Moxibustion is an important technique in Chinese medicine and has been used for centuries to help with many ailments from internal cold to blood stagnation. The application involves burning a substance known as moxa on or near the skin or sometimes at the end of an acupuncture needle. Moxibustion not only feels good to the recipient, but it is also effective at alleviating many ailments.
What Is Moxa?
Moxa is the substance that is used in many Chinese medicine treatments to help restore good health. Moxa is a soft plant-based substance that is derived from a plant called mugwort. Once processed, the mugwort becomes moxa and appears soft, porous and springy to the touch.
Moxa burns extremely well and creates a degree of heat that is quickly absorbed by the body. Hence it’s use and benefits. Once the heat from the burning moxa permeates the skin, it can get to work in various ways, warming the body, clearing blockages and invigorating the movement of fluids and blood.
There are different grades of moxa, some of which appear yellow-golden and burn at a lower temperature. However, most commonly moxa is green in colour. Generally speaking, the darker green the moxa, the hotter it will burn.
Chinese medicine practitioners like to use a variety of different grades of moxa, mainly for the various degrees of heat which they omit. For example, if a strong moving action is required then the practitioner may select a more course and darker green grade of moxa. If however, a more gentle, nourishing effect is desired then a grade of moxa that burns less intensely will likely be used.
How Is Moxa Used?
Besides selecting different grades of moxa due to their burning temperatures, the application of moxa can also vary for different reasons.
When learning acupuncture, student acupuncturists often learn how to use moxa as it is a very effective technique to use in their practice. Acupuncturists often attach moxa to the ends of their acupuncture needles. As the moxa is lit and begins to burn the heat is then passed down through the needle, into the acupuncture point and will then start toward the associated area.
Moxa is also commonly applied to the skin using a transmittable barrier such as salt or sliced ginger. The barrier works to protect the patient from immediate burning. However, it is permeable enough to allow the heat to pass through and warm the area.
One example of using moxa in this way is when it is used with acupoint CV8. CV8 is an acupuncture point located directly in the navel. As this point is forbidden to be treated with a needle, it can respond very well to moxibustion. In this way, the navel is filled with salt (the barrier), and then a piece of moxa shaped into a cone is placed on top and allowed to burn. During the treatment, the patient will begin to feel a pleasant warmth entering through the belly button and permeating through the abdominal area. This treatment is particularly good for treating upset stomach and diarrhoea symptoms as well as for having a nourishing effect on the spleen.
Moxibustion is also commonly used in the form of a roll. Using the method of moxibustion involves lighting one end of the moxa roll and then holding the lit end around one inch away from the area in which the practitioner is trying to treat. When used in this way it is most commonly used for physical injuries, which may have resulted in blood stagnation. Using the lit moxa stick can help to begin to heat the area and dissipate the stagnation.
Moxa sticks are also often used for women who are presenting with a breech baby. Applying the soothing heat of the moxa sticks to the correct acupuncture points can help the baby to turn. However, it is important for the practitioner to assess the mother and make sure that it is safe to carry out the procedure as there are several contraindications where it would not be appropriate to use moxibustion to turn a breech baby. Therefore, it is imperative that anyone wanting to have moxibustion treatment, for this reason, see a qualified Chinese medicine practitioner so they can have the method applied safely and professionally. Here is more information on using moxa for breech presentation.