Moxibustion is an ancient technique that has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. It has a variety of applications such as easing pain, warming cold accumulation, regulating digestion, promoting blood flow, soothing menstrual cramps and turning breech babies to name a few. Moxibustion not only has a variety of applications but there are numerous ways to perform this technique. The particular method used can enhance the efficacy of the treatment and make the moxibustion that much more powerful.
Moxibustion is the burning of dried mugwort leaves, or artemisia, on specific acupuncture points or regions of the body to elicit a therapeutic effect. Moxibustion can be done in a direct or indirect fashion.
The mugwort leaves can be shaped into various size cones and burned directly on the surface of the skin or indirectly with a barrier between the moxa and the skin. Direct moxibustion can be scarring or nonscarring in nature. The scarring moxibustion is not terribly popular technique today but was more commonly used in ancient times. When the moxa cone is applied directly to the skin, ignited and allowed to burn out on the skin. This method may lead to a burn or scar on the surface of the skin. Most often scarring moxibustion is used in the treatment of asthma. Nonscarring moxibustion is also a direct form or moxibustion but the moxa cones are removed from the skin before burning out completely; thereby, avoiding leaving the patient with a blister or scar. Nonscarring moxibustion is used in cases of chronic deficiency or cold conditions such as chronic diarrhea.
Indirect moxibustion is performed with a medium between the moxa cone and the skin. Ginger, garlic and salt are the most commonly used mediums in indirect moxibustion and each has its own specific purpose. Ginger is a very warming herb often used on its own to soothe stomach upset and ease digestion. When a fresh ginger slice is applied as medium between the skin and a moxa cone, there is a synergistic effect by combining the warming moxibustion and ginger. This method is used most often in cases where the body’s yang qi is weak, exhibited by abdominal pain, diarrhea or painful joints.
Garlic’s strong antiseptic quality makes it a suitable medium in the treatment of poisonous insect bites and boils. The use of salt as a medium is typically employed on top of the umbilicus for disorders related to the digestive system. This technique ameliorates local pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and prolonged dysentery and in extreme cases, moxibustion with salt can help rescue yang from collapse.
The Artemisia leaves can be rolled into balls and placed directly on the ends of acupuncture needles, this moxibustion technique is known as warming needle. The warming needle technique allows a mild heat sensation to penetrate the meridians and encourage qi and blood flow to ease painful joints due to cold-damp accumulations.
The dried mugwort leaves can be rolled into cigar-shaped sticks and burnt at a slight distance from the skin, allowing the smoke and warmth from the moxa stick to penetrate the body. This technique is the most commonly used form of moxibustion as it imparts a mild warmth that is easily controlled to accommodate patients varying temperature sensitivities.
As beneficial as moxibustion appears, it is not appropriate for all individuals. Contraindications exist and should be determined by a licensed acupuncturist. It is important to exercise extreme caution to avoid potentially harming the patient or the practitioner. Always consult with your licensed acupuncturist to ensure moxibustion is an appropriate treatment method.