can stimulate circulation, which can increase the flow of energy—or qi—throughout the body. As a result, many health conditions can be treated with this therapy.
Additionally, mugwort has several inherent healing properties, which is why ancient healers chose this herb to roll into moxa sticks. For example, mugwort is known to calm the nerves, increase energy, improve circulation, reduce itching, and support liver health. So, combining this herb with the healing ability of heat has made sense to natural-minded people for centuries.
This alternative therapy can be used to treat a variety of health conditions. For example, it is often used to treat gastrointestinal issues, including constipation, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome. It can even help patients who are struggling with infertility or irregular menstrual cycles, and it has been known to help turn breech babies toward the end of pregnancy.
Additionally, this natural treatment method has been used to treat joint and muscle pain caused by arthritis, tendonitis, back injuries, and more. Other issues it can treat include eczema, headaches, migraines, nausea, hot flashes, and fatigue. It can even help with preventing the cold or flu since it can strengthen the immune system.
In general, any medical issue that can be improved with the application of heat can be treated by moxibustion. This is why many people familiar with this treatment say it can improve conditions like hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, slow digestion, bloating, and cold sensitivity. As you can see, there are lots of uses for moxibustion in healthcare, which is why it’s so popular among people who value alternative therapies.
Common Treatment Forms
Moxibustion can be applied either directly onto the skin, or indirectly through acupuncture needles, thermy sticks, or through radiant heat.
With direct application, the practitioner puts a moxa cone on the part of the body that needs healing. After lighting the cone, the practitioner lets it burn briefly until the skin starts to turn red, at which point he or she removes the cone from the treatment area. Some practitioners may also opt to place a layer of garlic, ginger, or salt on the skin before placing the moxa cone on it. Note that direct application of the moxa cone can cause pain and even scarring in some cases, so it’s not nearly as common anymore as indirect moxibustion.
With indirect application the moxa does not touch the skin. Instead, the practitioner lights the cone or stick and may hold it just above the treatment area, moving it away once the skin becomes warm from the radiant heat.
Our clinicians may also place a thin moxa stick within a warmer holding sleeve or Thermy Stick and then ignite it. The holding sleeve is then placed into an outer protective cover and applied to the area to be warmed. Thermy Sticks come in several forms – Tiger Warmers are more point specific, and can be used all over the body as well as on the face, ears, nose or throat areas. Lion Warmers are more diffuse and are useful along the back shu points and for stretch moxa treatments for the legs.
Our clinicians may also combine moxibustion with traditional acupuncture needling, which is another very popular alternative treatment that arose from ancient Chinese medicine. With this type of application, the practitioner puts the moxa on an acupuncture needle and ignites it, letting it burn itself out within seconds. The heat travels along the needle to the point that makes contact with the patient’s skin.
If you are thinking about trying moxibustion, it’s important to know what to expect from any of these treatment methods. In general, you can expect to feel warmth in the area that’s being treated, often followed by a noticeable reduction in the pain or discomfort you have been feeling there. Keep in mind that you may smell smoke as well as an odor of herbs as the moxa burns, so if you’re very sensitive to smoke or scents in the air, let your practitioner know before trying moxibustion. Smokeless moxa may be an option.
At Red Leaf Wellness we feel it is so important to choose a practitioner you can trust when considering moxibustion or other Acupuncture therapies. Contact us today if you have any questions about the services we offer patients in and around Edmonton!