What is Moxibustion?

Moxibustion is a form of heat therapy that involves burning the dried leaves of Artemisia plant, also known as Wormwood plant or Ai ye (艾叶) in Chinese. The leaves are processed into wool and This moxa wool can then be rolled into sticks, cones or left as wool. Moxibustion like Acupuncture has been practiced in Asia for thousands of years; India, Nepal, Tibet, China, Japan, and Korea are just some of the countries that have a long history of using this method of treatment.

Who needs it?

Mugwort when used externally in the form of moxibustion is a heating and moving herb. So it is great to use on people who have cold conditions or stagnation conditions.

Some examples are:

  • Back pain, were the back feels cold either subjectively or objectively.

  • Gynaecological problems due to cold

  • Turning breech births

  • Arthritis

  • Bruises

Why is it needed?

Research has shown that it acts as an emmenagogue, or an agent that increases blood circulation to the pelvic area and uterus and stimulates menstruation. This could explain its use in treating breech births, menstrual cramps and back pain. It has also been shown to help bolster the immune system, improves microcirculation and blood flow generally.

How is it given?

There are two forms of therapy: direct and indirect. In direct moxibustion, a cone-shaped moxa is placed on top of an acupuncture point and burned. This type of moxibustion is further categorized into two types: scarring and non-scarring. With scarring moxibustion, the moxa is placed on an acupoint, ignited, and allowed to remain on the point until it burns completely. This may lead to localized scarring, blisters and scarring after healing. With non-scarring moxibustion, the moxa is placed on the acupoint and lit, but is extinguished or removed before it burns the skin. In both instances the patient will experience 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.

Indirect moxibustion is currently the more popular form of care because there is a much lower risk of pain or burning. This type of moxibustion can be further categorised into 4 types: isolated, stick, box, warm needling. With isolated moxa, the moxa cone is placed on top of a slice of ginger, garlic or salt over an acupoint then ignited. Once the cone has completely burnt out a new cone is positioned and ignited, this continues until the local skin reddens. In stick moxibustion, a practitioner lights one end of a moxa stick, roughly the shape and size of a cigar, and holds it close to the area being treated for several minutes until the area turns red. In warm needling an acupuncture needle is inserted into an acupoint and retained. The tip of the needle is then wrapped in moxa and ignited, generating heat to the point and the surrounding area. After the desired effect is achieved, the moxa is extinguished and the needle(s) removed. With moxa box therapy, moxa is placed into a wire tray then sits atop a mesh tray in a wooden or ceramic box. This type of therapy is useful in treating broad areas of the body – like the back and abdomen.