What is moxibustion?

Moxibustion is a technique from Traditional Chinese Medicine, and originated alongside acupuncture. Moxibustion is commonly used to heat up acupuncture points, and has both direct and indirect methods. Moxibustion can also be used to warm up acupuncture needles, by securing it to the needle’s handle.

Moxibustion involves fire and smoke, but there are smokeless alternatives for sensitive people. It is a very relaxing therapy, and can help relieve pain. Some practitioners can teach patients how to safely use moxibustion on themselves.

Moxa sticks consist of a dried herb called Mugwort, which is fleeced and packaged into sticks, or used in a loose form. The heat produced by the burning mugwort penetrates deep into the muscular tissues. Moxibustion’s heat can help facilitate the relaxation of contracted muscles and sinews.

Indirect moxibustion is used more commonly. A stick of Moxa is lit, and a practitioner warms points with the small ember produced by the burning herbs. Points on the feet, ankle and knees can be warmed with indirect moxibustion to relieve conditions like arthritis. This style can be safely used both in and outside of the clinic.

Direct Moxibustion is when a small amount of mugwort fleece is burned directly upon the flesh, until there is a feeling of contact with the herb’s heat. Non-scarring Moxa can be performed on patients that are too deficient or unfit for scarring Moxa. Scarring Moxibustion uses a rice sized piece of Moxa fleece and is burnt down just enough to contact the flesh. This activates a powerful immune response that can strengthen the body’s yang and Wei Qi. This form of moxibustion is safely done in a clinic by a licensed acupuncturist.

Moxibustion with moxa leaf can get into the channels and cure hundreds of diseases. Its function is great. The drug properties of moxa leaves (raw) are that they turn warmer after being processed, become moxa wool (processed), which are suitable for moxibustion, and the older the better. The ancients chose moxa as moxibustion material for it is easy to collect and more for its drug properties, and long-term clinical practices have proved that.

Research has shown positive results concerning the pain relieving and therapeutic effects of moxibustion.

  • Moxibustion can lead to vasoconstriction at the burning point while vasodilatation around the point and increase peripheral arterial blood flow and microvascular permeability
  • Another thermal effect of moxibustion is to induce heat shock proteins (HSPs) in local tissues. HSPs are a class of functionally related proteins involved in the folding and unfolding of other proteins.

Biochemical research has elucidated many active components of mugwort, the herb used in moxibustion.

  • These chemicals potentiate therapeutic functions beyond the thermal function of moxibustion.
  • The ingredients of moxa always change according to the place and season of production.

The ingredients of moxa are complicated; more than 60 kinds of components had been identified [33]. The volatile oils of moxa include 1,8-Cineole, alkenes (alpha-thujene, pinene, sabinene, etc.), camphor, borneol, and little aldehydes, ketones, phenols, alkanes, and benzene series compounds. Heptatriacontane (C37H76) plays an important role in combustion [34]. The moxa also has tannins, flavonoids, sterols, polysaccharides, trace elements, and other ingredients.

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