I love my work as a Licensed Acupuncturist, but I have to be honest – acupuncture is only my 2nd favorite modality. The one that gets me excited, that I use whenever given the opportunity, and that adds the most benefit to clients who are needing extra nourishment, is moxibustion.

What’s that?

Moxibustion, or “Moxa” for short, is the burning of the mugwort herb, Artemisia species, next to acupuncture points. It’s a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) modality that is just as old and revered as acupuncture, though less known here in the West. That may change though, as TCM is becoming more widespread. Already, researchers have declared that heat therapy in general is a promising technique, especially for low back pain. But that’s just one of the many conditions that moxibustion can effectively treat.

In the classic Chinese text Huangdi Neijing Lingshu (Miraculous Pivot of the Yellow Emperor’s Internal Classic), it states that moxibustion should be used when a disease fails to respond to acupuncture and herbs.

From a TCM perspective, moxibustion treats “cold” conditions that benefit from heat and greater circulation of qi (vital energy) and blood. It is tonifying and nourishing to the core, feels wonderful, and has a distinct aroma that most people find relaxing. It’s used to prevent disease and increase longevity.

A respectable amount of modern research shows that moxibustion has a positive effect on all human physiological systems, has analgesic effects, can boost immunity and affect the rate of aging.

The most popular conditions where moxibustion use is indicated include:

  • Joint/muscle pain

  • Stomachache

  • Menstrual cramps

  • Diarrhea/colitis

  • Hemorrhoids

  • Asthma

  • Epilepsy

  • Low immunity

  • Autoimmune issues

  • Poor circulation, cold hands & feet

  • Ending a cycle of repeated colds & flu

  • Ear infections

  • Encouraging breech babies to turn

  • Fatigue/Lethargy

  • Depression

  • Bed-wetting

  • Insomnia

There are several ways to use moxa. TCM practitioners use the dried wool on the tops of acupuncture needles to warm a point or can place a small cone of moxa on salt, ginger, or another base that has therapeutic properties which is directly against the skin. But the easiest method is using a moxa stick which looks like a cigar. It’s burned without fire, like incense and situated close to the point needing to be warmed. It’s held there with an in and out “pecking motion” for several minutes.

What is really great about this therapy is that a practitioner can teach clients how to use a moxa stick and they can do it easily at home on themselves or with the help of a partner.

Self-administered moxibustion on Kidney 1 for insomnia
 

There are definite concerns about inhaling the smoke from moxa. And I always ensure that I have proper ventilation before using it. However, the amount of time people are typically exposed appears to not be a problem.

This study shows that there were no adverse effects to Heart Rate Variability (HRV) when participants were exposed to routine 25 minute exposure to moxa smoke. HRV is a measure of sympathetic nervous system stress that is typically triggered with tobacco smoke & air pollution. Further studies are warranted, but this study actually suggested that the smoke might have positive effects on the autonomic nervous system.

 

Are you intrigued and want to learn more? I’d love to answer any questions in the comments. For those of you who’ve tried moxibustion, please let us know about your experience!

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Written by Brandy Falcon
I help families manage modern health challenges by connecting them to traditional wisdom and healing practices.  CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE