Moxibustion
Moxibustion
Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves the burning of mugwort, a small, spongy
herb, to facilitate healing. Moxibustion has been used throughout Asia for thousands of years; in fact, the actual
Chinese character for acupuncture, translated literally, means "acupuncture-moxibustion." The purpose of
moxibustion, as with most forms of traditional Chinese medicine, is to strengthen the blood, stimulate the flow of
qi, and maintain general health.

How does moxibustion work? Does it hurt?

There are two types of moxibustion: direct and indirect. In direct moxibustion, a small, cone-shaped amount of
moxa is placed on top of an acupuncture point and burned. This type of moxibustion is further categorized into
two types: scarring and non-scarring. With scarring moxibustion, the moxa is placed on a point, ignited, and
allowed to remain onto the point until it burns out completely. This may lead to localized scarring, blisters and
scarring after healing. With non-scarring moxibustion, the moxa is placed on the point and lit, but is extinguished
or removed before it burns the skin. The patient will experience a pleasant heating sensation that penetrates
deep into the skin, but should not experience any pain, blistering or scarring unless the moxa is left in place for
too long.

Indirect moxibustion is currently the more popular form of care because there is a much lower risk of pain or
burning. In 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 until the area turns red. Another form of
indirect moxibustion uses both acupuncture needles and moxa. A needle is inserted into an acupoint and
retained. The tip of the needle is then wrapped in moxa and ignited, generating heat to the point and the
surrounding area. After the desired effect is achieved, the moxa is extinguished and the needle(s) removed.

What is moxibustion used for?

In traditional Chinese medicine, 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, which leads to smoother flow of blood and qi.
In Western medicine, moxibustion 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 at an acupuncture point on the Bladder meridian. 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 in conjunction with traditional acupuncture.

Why do acupuncturists use mugwort? Why not use some other herb?

Mugwort, also known as artemesia vulgaris or ai ye in Chinese, has a long history of use in folk medicine.
Research has shown that it acts as an emmenagogue ­ that is, an agent that increases blood circulation to the
pelvic area and uterus and stimulates menstruation. This could explain its use in treating breech births and
menstrual cramps.

Are there any precautions I should be aware of?

Although moxibustion has been safely used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, it is not for everyone.
Because it is used specifically for patients suffering from cold or stagnant constitutions, it should not be used on
anyone diagnosed with too much heat. Burning moxa also produces a great deal of smoke and a pungent odor.
Patients with respiratory problems may request that their practitioner use smokeless moxa sticks as an alternative.





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