Moxibustion is the burning of Chinese herbs on or near acupuncture points. The most common form is use of a slow burning roll of compressed mugwort which is held above the skin to radiate warmth into the body. Smaller smokeless moxa sticks can be placed in a heating vessel upon the skin. Clumps of smouldering herbs can also be placed on the ends of acupuncture needles to heat them up.
Moxibustion is safe, pleasant and relaxing. We use it for patterns of disharmony that require more yang, hot, active energy, to be transferred into the body. This will have stimulating effects on areas of stagnation, excess or deficiency. It expels cold that might be having a pathogenic effect on you. As you might guess it is helpful for colds and flu.
Like any heat therapy, moxa will increase blood flow to the area. This will boost health as the blood is the key transport system for the body’s own healing processes and removal of toxins. This makes it useful for many kinds of muscular-skeletal conditions, especially stiffness and aches like frozen shoulder. From a TCM point of view heat will help it to ‘thaw’.
I will use moxa when appropriate and if it becomes one of a client’s favourite therapies there are often ways of incorporating it into both preventive and corrective treatments. For instance if you often have cold feet and hands that’s a sign of a yang deficiency and regular moxa will have a tonic effect for you.
One special use of moxibustion is to turn breech babies. Ideally shortly before week 36 or 37 of pregnancy one or two sessions will be effective. The heat gently guides your unborn baby to turn and get ready for the big event. A 1998 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 75% of breech babies were successfully turned after receiving moxibustion on one acupuncture point.
For breech births and chronic conditions where regular moxa is useful I can also teach you how to do it yourself and supply the necessary moxa sticks.
Reference: Cardini, F. and Weixin, H., 1998. Moxibustion for correction of breech presentation: a randomized controlled trial. Jama, 280(18), pp.1580-1584.