Most of my clients will be familiar with the smoky odour of “moxa” when they walk into the treatment room. It’s a smell that I actually really like; it somehow tells us by it’s smell that it has healing properties.
Moxibustion is the practice of heating specific acupuncture points on the body with a smouldering herb material called moxa.
What is Moxa?
The herb material used is mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris, Ai Ye) an invasive weed, which grows in many climates. Mugwort has a long history of use in folk medicine. It is believed that the Romans planted mugwort by roadsides to make it available to travelers to put in their shoes to relieve aching feet and protect them from exhaustion. Maybe this is because of its ability to enhance the movement of Qi and Blood.
Mugwort gets its botanical name from the Greek moon goddess Artemis, a patron of women, and is a wonderful herb for gynecological conditions. In Chinese Herbal Medicine it is used to treat heavy menstrual bleeding and uterine bleeding and to increase blood circulation to the pelvic area to treat menstrual pain. Moxibustion, used at the right time, is often used to turn breech babies into a normal head-down position before childbirth.
How Is Moxa Used
There are various ways that moxa can be used. My favourite methods include:
Direct moxa techniques involve rolling a small amount of moxa into a ball, applying it directly to the skin and allowing it to smoulder. This is usually repeated several times on each point and a barrier is used to prevent the skin burning.
Needle moxa involves placing a “moxa cone” onto the end of a needle, allowing it to warm the needle & the tissues beneath.
Moxa sticks are made of pressed moxa formed into a cigar shape. They are used over a point to apply heat. Sometimes clients can be shown how to use these at home.
How Does Moxa Help the Immune System?
Before modern techniques were developed, Chinese Medicine had it’s own way of describing the immune system, even before the exact nature of that system was discovered.
“A person who has vigorous anti-pathogenic qi is never affected by any kind of evil; a person who is invaded by an evil must have weak anti-pathogenic qi.”
Generally speaking, the course of disease is actually the process of struggle between the anti-pathogenic qi and pathogenic factors. If the anti-pathogenic qi wins the struggle, the person will be fine. If the pathogenic factors win the struggle, the person will get sick with an allergy, common cold or other similar condition.
To translate this into the Western medicine standpoint, anti-pathogenic qi refers to the normal function of the immune system and “evil” refers to viruses, bacteria etc.
One of the benefits of using moxa is it’s effect on boosting the immune system. Studies have shown that moxibustion carried out on a point on the leg, Stomach 36, increases the level of infection fighting white blood cells within 10 minutes of treatment. A traditional treatment would have been to use direct or indirect moxa on this point every day to help reduce the duration of colds etc., and to boost the immune system at crucial times of the year, often at the change of the seasons.
Which Points Are Used?
Zusanli (Stomach 36,) on the lower leg, is one of the most famous and widely used points. The translation means “leg three miles.” It is said that its name was derived from the legend according to which a weary traveller (during the time when travel was predominantly on foot) would stimulate Zusanli and become energized enough to be able easily to journey an additional three miles. This point is also an important point of the stomach meridian. St36 strengthens the whole body, especially the immune system, tones the muscles, aids digestion and relieves fatigue.
From the TCM standpoint, the Spleen and Stomach are the root of acquired constitution. They work together as the acquired source of energy in the body. The spleen and stomach transform the food and drink into energy and then transport it to where it is needed. A well-functioning spleen and stomach are essential for this process. By doing moxibustion on this point, we increase our body’s ability to absorb the nutrients it needs to keep our energy up as well as boosting our immune system.
Another great point for boosting immunity is Dazhui (Du 14) at the top of the spine. The Du meridian/channel is the “sea of yang” and moxibustion at Dazhui (GV14) is the best way to strengthen yang, boost the immune system and prevent allergies.
What Else Is Moxibustion Used For?
- Warming the Channels
- Moxibustion helps conditions that are worsened by cold, like arthritis. Moxa treats any pain that is worse with cold or wet weather. Injuries sustained while in a cold climate like skiing accidents or nerve damage by cold respond very well to moxibustion.
- Managing Inflammation
- Moxibustion manages inflammation from both infection and trauma by stimulating the circulatory system. Specifically, moxibustion increases white blood cell counts. Fresh blood enters the tissue and flushes out old blood and toxic byproducts of inflammation.
- Improving Circulation and Moving Stagnation
- Moxa boosts circulation in the tissue near where it is burned. If there are areas where you have varicose or spider veins, or the skin feels cool, moxa improves blood flow. Without proper circulation, the body begins to create disease processes. Heat is a powerful mover of energy.
- Building Blood
- Moxa adds energy of its own to the body and in doing so it stimulates the body to make more red blood cells. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) terms, moxa “builds blood”. This technique is used to treat symptoms of blood deficiency such as dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, weakness, hair loss, anaemia, postpartum depression and more.
- Drying Dampness
- Dampness is the TCM term for turbidity or excess mucus. It also refers to fluids that become sticky or excessive.
- Symptoms of dampness include water retention, brain fog, teeth marked and/or puffy tongue, weight gain, watery sinus drainage, loose stools, itchy ears, etc.
- Pregnancy: Turning breech babies
- Moxibustion is stimulating to both the nervous and circulatory system. It can turn breech babies. One study of 226 women showed that moxibustion plus acupuncture (compared to no treatment) resulted in a 27% decrease in the risk of having a breech baby at birth, and a 21% decrease in the risk of having a cesarean section.
Who would have though such an unassuming little herb could do all of that!
Get in touch with Eileen here, by phone, by email or by booking a free 15 minute phone consultation:
Call on 07773332553