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What is Moxibustion?

What is Moxibustion?

You might have heard your acupuncturist mention Moxibustion as a treatment option. This unfamiliar term needs some definition and clarification for most. So, what is it? Moxibustion is defined as a form of heat therapy that involves burning the dried moxa plant and leaving it on or very near the skin’s surface, thus promoting the flow of “qi” and eliminating certain pathogens in the body.

Moxa is made from the mugwort plant and can be made into sticks of varying sizes or it can be mixed with other herbs to enhance its benefits. Believe it or not, moxa has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. It can be applied in what is called a moxa cone which rests on the patient’s skin at the specific treatment point. The acupuncturist will light the cones and let it burn slowly until the patient begins to feel the heat and then the cone is removed. 

Typically, in the U.S. moxa is applied more indirectly as a safety precaution. Rather than placing the moxa cone directly on the skin, the acupuncturist will hold the moxa stick an inch or two above the specific treatment area. Another method is to place the moxa on the acupuncture needle and leave it to burn until extinguished, thus allowing the heat to travel through the acupuncture needle directly to a specific acupuncture point. 

WebMD describes moxibustion as “founded on the belief that blockages in the flow of energy lead to mental and physical health problems.” They describe it as an option used to treat back pain, arthritis, headaches and migraines, muscle stiffness, ulcers, fatigue, infertility, menstrual cramps, cancer, and digestive issues.

What the Research Says

WebMD points to several studies that have been conducted regarding how moxibustion therapy can benefit health, including taking a close look at safety and effectiveness. One study found moxibustion to be excellent therapy for chronic kidney disease. Researchers determined it had a great effect on reducing serum creatinine, which is responsible for poor kidney function when found in high doses. Another study found that moxibustion helped to reduce the severity and frequency of hot flashes in 51 women in their postmenopausal stage after just 14 sessions. 

What can Moxibustion Treat?

Moxibustion can be used to treat a variety of issues including pain. It is believed that Moxa heat can expel the cold and dry dampness that causes pain throughout the body (shoulder, abdominal, knee, back, and other joint pain). 

Moxa works to improve digestion by warming up the meridians and strengthening the whole digestive system. Moxa treatments can also improve overall health and wellness by strengthening the immune system, thus reducing the risk of illness. 

So, what does it feel like to have a moxibustion treatment? For many patients, it feels like a sudden flooding of warmth throughout the entire body. It has a pleasant smell and for most, it is a very relaxing experience as it promotes the flow of qi throughout the body. 

As with any treatment, it is best to seek out a professional practitioner so talk to your acupuncturist to see if moxibustion is the right option for you. There are some potential side effects and your practitioner will go over them with you as you determine if this is the right course of action for your particular health concern. 

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