Moxibustion is an ancient Chinese medicine practice that stimulates the flow of Qi life force energy through the body by burning a herbal moxibustion stick or “moxa” stick.
In this article, we’ll answer your burning moxibustion questions (excuse the pun) to see if it’s right for you.
What is moxibustion therapy?
Moxibustion therapy is the practice of burning a “moxa” stick – made from dried artemisia leaves – to create a thick smoke with an earthy aroma. It looks a bit like a cigar and is placed close to acupoints on the skin.
According to TCM, moxibustion improves health and wellness by stimulating blood circulation and the free flow of vital Qi energy around the body. The warming effect of the moxa stick may increase “yang” (heat) energy while dispelling excess “yin” (cool) energy.
However, Western medicine suggests it just warms the skin. This may dilate blood vessels, promote blood circulation, and release tension.
How does moxibustion therapy work?
There are two ways of administering moxibustion: directly and indirectly.
For direct moxibustion, the moxa rests directly on the acupoints. However, the flame gets extinguished before it reaches the skin.
Indirect moxibustion involves holding the moxa stick an inch away from the skin as it burns. This is a safe and often preferred option.
Moxibustion is also used with acupuncture to enhance its effectiveness. The moxa is attached to the tip of the needle and extinguished when the skin feels warm.
What is moxibustion therapy good for?
Moxibustion treats a range of symptoms, including:
- Chronic pain
- Headache and migraines
- Musculoskeletal injuries
- Digestive symptoms
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Hot flashes
- High blood pressure
- Muscle spasms
- Low immunity
It has also become a popular alternative treatment for breech babies (when the baby is positioned feet first in the womb). Practitioners use moxibustion to encourage the baby to move into the correct position. In addition, it may help women recover from the birthing process.
What are the disadvantages of moxibustion?
Moxibustion is safe when performed by an experienced practitioner. However, there is a risk of burning if practised carelessly.
Other potential disadvantages of moxibustion include:
- Nausea and coughing from the smoke
- Skin discolouration
- Skin allergy to the moxa herb
It’s crucial to seek a qualified practitioner to avoid potential side effects.
How quickly does moxibustion work?
Everyone reacts differently to moxibustion, with some responding quicker than others.
However, several sessions may be necessary to see results. For example, this study found three sessions weekly for six weeks improved arthritic pain (1).
A moxibustion treatment lasts anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. The shorter sessions are typically for a “tune-up” to maintain wellness, while longer sessions address chronic symptoms.
How often should I do moxibustion?
Practitioners may suggest an initial course of 12 sessions over a month. However, for breech babies, women may need shorter sessions daily (starting from 34 weeks) for 7-10 days.
That said, your practitioner will suggest the best course of treatment for your needs.
Zhao et al. (2014). Effectiveness of moxibustion treatment as adjunctive therapy in osteoarthritis of the knee. Arthritis Res Ther. https://arthritis-research.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/ar4590
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