Using Moxabustion (Moxa) is a common practice in Traditional Chinese Medicine and a treatment that you may find helpful. In Chicago, where I live with about 2.7 million other people, we get pretty cold in the winter. Our long, icy season provides the perfect opportunity to add a little moxa to my patients’ treatment plans.
I want to give you a brief overview of Moxabustion because it is less well known than acupuncture, Chinese herbs or cupping. Moxa is generally used in conjunction with with other Chinese medicine techniques during a treatment, but it can also be used alone.
Moxa, called Ai Ye in Chinese, is made from the dried wool of the Mugwort plant. The treatment involves burning the herb (I know… it sounds like something a witch would throw in her bubbling cauldron) a safe distance from the skin in order to warm an acupuncture point.
Moxa comes in many forms. It can be a stick, which resembles a cigar, used on top of a needle or with a shield in between the skin and the herb. Often a slice of ginger is used as the shield to enhance the warming effects. Another form is a moxa bowl which contains the heated moxa and is placed on the patient’s belly or other appropriate spot.
Moxa creates a comforting sensation of heat as it stimulates blood flow, opening the channels and warming the meridians. Meridians are the paths along which qi flows. Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis includes the concept of balancing yin and yang, therefore I turn to Moxa (yang in nature) when I seek to restore deficient yang conditions. Yang is our hot energy, so when you are yang deficient you are lacking in heat.
Moxa has many benefits, it expels cold and dampness from the body helping a variety of cold damp conditions. Some of the main disorders treated with Moxa include: asthma, diarrhea, rheumatic pain, poor circulation, abdominal pain, vomiting, certain gynecological disorders (moxa burned on the abdomen and Kidney meridian is often used to improve fertility), and any kind of pain due to cold or deficiency.
Moxabustion is also known as an effective tool in turning breach babies. I’ll bet you didn’t know that Chinese Medicine has been used to help turn breach babies for hundreds of years. In my Chicago acupuncture practice, I will often teach my pregnant patients who have a fetus in breech position how to warm the acupuncture point UB67 (located on the lateral side of the pinky toe) with a moxibustion stick to use at home. Happily, we often see the baby’s position turn within 7-10 days of daily use.
I show other patients how to use it on their own for different conditions so they can enhance their treatment at home. I teach them a few appropriate points to moxa for their condition. One of the most common points I demonstrate to my patients is Stomach 36 which, when treated with moxa, improves immunity, energy and vitality.
Moxa is a wonderful addition to a treatment as well as an excellent independent technique. Moxa, as heat, is used to rebalance the body’s cold/damp stagnant condition. This is a potent force in Chinese Medicine. Moxa influences the flow of qi throughout the body, a goal of ours, because when there is stagnation of qi, there is illness, and when qi flows freely, there is health and harmony.