Healing Your Body With Warmth and Nourishment
Moxibustion is similar to medical acupuncture… except that instead of needles, we use burning moxa wool to treat or prevent diseases. Like acupuncture needles, moxa is often applied on the meridians and their acupuncture points; and like acupuncture its wonderful for simulating your chi and blood, which in turn ensures that your organs function well.While we can use acupuncture to treat most illnesses, moxibustion is a useful type of treatment for certain types of conditions only (see below)
What is Moxa?
Moxa wool is the fibre from the leaves of the Artemisia Vulgaris Moxa plant. The wool is rolled into cones or sticks for medical use. A moxa cone can be anywhere from a couple of millimetres to one centimetre tall. A moxa stick can be as long as 20 centimetres long and up to 1.5 centimetres wide.
Properties and Use of Moxa
Moxa is yang, which corresponds to heat. Therefore we use moxibustion to treat illnesses where there is a yang deficiency, or excess yin, such as certain types of cold or flu, or joint pain brought on by cold weather.
Because it is yang, moxa must never be used to treat illnesses where there is excess heat, such as hot fevers.
But moxa’s yang nature isn’t its only clinical property. Breathing in moxa’s distinctive smell – which most people find delicious – has the effect of regulating your chi and blood, plus warming and removing damp from your meridians.
Different Types of Moxibustion Treatment
Treatment with Moxa Cones
Burning Moxa cones has historically been the most common way to apply moxa. There are two methods of moxa cone application: direct or indirect. In direct application, we place the cone directly on the skin at the appropriate place (usually an acupuncture point , but possibly also over an area of chronic pain). We then ignite the moxa and let it burn.
If we leave the cone to burn out, the procedure is known as ‘scarring moxibustion’, because the treatment may leave a small scar or blister (don’t worry you’ll never br forced to have the treatment if you don’t want it. These days its mostly patients who grew up in china who request it). Far more often however, we’ll remove the cone just before you start to feel discomfort – so you get all the good without the bad!
With indirect application, instead of placing the cone directly on your skin, we’kll put a substance – such as garlic, ginger, salt or monkshood cake – between the cone and your skin.
The substance we use depends on your illness. For example, garlic is effective for healing skin ulcers and insect bites; ginger treats abdominal pain and diarrhoea; monkshod cake is used to remedy impotence; while filling your belly button with salt and burning a moxa cone on top is wonderful for cold limbs, vomiting and hernia pain, among other things!
Treatment with Moxa Sticks
Moxa sticks are popular with patients, because they take away the ‘pain factor’ (having said that, I should point out that even direct moxa cone treatment is only a tiny bit painful).When you receive moxa stick therapy, your doctor will simply hold a stick of burning moxa just above your skin for a few minutes usually until the skin starts to show signs of redness.
Best of Both Worlds
Another treatment technique is a combination of traditional acupuncture and moxibustion. The warming needle technique involves first inserting a needle into an acupuncture point or place of pain, the wrapping the handle of the needle in moxa wool, then igniting it.
The needle transfers the mild heat from the burning moxa to your body. This treatment is particularly effective for cold weather conditions such as painful joints and numbness.