Flaming Needles | Warming and Moving | Does Moxibustion Hurt | Light Me Up | Print This Page
Moxibustion is the burning of the herb, artemesia vulgaris (Ai Ye in Chinese), commonly known as "moxa". The herb is burned on or near the skin of the patient to facilitate warming of an acupuncture point or group of points.
Moxa comes in a variety of forms. The most common looks like a cigar, wrapped in paper with Chinese lettering on it. In this form, the end of the cigar is lit, and then held about 1-2 inches above the skin. The practitioner may move the stick, or may hold it still. This is done until the skin is warm to the touch and slightly pink in color.
Moxa may be applied to an acupuncture needle. In this case, it may be in a smaller paper wrapped form, or may be loosely clumped onto the handle of the needle. It is then lit from the bottom of the herb, and the warmth spreads down the needle shaft deeper into the point. It also provides a pleasant warmth to the tissue around the point.
Moxa may be used directly on the skin. In this case, clumps of the herb varying in size from a rice grain to a chestnut, are applied to an acupuncture point, and lit from the top. The herb is burned until the patient experiences a sensation of warmth which is perceived as uncomfortable, then snuffed out and/or removed.
In China, some practitioners will allow the moxa to burn until a small blister forms on the skin. This is not considered to be acceptable practice in the United States, and is not done at Eastern Body Therapy.
The moxa may also be placed on a slice of ginger, a layer of salt, a slice of garlic, or other herb before being lit. This allows for the properties of the additional substance to penetrate the point along with the artemesia herb. A common practice with direct moxa is to burn 3-5 cones until the patient feels a strong sensation of warmth, and the skin has become slightly pink.
If moxibustion is helpful for your condition, we may send you home with a stick and instructions for self administration. back to top
Moxibustion works by warming the surface of the skin. The herb itself has been shown to be more effective at warming and relieving pain due to cold than other means of warming, including hot packs and infrared heat lamps. It is believed that some of the properties of the herb penetrate through the skin as the pores open with the warmth. Ai Ye is known by Chinese herbalists to posses qualities of warming the channels and moving qi and blood to relieve pain. It is commonly used internally for conditions such as dymenorrhea (painful menstruation). When moxa is used on a needle, the warmth is taken down the shaft of the needle, and penetrates deeper into the point. This is helpful in conditions which are characterized by a deep sensation of cold. back to top
Most patients report a pleasant sensation of warmth while receiving moxibustion. This sensation may be local to the area being treated, or may travel along a muscle group or meridian pathway. The warmth may become quite intense, but most patients find it soothing rather than uncomfortable. If you become uncomfortable while receiving a moxibustion treatment, notify your practitioner immediately. During direct moxibustion, it is common for a point to go from having very little sensation of warmth to a strong and uncomfortable sensation very quickly. Communication with the practitioner is critical! Often, there will be a quick sensation of heat, similar to the pricking sensation produced with a needle insertion. This occurs as the ember reaches the skin and is immediately snuffed out. back to top
Moxabustion provides a deep sense of warmth, and is quite soothing to the patient. The heat increases circulation to the local area and dilates blood vessels to improve both cellular nutrition and waste removal. It helps to relieve muscle spasms and to warm aching joints. From a Chinese Medical perspective, it moves qi and blood and warms the channels. This means that it helps to relieve pain and improve circulation, while providing warmth. back to top