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The Use of Moxa In Chinese Medicine

The Use of Moxa In Chinese Medicine

loose moxa punkMoxibustion 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.

The Five Flavours of Chinese Medicine

The Five Flavours of Chinese Medicine

healthy foodIn Chinese medicine, there are five important flavours which are known as sweet, sour, bitter, salty and pungent. These flavours are said to correspond to the five elements and therefore, the organs associated with those elements.

To break this down, we have created the following table to represent this below;

Flavour Element Organ
Sweet Earth Spleen
Salty Water Kidney
Bitter Fire Heart
Pungent Metal Lung
Sour Wood Sour

These flavours work in a way to balance and compliment each other in accordance with the theory of the five elements.

As such, each of the flavours has a nourishing or ‘tonifying’ effect on the related element and organ that it is associated with. For example, foods which have a sour taste such as lemons, limes, grapefruit and raspberries are said to have a nourishing effect on the liver. Foods that have a bitter flavour such as liquorice have a tonifying effect on the heart, and so forth.

It is important to bear in mind, however, that this also needs to be applied in balance and in accordance with the concept of yin-yang. For example, if one has too many foods of a pertaining flavour then it can potentially cause damage to its related organ and element.

The flavour of sweet is an interesting one. In Chinese medicine, it is said that foods that have a sweet flavour have a healthy and supportive effect on the spleen organ. However, it is important that one obtains the sweet flavour from foods that are naturally sweet such as sweet potato, grains, oats and honey. Unfortunately processed sugars do not benefit the spleen, but in fact, will injure the spleen over time as they will cause an accumulation of damp, which will flood the spleen and make it less efficient. Therefore, it is very important that a person obtains the sweet flavours from natural sugars only in order to tonify and nourish the spleen.

Another interesting one is the salty taste that is said to benefit the kidneys. However, it is important that one only uses natural and healthy salts such as Himalayan salt or sea salt and not standard table salt. Standard table salt contains a lot of chemicals and will cause damage to the body over time, especially the kidneys.

Even when using a high-quality Himalayan or pink salt or sea salt one should take care to only use very small amounts as too much may still damage the kidneys.

If you are unsure how much salt you should have in your diet, then please consult your doctor or a nutritionist who can assess you in person to take into account your diet, lifestyle and the current state of your overall health. You should never rely on the information you read on the internet or from word of mouth for health advice without consulting your doctor. Your doctor or medical physician should always be the authority that you ultimately listen to for your health advice.

Here is a great video with more information on the five flavours of Chinese medicine.