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What is Moxibustion?

What is Moxibustion?

Our motto in Classical Chinese Medicine is MOXA FOR LIFE! 

You might have heard your acupuncturist mention Moxibustion or “Moxa” as a treatment option. At Chelsea Family Acupuncture, moxa is often combined into acupuncture treatments to improve outcomes, and make the treatment even more effective.  Moxibustion is defined as a form of heat therapy that involves burning the dried, crushed, aged leaves of Mugwort and leaving it on or very near the skin’s surface, thus promoting the flow of “qi” and eliminating certain pathogens in the body.

Moxa is made from the Mugwort plant, Artemesia Argyii,or Aremesia Douglasiana,  and can be made into rice sized cones, stick-like cigars, of varying sizes or it can be mixed with other herbs to enhance its benefits.  Moxa has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. It can be applied in what is called in Japan “okyu” or “thread” moxa, also called seed or rice grain moxa. This rice grain is placed on the patient’s skin at the specific treatment point. The acupuncturist will light the cones with a stick of incense, and let it burn slowly until the patient begins to feel the heat and then the cone is quickly put out or removed. 

It is more common in the U.S. to use indirect moxa with the moxa sticks. Rather than placing the moxa cone directly on the skin, the acupuncturist will hold the moxa stick an inch or two above the specific treatment area. Another method is to place the moxa on the acupuncture needle and leave it to burn until extinguished, thus allowing the heat to travel through the acupuncture needle directly to a specific acupuncture point. 

I LOVE to make my own Ultra Pure Moxa

Here I am sifting ground leaves from Artemesia Argii and Douglassiana I have harvested. It takes years to transform the dried aromatic green leaves to golden fluffy pure loose moxa.  This labor of love has become a ritual for me, that results in special Ultra Pure Loose Moxa Kits I have for sale seasonally.

Here are some other ways in which moxa is applied:

MOXA BOX: applied anywhere on the body for pain, or use on the abdomen or low back for rejuvenation of energy and fertility

MOXA GOGGLES: for brain fog, eye problems, blocked sinuses, migraines

SALT MOXA: for the abdomen or back, to deeply rebuild energy from severe stress/taxation; increases absorption and transformation.

MOXA BELTS: to survive long cold winters! Use on the back or abdomen

STICK MOXA/INDIRECT MOXA: on an injury, it speeds up healing!

Some other forms are ginger moxa, moxa massagers, needle moxa, seed moxa/direct moxa, dragon moxa, and there are probably even more!



When I recently fractured my ankle, I went to Urgent Care, and the doc said,

“Wow, not much swelling. You must be icing a lot.”

“No, doc, I’ve been applying heat therapy.”

He admitted that icing is not conclusively beneficial, and when he injured his hamstring running he applied heat rather than ice and it healed quickly.

When healing an injury or trauma to muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, ice therapy is not usually recommended by your acupuncturist, but heat or moxa therapy is often applied. The reason is that ice causes contraction, preventing any circulation or blood flow. Nothing gets in where there is constriction.  It temporarily numbs the area to diminish pain, but once the area warms up, the pain and swelling can return. Moxa heat therapy increases circulation, which decreases inflammation thereby expediting healing to traumatized tissue. Where there is flow there is healing and regeneration!

WebMD describes moxibustion as “founded on the belief that blockages in the flow of energy lead to mental and physical health problems.” They describe it as an option used to treat back pain, arthritis, headaches and migraines, muscle stiffness, ulcers, fatigue, infertility, menstrual cramps, cancer, and digestive issues.

What the Research Says

WebMD points to several studies that have been conducted regarding how moxibustion therapy can benefit health, including taking a close look at safety and effectiveness. One study found moxibustion to be excellent therapy for chronic kidney disease. Researchers determined it had a great effect on reducing serum creatinine, which is responsible for poor kidney function when found in high doses. Another study found that moxibustion helped to reduce the severity and frequency of hot flashes in 51 women in their postmenopausal stage after just 14 sessions. 

What can Moxibustion Treat?

Moxibustion can be used to treat a variety of issues including pain. It is believed that Moxa heat can expel the cold and dry dampness that causes pain throughout the body (shoulder, abdominal, knee, back, and other joint pain). It is also believed to regenerate nerve damage, assist in bone growth, and replenish the essential body fluids that are the main resource of our body, like recharging the battery.

Moxa works to improve digestion by warming up the meridians and strengthening the whole digestive system. Moxa treatments can also improve overall health and wellness by strengthening the immune system, thus reducing the risk of illness. 

It is also very beneficial for infertility or healing painful menstrual cycles.

So, what does it feel like to have a moxibustion treatment? For many patients, it feels like a sudden flooding of warmth throughout the entire body. It has a pleasant smell and for most, it is a very relaxing experience as it promotes the flow of qi throughout the body. Most patients comment on how good and grounded they feel after receiving moxa. And it really alleviates pain!

As with any treatment, it is best to seek out a professional practitioner so talk to your acupuncturist to see if moxibustion is the right option for you. There are some potential side effects and your practitioner will go over them with you as you determine if this is the right course of action for your particular health concern. 

Here at Chelsea Family Acupuncture we make our own Monster Moxa sticks from high grade moxa, and we make our own ultra pure loose moxa for seed moxa from wild harvested Artemesia Argyii and Douglasiana.

Remember, MOXA FOR LIFE!

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