Moxibustion has been used throughout East Asia for thousands of years. In fact, the actual Chinese character for acupuncture,translated literally, means 'acupuncture-moxibustion'.
Moxibustion is a focused heat therapy which involves the burning of the herb, mugwort (Artemesia), to facilitate healing. This common plant has remarkable medicinal properties and has been used in both China and Japan alongside acupuncture for many centuries. Mugwort leaves are whitish underneath due to the many tiny hairs, which contain aromatic oils. The leaves of the Mugwort are dried and ground up to produce a yellowish-brown fluffy substance called moxa. This substance can easily be moulded into different shapes.
When moxa is burned it smoulders, releasing heat and essential oils. It can be burned above or directly on the skin.
The moxa can be rolled into a cigar-like stick, which is lit and held half an inch to one inch above the skin, to give gentle radiating warmth. An inserted acupuncture needle can be warmed by attaching a ball of moxa to its handle. The heat from the smouldering moxa passes down the needle to warm up the deep tissues, providing relief for conditions such as back pain, osteoarthritis, and sciatica.
Moxibustion can entail a piece of moxa being shaped into a small cone or the shape of a rice grain. It is then placed on the acupuncture point, and lit with an incense stick, with the moxa being extinguished or removed before the smoldering portion reaches the skin. The patient will experience a pleasant heating sensation that penetrates a deep warmth into the skin.
The Latest Research
Moxibustion is known to have a positive effect on blood circulation and the immune system.
A British charity 'Moxafrica' was established with the purpose of investigating the use of moxibustion therapy for the treatment of tuberculosis, particularly drug-resistant tuberculosis in resource-poor countries. 'Moxafrica' have had very encouraging results from their recent study evidencing that moxibustion helps to combat tuberculosis. (See www.moxafrica.org).
Moxa Feels Good!
I personally love using moxa. People who I have treated with joint pain including arthritic conditions, have reported that they have found it beneficial. I also use it for sciatica, low back pain, the common cold, Raynaud's disease, fatigue, and turning a breech baby.
Moxibustion builds vitality to support the body's own healing capacity and is therefore very useful for treating trauma or stress as it enhances well being.
A particular benefit is that moxa can be used at home, prolonging the effect of treatment and speeding recovery.
In addition to its health benefits, my patients find the burning of moxa to be extremely comforting. Its warmth and scent create a feeling of deep relaxation in the treatment room.