Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves the burning of a specially prepared form of the herb mugwort, or “moxa,” to facilitate healing. Moxibustion has been used throughout Asia for thousands of years, and is an integral part of Oriental medicine. In fact, one of the two Chinese characters usually used to mean “acupuncture” is actually the character for moxibustion. The purpose of moxibustion, as with most forms of traditional Chinese medicine, is to strengthen the blood and qi, 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 piece of moxa is placed on top of an acupuncture point and burned. The moxa is placed on the point and lit, but is extinguished or removed before it burns the skin. Indirect moxibustion involves the use of a rolled moxa “stick” over a point, or burning cones of moxa on top of acupuncture needles which have been inserted into the skin. In either case, 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.
What is moxibustion used for?
In traditional Chinese medicine, moxibustion is used on people who have a
deficient, cold or stagnant condition. The burning of moxa is believed to expel cold
and warm the meridians, which promotes smoother flow of blood and qi. In Western
medicine, moxibustion has been shown to increase immunity and 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