I don't believe I've talked about Moxibustion in this blog, which is a bit of an oversight. See, I'm allergic to the smoke associated with the burning of moxa (mugwort) and so didn't even think about writing about it!
Thanks, Carolyn, for bringing it up as a topic!
As I mentioned in passing above, Moxibustion is the burning of the herb Moxa. Moxa is the western herb mugwort. The fluffy herb can be burned several different ways:
- Loose Moxa can be pressed into a little ball shape and placed on the handle of the needle and burned.
- Loose Moxa can be pressed into a little cone shape and placed on a patch of ointment directly on the skin. The cone is then allowed to burn until the patient begins to feel heat and then quickly removed. In China they will allow the moxa cone to burn to the point of blistering, creating a scar. This is called scarring moxa, and for, hopefully, obvious reasons isn't practiced in the US.
- Moxa can be purchased in a cigar-shaped stick which is then burned and held over the skin. There are two forms of moxa sticks: green moxa, where the herb is pressed together and rolled into the cigar; and a moxa stick where the moxa has been made into a charcoal cigar.
- Loose Moxa can be burned inside a special box (a moxabox) with holes in the sides to allow smoke to exit, which is then held over the skin.
So what is the purpose of burning moxa? Moxa is an extremely warming and moving herb so it can be used for many reasons:
- Body Aches - Pain is caused, in Chinese medical theory, by a lack of proper movement of energy. Moxa, when burned over the area will get that energy moving and decrease the pain.
- Skin Rashes - Some skin rashes are also caused by Qi not moving properly, so moxibustion may be indicated.
- Turning a breech baby - When burned on certain points, moxa can be very successful in turning breech babies. Many nurses and midwives even know of this technique and will recommend that their patients find an acupuncturist to get that baby in the proper position!
- Cold conditions - Okay, so this reason for using moxa doesn't have a singular biomedical equivalent, so we'll discuss it a little bit. In Chinese medical theory, the quality of something being cold will cause its energy to move more slowly. If that cold is inside our bodies, it will cause our Qi to move more slowly, often causing pain. Cold can be one of the contributing factors to pain. There are many conditions where cold can be a factor, such as menstrual cramps, digestive troubles, infertility, diarrhea and more. Moxa, because it is both warming and moving, is perfect for counteracting the effects of cold in the body.