What is Moxibustion?
Moxibustion is a technique used in Oriental Medicine in which a formed portion of burning Ai Ye (Artemesia vulgaris, also known as mugwort) is placed on the body. This portion of Ai Ye is dried and sifted into “wool” called moxa. Moxa is usually pre-shaped into cones or sticks, but can also be used loose by practitioners.
These burning moxa cones can be placed on an acupuncture point or over affected body parts. The Moxa is removed before burning the skin. The purpose of moxibustion, as with most forms of traditional Oriental medicine, is to add warmth, strengthen the blood, stimulate the flow of qi, and maintain general health. Moxibustion is almost always used in conjunction with acupuncture, as a complementary technique.
Moxibustion has been used throughout Asia for thousands of years, but it is not well known in the West. Moxibustion plays an important role in the traditional medical systems of China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Tibet, and Mongolia. In fact, the actual Chinese character for acupuncture, 针灸 (zhēnjiǔ) when translated literally, means “acupuncture-moxibustion.” The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon黄帝内经 (Huáng dì Nèijīng) is the first record of the method of moxibustion applied to acupuncture points. It dates from the Han Dynasty era (206 BC-220 AD) more than 2,000 years ago. The root word, “moxa” is actually derived from the Japanese.
Ai Ye Herb
The Ai Ye plant itself is an herb that has long been used around the world for many of the same conditions that traditional Oriental practitioners use moxibustion to cure. People in cultures all over the world have long thought that it has similar healing, heating, and stimulating effects.
Ai Ye in the Oriental materia medica is described as bitter, acrid, and warm in nature. It affects the Liver, Spleen, and Kidney Channels. Main clinical usage and indications are menstrual disorders, restless fetus, period pain, uterine bleeding, bleeding during pregnancy, spitting blood, nosebleed, hemafecia, chest and abdomen pain due to cold, diarrhea and prolonged dysentery, abnormal vaginal discharge, eczema, sores, ringworm, etc. Usual dosage is from 3 to 9 grams in a tea or decoction.
Benefits of Moxibustion
Moxibustion is used for people who have a cold or stagnant condition. The moxa is burned to warm up the blood and qi. It is particularly known for its ability to turn breech presentation babies into a normal head-down position that is considered safer during childbirth. In a 1998 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 75% of the pregnant women in the study had breech fetuses that turned in the normal position. Moxibustion can significantly increases fetal movements in pregnant women. Moxibustion is also used to treat inflammations including arthritis, ulcerative colitis and extreme muscle fatigue due to over use. It is also highly regarded for menstrual cramps, where the moxa is used over the abdominal area. Often, the cramps disappear immediately. Moxa on acupuncture points is frequently done with acupuncture treatment for many kinds of ailments.
Precautions & Side Effects
Moxibustion is specifically used for patients with a cold or stagnant constitution. Therefore, if any patient has too much heat, they should not undergo moxibustion treatment. An expert practitioner can advise patients in these matters.
Because moxibustion often includes the burning of smoking mugwort sticks, patients who have respiratory problems should avoid the use of smoking moxa. Smokeless moxa sticks are available, and patients who have respiratory difficulties may opt for this method. There is also the occasional report of external burns if the moxa stick is held too close to the patient, although this is rare.