In my practice, I offer moxibustion therapy (also known as “moxa”) to support my patients.
What is moxibustion?
Moxibustion is an ancient form of medicine originating in China. Moxibustion is the burning of the herb mugwort over specific acupuncture points for therapeutic purposes.
For what health conditions do you use moxa?
Moxibustion can be an effective treatment for a number of health conditions. Moxibustion deeply warms the acupuncture points and acupuncture channels. Moxibustion can strengthen the body and it can also increase energy and blood flow.
The most frequent uses in my practice include:
- health issues caused by “cold”– issues due to cold or worsened by cold weather (ex. arthritis, chronic pain)
- patients with “cold” constitutions- patients who always feel cold
- patients with a deficiency diagnosis (especially qi, blood or yang deficiency)
- postpartum support (also known as “mother warming”)
- in pregnancy, to support pregnant people with babies in breech position
- painful menstrual periods
- lack of periods
- chronic or acute uterine bleeding
- digestive issues due to a Chinese Medicine diagnosis of “cold” or qi deficiency
What does moxibustion therapy look like?
The most noticeable thing about moxibustion therapy is the smell from burning mugwort. Some people like the earthy smell, others can find it intense. I find the smell as intense as burning sage or certain kinds of incense.
In my practice, I use two kinds of moxibustion: traditional moxa sticks and smokeless moxa sticks. The biggest difference between the two is that the traditional variety produces a lot of smoke; and the smokeless variety produces much less smoke. I use the smokeless variety in my office since my office-mates don’t love the smell. If patients are up for it, I will send them home with the traditional variety since it can be a little more effective.
Typically during a treatment, I insert the acupuncture needles first. Then, I use moxa on specific acupuncture points based on the patient’s diagnosis. I hold the moxa 1 1/2 to 2 inches away from the skin until the area gently warms and the skin turns slightly pink from the heat. The moxa never touches the skin, instead it is the smoke from the moxa that warms the skin. Once an area is sufficiently warmed, I move to the next point. The total treatment can be anywhere from 5-20 minutes. If we are supporting pregnant people with babies in breech position, we apply the moxibustion for a minimum of 10 minutes to a specific point on each toe.
Does it hurt? Any side effects?
The warmth from moxibustion can feel very soothing and cozy. Sometimes the sensation can get hot, even though the moxa never touches the skin. During the treatment, I communicate with the patient for feedback on the level of warmth. If the moxibustion starts to feel too hot, I simply lift the moxa stick away from the skin and the sensation returns to normal.
Some people find that moxa increases their energy. If it’s done too late at night, some people have difficulty falling asleep. In this case, we would recommend to use the moxa in the morning so that patients can fall asleep easily at night.
There’s always the possibility of burning the skin with moxibustion. Since I am present during the treatment at all times, the risk is very low. I have found that doing moxa on oneself can be a little trickier and small burns can happen, especially if distracted. If possible, have someone else administer it.
What are the effects?
Moxa can deepen the effect of the acupuncture treatment to strengthen the body and move stuck energy. Some people with cold constitutions might feel their body temperature becomes warmer with the moxibustion therapy (which feels really great for those who are constantly cold).
With proper instructions, moxibustion can also be done at home to support the healing effects between treatments.
Are you curious about trying moxibustion?
I am happy to answer your questions to see if moxibustion is appropriate for you. If you are a current patient, ask me about this. If you are interested in becoming a new patient, give my office a call or send me an email.