Moxibustion, Mugwort, or artemisia, is a flowering plant in the daisy family. It’s used in foods eaten around the world, including German Christmas goose, Korean clam soup and a green Japanese dessert known as kusa mochi.
It’s also the key to moxibustion. Mugwort leaves are dried and ground into small sticks or cones called moxa (similar to incense), which are then lighted and used to warm points on your body and relieve a variety of conditions.
“Moxibustion can travel through the 12 meridians, which carry energy throughout the body,” Dr. Nguyen says. “It is able to regulate qi and blood, dispel cold, warm yang and prevent diseases to maintain overall well-being.”
In TCM, the concepts of yin and yang balance each other, but imbalances can lead to illness. “When yang becomes deficient, then there may be an increase in cold,” Dr. Nguyen explains.
What is Moxibustion Therapy ?
How Does It Work ?
There are two types of moxibustion: direct and indirect.
Indirect moxibustion, a small, cone-shaped amount of moxa is placed on top of an acupuncture point and burned. Broken down further,
Direct moxibustion can be scarring or non-scarring. In scarring moxibustion the moxa burns on the acupuncture point until it does out completely.
In non-scarring moxibustion, the moxa is placed on the point and lit, but is extinguished or removed before it burns the skin. Patients feel a pleasant heating sensation that penetrates deep into the skin, but should not experience any pain, blistering or scarring unless the moxa is left in place for too long.
The more popular form of moxibustion is the indirect type because it comes with a lower risk for pain or burning. In indirect moxibustion, an acupuncture practitioner lights one end of a moxa stick and holds it close to the treatment area for a few minutes until the area turns red. Another form of indirect moxibustion uses both acupuncture needles and moxa. A needle is inserted into an acupoint and retained. The tip of the needle is then wrapped in moxa and ignited, which creates heat in the point and the surrounding area. Once the person experiences relief, the moxa is extinguished and the needle is taken out.
Your practitioner may:
Hold the moxa about an inch away from your skin.
Place the moxa onto acupuncture needles, allowing the heat to travel to your body through the needles.
Put the moxa on top of another therapeutic material, such as ginger, salt or a bamboo “moxa box” before placing it onto your skin.
“Moxibustion is usually good for cases where the disease is brought on by cold pathogens or a certain qi/yang deficiency,” Dr. Nguyen says. This includes:
It’s also commonly used for breech pregnancy, when a baby is positioned feet- or bottom-first in the uterus rather than head-first. Moxibustion has been shown to be an effective way to get a baby to turn around on its own, without medical intervention.
“In this case, moxibustion should be done during the end of the second trimester or beginning of the third trimester,” Dr. Nguyen says.
Based on its use in traditional Chinese medicine, moxibustion can help resolve a long list of health issues, including:
Colds – The moxa and its resulting therapeutic heat is known to help expel cold from the body.
Breech pregnancies – Moxibustion is believed to help turn breech babies into a normal head-down position during pregnancy to make sure no complications occur during childbirth. Published studies showed that this therapeutic method has a success rate of 75% when it comes to resolving breech presentations. This is achieved by applying the moxa at an acupoint near the bladder.
Menstrual cramps – When combined with acupuncture, the moxa is also known to effectively reduce menstrual cramps.
Pain relief after injury, including sprains and strains
Pain relief for arthritis and tendonitis
Irregular bowel movements
Clammy hands and feet
Recent experimental studies have also linked the procedure with more health benefits, including:
Ulcerative colitis treatment
Aside from treating specific health issues, moxibustion is also believed to bring a general improvement in a person's health. It can help restore the body's strength and slow down the aging process. Also proven to be beneficial for middle-aged and elderly people, it is especially helpful in maintaining the health of the spleen, stomach, and kidneys.
The procedure is often performed in conjunction with acupuncture when it is deemed necessary or safe for the patient's condition or diagnosis. Most practitioners hold the opinion that the effects of both therapies are heightened when they are used together. However, while acupuncture is only mostly done in clinics, moxibustion can be performed even in the patient's own home, as long as the room has proper ventilation.
*Moxibustion Therapy Is Not Recommended : patients with epilepsy or severe health conditions (vein inflammation, or any type of open wound)