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February 24, 2021

What Is Moxibustion?

Ever walk into an acupuncture office and think it smells like weed?

Well, it’s likely not the newest combo of cannabis store and acupuncture office. It’s more likely the use of Moxibustion.

Moxibustion is a treatment used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Japanese Acupuncture and Korean Acupuncture. The earliest recorded use of moxibustion is from 518 B.C. in China. The treatment involves the burning of the herb mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) over acupuncture points.

What Is A Treatment Like?

A treatment with moxibustion is very comfortable. The moxa in its raw form, is like wool and can be stuck on top of an acupuncture needle or rolled into small rice grains and applied directly to the acupuncture point. Moxa cones may be placed on top of slices of ginger or piles of salt. Some acupuncturists use moxa boxes and they come in different shapes and sizes. A moxa box may be placed on the abdomen and filled with wool like, raw moxa. It is ignited and the warmth is felt in the digestive and reproductive system. There are also moxa boxes that a patient can stand on. A box is filled with the moxa and lit. The patient stands above on the box and the smoke and heat comes out of the box through holes under the feet. How about a moxa box for the eyes? There are moxa tools that allow the moxa to be burned over closed eyes to help with vision. But the most common, modern form of moxibustion is the use of a moxa stick. In this therapy the dried leaves of the mugwort are pulverized and rolled into a stick, like a cigar. The lit stick is held over acupuncture points.

What Does It Treat? 

Silk books discovered in the Mawangdui tomb of the Han dynasty (about 168 B.C.), discuss over 300 diseases treated with moxibustion. The most common use moxibustion are turning a breech positioned baby, diarrhea and colitis. Additionally muscle complains like The possible mechanisms are dualistic, the effects are both due to the heat and to the stimulation of acupuncture points and meridians. The effects from the heat of moxa are similar to infrared-heat, leading to reduction of inflammation. There are also benefits from the herb that is used- Mugwort. This herb is also anti inflammatory and warming, and the benefits from inhalation of the herb may be how moxibustion works as well.

How To Find A Practitioner

Acupuncturist are easy to find in some parts of the US, like the west coast, NY/NJ and FL. Other parts of the country may be more difficult to find a qualified provider. Acupuncturists in the US are required to complete a 3-year master’s degree program and maintain a valid state acupuncture licensed. Other professionals may offer acupuncture, but may not have completed the entire Acupuncture program required for licensed acupuncturists. Find a trained and nationally board certified acupuncturist on this national directory.

Deng, H., & Shen, X. (2013). The mechanism of moxibustion: ancient theory and modern research. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2013, 379291. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/379291

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Kerry Boyle L.Ac., D.Ac.  |  Contribution: 1,225