Moxibustion, or Moxa for short, is the therapeutic burning of the herb Mugwort to facilitate healing by warming the tissues and increasing circulation. Increasing circulation to a specific area of the body brings natural healing agents and anti-inflammatories to a localized area. Similarly, by warming underlying tissues and joints, moxa can decrease swelling and pain in conditions that are cold or damp in nature, such as arthritis or chronic pain from old injuries. Moxa is also excellent for treating bruises, sprains, and even open wounds because of its effects on circulation.
In addition to treating pain, moxa can also be used to tonify qi by warming specific acupuncture points, thereby increasing energy and strengthening the immune system. Finally, moxa has astringent properties and can be helpful for treating digestive conditions such as IBS and loose stools, as well as for painful periods.
Moxibustion is applied in one of two ways, direct and indirect. In the direct moxibustion method, small cones are shaped from loose moxa, which is spongy and holds together. The moxa cones are placed directly on top of specific acupuncture points on the body and allowed to smolder. The patient feels a pleasant warm sensation that deeply penetrates the tissues. Sometimes the moxa cone is placed on top of ginger slices or a small amount of sea salt crystals, which lie directly on top of the acupuncture point. This method enhances the tonifying and astringent properties of the moxa.
In indirect moxibustion, the moxa is typically rolled into a cigar shaped pole and one end is lit and allowed to smolder. The physician will hold the moxa pole over specific areas of the body to warm the tissues and increase circulation. This is most commonly done in painful conditions when larger areas need to be treated. Indirect moxibustion also includes the placement of small balls of loose moxa on the ends of acupuncture needles, which have been inserted into specific acupuncture points.
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