What is Moxa?
This month’s blog post is written by our acupuncturist Anu.
I often get asked by patients when they walk into the clinic room, “What’s that smell?” or “What’s that?” as they point to the moxa stick on the table.
Moxibustion or Moxa is a focused heat therapy technique that involves burning a herb called Mugwort over specific acupuncture points, to positively stimulate the body in a variety of ways. Mugwort is the herb of choice as it burns evenly, and its oils and aromas have a positive effect on the body.
How is it administered?
There are several different ways to administer moxa and how it is administered is usually determined by what symptoms are being treated.
- Moxa stick – this is one form of moxa, where one end of a moxa stick (which is about the shape and size of a cigar) is lit up and held close to the area being treated for several minutes until the area feels warm (similar to coming out of a hot shower).
- With a needle – another form of moxa uses both acupuncture needles and moxa. A needle is inserted into an acupuncture point and retained. The handle 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) remain in for the duration of the treatment.
What can Moxa help with?
In general terms, moxa is used to warm body regions and acupuncture points and helps stimulates circulation. The main areas it helps with includes:
- Pain: From a Chinese Medicine perspective, external cold can get trapped in our bodies. The result of that can be increased pain in our joints and muscles. Thus moxa can be used over the affected area, warming it in a way that a hot bath cannot because of how the moxa works, it penetrates at a much deeper level.
- Coughs and other respiratory problems: Since coughs are more prevalent in the winter, i.e. during the cold months, moxa is really effective in moving the cold and stagnation in the lungs to clear up the nagging, hacking cough. It can also be used preventatively in order to stave off seasonal allergies and future illness.
- Digestive symptoms: Since the heat from the Moxa stimulates the digestive system, it is effective in helping with constipation, IBS, and digestion in general.
- Menstrual cramps: Moxa is really effective in relieving menstrual cramps and irregular cycles. Ladies often say they find it very soothing.
- Turning breech babies! To help turn breech babies, the moxa is burnt over a point on the mother’s little toe, which helps to activate the uterus and cause the baby to flip. Like, how did they figure that out all those years ago?!