Moxibustion (Moxa)

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Moxibustion (Moxa) is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that has been used throughout Asia for thousands of years. Moxa involves the use of burning mugwart to warm an acupuncture point, needle or meridian and facilitate healing. Mugwort is a small, spongy herb that is formed into the shape of a stick. A moxa stick is roughly the shape and size of a cigar.

Moxa has a wide variety of applications; however, its greatest use is in the treatment of chronic disease and pain. The purpose of moxa, as with most forms of traditional Chinese medicine, is to strengthen the blood, stimulate the flow of qi, and maintain general health.

How do I use a moxa stick?

To use a moxa stick, light one end and blow on it until an ember is glowing orange. Then hold it close to the area being treated and move in clockwise circles for several minutes until the skin turns red. The stick may need to be relit if it extinguishes on its own during your treatment. Have a glass jar nearby to drop the ash from the burning moxa. To extinguish the moxa stick, put it in a small glass jar and close the lid. Be careful not to let the stick burn too low to prevent burning your fingers.

Acupuncturist Ginger Michels demonstrates how to light a moxa stick.

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.

Are there any precautions I should be aware of?

Although moxa 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. At A Touch of Ginger, smokeless moxa sticks are used. Though it does not produce smoke, burning smokeless moxa sticks does create a pungent odor similar to a campfire.