moxibustion therapy

Moxibustion therapy is the process whereby moxa - a dried herb, usually the species mugwort - is burned, either directly on the skin, or just above the skin, over specific acupuncture points relative to a condition.

When lit, moxa burns slowly and provides a penetrating heat that can enter the channels, or meridians to influence qi and blood flow.

A very common form of indirect moxibustion uses moxa sticks, which resemble large cigars or incense sticks. These are lit and held about an inch above the point or area to be treated. They are usually rotated or turned quickly toward, and then away from the skin.

The choice of when, where, and if moxibustion is to be used is a matter of clinical judgement for the practitioner, in consultation with the patient.

Care must be exercised to ensure that the burning moxa does not come in direct contact with the skin or burning and blistering will occur.

Ancient teachings advise that the formation of a blister is essential for healing to take place, but modern practitioners find that moxa can be highly effective without causing blistering on the patient.

In traditional Chinese medicine, moxibustion is often recommended for people who have a cold or stagnant condition. The burning of moxa is believed to expel cold and warm the meridians, resulting in better flow of blood and qi.

In Western medicine, moxibustion has successfully been used to turn breech babies into a normal head-down position prior to childbirth. A landmark study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998 found that up to 75% of women suffering from breech presentations before childbirth had fetuses that rotated to the normal position after receiving moxibustion at an acupuncture point on the Bladder meridian. Studies have also shown that moxibustion may reduce the symptoms of menstrual cramps when used in conjunction with traditional acupuncture.

The aim of strengthening the body cannot be attained by just applying moxibustion once or twice, it requires persistence for a long time. This does not mean that one should receive moxibustion every day. For the purpose of convalescence for the weak and sick, moxibustion may be applied once every 2-3 days in the early stage; yet for reinforcement of the body or longevity, it should be once a week in the early stage. When it has shown some effect, the frequency can be reduced to once a month, and later, once or twice every three months, or even once or twice a year.