What is Moxibustion?
Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves the burning of mugwort, a spongy herb known as moxa, to promote healing. It has been used throughout Asia for thousands of years. In fact, the Chinese character for acupuncture translated literally means, "acupuncture-moxibustion." Its use stimulates circulation, counteracts cold and dampness in the body, and promotes the smooth flow of blood and qi. This safe, non-invasive technique may be used alone. However, it is generally used together with acupuncture treatment.
How does moxibustion work?
There are two types: direct and indirect. With direct moxibustion, a small, cone-shaped amount of moxa is placed on top of an acupuncture point and burned. It is extinguished or removed before it burns the skin. The patient will experience a pleasant heating sensation that penetrates deep into the skin. The patient should not experience any pain, blistering, or scarring.
With indirect 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. Another indirect form uses both acupuncture needles and moxa. A needle is inserted into an acupuncture point and retained. The end of the needle is then covered in moxa and lit, generating heat to the point and the surrounding area. After the desired effect is achieved, the moxa is extinguished and the needle removed.
Why is moxibustion used?
Moxibustion is used on people who have a cold or stagnant condition. The burning of moxa is believed to expel cold and warm the meridians. Consequently, this leads to the smooth flow of blood and qi. In Western medicine, it has successfully been used to turn breech babies into a normal head-down position prior to childbirth. A landmark study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998 found that up to 75% of women suffering from breech presentations before childbirth had fetuses that rotated to the normal position after receiving moxibustion. Other studies have shown that moxibustion increases the movement of the fetus in pregnant women, and may reduce the symptoms of menstrual cramps when used with traditional acupuncture.