The Use Of Moxibustion For Pain And Cold Conditions Among Others

Balance was the primary goal of healing for ancient healers.

Of course, a person who is weak and cold would require strength and warmth. For this condition, traditional Chinese medicine healers recommend a technique called moxibustion.

Moxibustion works by providing the body with deep, penetrating heat to neutralize the underlying cold. Cold usually builds up in the GI tract, lower stomach, or uterus, moxibustion can help supply heat to those parts.

In moxibustion therapy, a moxa plant is burned and applied on specific parts of the body. Usually, the moxa is shaped into cones or cigars, set alit, and placed near the body.

Moxibustion is believed to have originated more than 3,000 years ago in northern China. Long before acupuncture needles were used, moxa was burned on acupuncture points to address a variety of diseases. These include reproductive problems, menstrual irregularities, chronic digestive disorders, and serious conditions like Lyme disease, tuberculosis, and cancer.

Moxibustion therapy is extremely effective against types of pain that may not be well-addressed with acupuncture. Unfortunately, many Western practitioners of Chinese medicine have abandoned the art of moxibustion and instead mainly focused on Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture.

In the United States, the therapy is not as popular as in Korea, Japan, and China. A lot of American acupuncturists have decided not to practice this modality after they graduate. One can learn the practice of moxibustion in Chinese medicine schools.

The main issue with moxibustion is the smell. A typical moxibustion session produces an aromatic smoke that many people falsely attribute as marijuana smoke.

Although the smoke may be too much for some people, it doesn’t change the fact that the therapy is very effective.

Primary Mode of Treatment

Unlike acupuncture, there’s not been much research done about moxibustion although there is enough literature describing its positive effects on immunity, the blood, and in the regeneration of tissue. The JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) published a study in 1998 revealing that three quarters of pregnant women with breech babies turned to the normal position when moxibustion therapy was used on an acupuncture point situated on their pinky toes.

Moxibustion is widely regarded by ancient doctors but in the West, Chinese medicine practitioners only consider it a minor part of their practice. According to the prominent document of Chinese medicine, the Nei Jing, moxibustion “can do what the needle cannot.”

To their credit some modern practitioners are imbibing this principle into their practice. One acupuncturist described a specific case about a woman whom he recently treated with moxibustion. The patient was involved in multiple car accidents, and despite being treated for months at a time with acupuncture from different practitioners, she only gained negligible improvements.

However, after just one session of moxibustion, she immediately experienced very substantial results.

Experts in Chinese medicine believe that if treated with moxibustion on a daily basis, a lot of people suffering from chronic or severe illnesses would be able to reverse their condition.

They also believe that the fear of burning their patient accidentally is what prevents a lot of American acupuncturists in Spokane from utilizing moxibustion. This therapy may entail a certain skill on the part of the practitioner in order to perform it in a therapeutic and proficient manner.


Moxa is derived from an abundantly growing weed known as mugwort. This weed is commonly prescribed in Chinese herbal medicine for treatment of circulatory, hormonal, and digestive problems, as well as for heavy bleeding, menstrual cramping, labor pain, and uterine problems.

When used in moxibustion therapy, mugwort is converted into a spongy substance called moxa wool.

Lorraine Wilcox, an author of a couple of books on the clinical use of moxibustion state that ancient Chinese healers use mugwort because of its positive qualities: it easily burns, and generates a slow and stable flame.

In a 2014 podcast, Wilcox said that the magical qualities of mugwort make it one of the biggest reasons it was specially selected by practitioners.

She said “According to ancient books, mugwort was used to neutralize poison from scorpion or snake bites and to ward off evil spirits and qi (energy), which made it some sort of magical practice.”

Some people do enjoy the aroma generated by moxibustion. It helps calm their anxiety and fear and relaxes their nervous systems. Some patients may actually enjoy the treatment once they get over the funky smell.

According to Stuardi, there are patients that experience a pleasant euphoric rest during the treatment.

Practically anyone can benefit from moxibustion although there are occasions when it should be used. People with signs and symptoms of excess heat like those with eczema, infection, or fever should avoid moxibustion. Women in the early stages of pregnancy Points should not have moxibustion of the lower back and stomach.

Direct and Indirect Moxibustion

There are two forms of moxibustion: direct and indirect. Direct moxibustion requires a highly skilled practitioner as it involves directly applying a burning moxa on the skin. On the other hand, indirect moxibustion entails the hovering of a hot burning moxa about an inch above the body.

It’s easy to learn the indirect technique; a practitioner oftentimes will treat a patient by holding a smoldering moxa cigar over an acupuncture point. With instructions from his/her practitioner, the patient can continue this treatment at home.

Hover the burning moxa over the selected acupuncture point, and when the sensation gets too hot pull it away. Resume treatment after giving the treatment site a few seconds to cool.

Stuardi advises patient to tolerate the superficial sensation of warmth up to the point when the heat reaches deep into the tissue. She says “You will know that you have correctly done the technique once heat is felt penetrating deep within your body and then you can put out the flame”. One session of moxibustion usually lasts around 5 to 10 minutes.

You can purchase moxa supplies online, in acupuncture schools, and in Chinatown shops. Moxa is available in different sizes and shapes: from loose moxa wool to cigarette butt-sized stumps with an adhesive tip. For people wanting to avoid the smell and smoke, a moxa stick that is smokeless and charcoal-based smokeless is also available although according to Stuardi they are less effective.

Ibuki Gold Mountain, a high-quality Japanese moxa is highly recommended for people with allergies or asthma. This type of moxa generates a very pleasant smell that most people can tolerate very well.

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