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What is Moxibustion?

By Maureen Lamerdin O.M.D.


Moxibustion Traditional Chinese medicine therapy using mugwort or moxa, which comes from the planet Ai Ye or Artemisia vulgaris and has been professionally used by acupuncturist in Oriental physicians for centuries. 


Moxibustion therapy consist of many different applications of heated “moxa” Over certain acupuncture points, or along acupuncture meridians in the body. The treatments include using either direct moxibustion or indirect moxibustion. 


Direct moxibustion consists of using a grain-size cone of moxa or dry yellow spongy substance made from the mugwort and burning it directly on the skin, the burning moxa is then pinched out or taken away by the therapist before it burns down completely to the skin. The patient experiences a very comfortable sensation of heat that penetrates deep in the skin. In some cases, the moxa is allowed to burn all the way to the skin, such as with its use on warts. In this case the patient will have a brief moment of pain while the heated moxa touches the skin. The practitioner will then apply burn cream to prevent scarring. 


Indirect moxibustion consists of burning a moxa cone on the head of inserted acupuncture needles, or using a cigar-type stick moxa to warm the acupuncture points above the skin.


There are also many devices that are used for indirect moxibustion, such as belly bowls, back boxes, tiger and lion warmers. In this case, the patient will feel warmth in the area of treatment.


The most notable use of moxibustion is for increasing the cephalic positioning of fetuses that are in a breach position. A of 260 women at 33 weeks of pregnancy demonstrated cephalic version (turning of the breech baby) within two weeks in 75% of fetuses carried by patients who retreated with moxibustion. There are a myriad of other reasons why one would use moxibustion therapy for treatment, some of which include digestive disorders, Raynaud’s Arthritic conditions, chemotherapy induced nausea, asthma, allergies, immune deficiency, dysmenorrhea, amenorrhea, irregular periods and infertility. 


Biochemical changes to the body by the use of moxibustion show an increase in the production of white blood cells, an increase in the production of red blood cells and hemoglobin and improvement in the circulation of blood and lymph. 


As with any treatment moxibustion is not for everyone and one should consult an acupuncturist to determine if it may be effective for their condition. 




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