Moxibustion is warming of particular points on body with burning roll of herb known as mugwort or Artemisia vulgaris for desired medical benefit. There are many different types of moxa. There is loose moxa, moxa that has been molded into sticks, and okyu (moxa that’s rolled into small pieces about the size of a rice grain). There are also moxa boxes, moxa sticks, smokeless moxa sticks, tiger warmers, and “belly bowls”. Certain moxa types are better suited for smaller areas (okyu, for example) while others, such as tiger warmers, are selected to bring heat to a larger area on the body.
Occasionally moxa is combined with another herb, such as ginger or garlic, to produce complementary effects. For example, to treat someone with a cold and achy stomach, an acupuncturist might place a slice of ginger over the patient’s navel and then burn some loose moxa on top of the ginger.
Use of Moxa
We use moxa to warm the body and to bring more qi and blood flow to an area. Moxa typically is applied to places where there is stuck energy or pain, or where the body feels cold. Moxa is used to strengthen the immune system as well.
Often, the placement of moxa coincides with acupuncture points, which is why moxa is said to enhance the effects of acupuncture needles. A classical Chinese text about acupuncture says, “When a disease fails to respond to medication and acupuncture, Moxibustion is suggested.”
Moxa does not hurt
Moxa does not hurt. Before using moxa directly on the skin, cream is applied to reduce feeling of pain or scarring. As the moxa burns down to the level of the cream, at worst, the patient may experience a mild mosquito-bite feeling.
There are also several forms of indirect moxa, which create a warming effect without ever coming in contact with the skin. For an example, an acupuncturist may hold a burning moxa stick around an acupuncture needle, raised a few inches from the skin. Or he may put some moxa on the handle of a needle and place a metal shield on the skin to catch any falling ashes. If moxa ever feels too hot, we will remove it immediately.
Moxa can be smoky or smokeless
Burning moxa can create smoke in the treatment room. Certain types of moxa are smokier than others, and some contain herbs that produce a pleasant smell. Some people enjoy this while others find it overpowering.
We will be able to offer you smokeless moxa. There are also moxa ointments and self-warming moxa patches that produce no smoke. Many acupuncturists have these options available because some buildings do not permit the burning of smoke-producing moxa.