Moxibustion, or commonly referred to as just “moxa”, is a form of herbal therapy that is applied externally in order to warm different acupuncture points. Moxa (Artemesia vulgaris, or mugwort) is burned and held above the skin or on a needle to warm different points on the body.
The purpose of moxibustion is to increase blood flow, which allows for easier blood and nutrient movement towards and away from an area. As such, it is commonly used in cases of swelling and edema, sprains, strains, varicose veins. It is also very useful for chronic pain and arthritis, as well as trauma with bruising or inflammation. One study has shown that it may help correct breach presentation in pregnancy.
Indirect moxibustion, where the moxa is burned and held above the skin, is currently the more popular form of care because there is a much lower risk of pain or burning. Similarly, there are forms of moxa made to sit on the end of an acupuncture needle. The tip of the needle which is wrapped in moxa is then lit, in order to heat the surrounding area and drive the heat into that particular acupuncture point. After the desired effect is achieved, the moxa is extinguished and the needle(s) removed. These techniques create a gradual localized vasodilatation response (increase in blood flow), and are known to also help the patient enjoy deep relaxation.
This type of moxibustion therapy, in conjunction with acupuncture, can be very effective for many diseases and conditions including acute or chronic back pain, muscle stiffness, headaches or migraines, tendonitis, arthritis, digestive disorders, anxiety, and female health problems such as menstrual cramps, irregular periods, and infertility.
Moxibustion can be applied in many different ways and the expected physiological reactions from moxibustion can greatly vary depending on the type and technique used. By carefully considering the type of moxibustion, and where and how to apply it, your practitioner will ensure the safest and most effective use for each individual patient.
It should be noted, however, that moxa is generally not recommended for patients with diabetes, decreased sensitivity to pain, who are on certain medications such as prednisone, or who have any other conditions involving compromised circulation or a weakened immune system.