In the Chinese healing technique of moxibustion, an herb known as mugwort or moxa is burned over the skin to produce a soothing, pleasant warm sensation throughout the body. It is an ideal therapy for autoimmune diseases, infertility, menstrual disorders, the common cold, pain, and fatigue. According Chinese Medicine, if given regularly, moxibustion therapy targeting certain points on the body is believed to lengthen lifespan and boost vitality.
The different types of moxibustion
There are various forms of moxibustion just as there are several different types of acupuncture. Moxibustion not only can be used in several various methods, many herbs and tools can also be used. You can put all the different types of moxibustion into one of two different classifications:
1) Direct moxibustion – This type of moxibustion was first utilized as far back as 600 BCE. It involves the direct burning of moxa herb directly on the skin. To prevent burning or blistering of the skin, Hsi Yun Gao (a cream that contains beeswax) and sesame oil is applied to the skin. For direct moxibustion, “gold” and extremely pure moxa that smells extremely pleasant and molded by hand into grain-sized “threads” or “cones” is used. In middle of the 20th century Japan, Fukaya Isaburo developed a method that extinguished the burning moxa cones with a bamboo tube. Pinching the burning moxa cone using the fingers is how practitioners traditionally extinguish the burning cone.
2) Indirect moxibustion – This is a safer kind of moxibustion therapy that uses different methods and materials and methods. In this type of moxibustion, an isolating substance is placed between the skin and burning moxa to prevent the blistering or burning of the skin. Indirect moxibustion has many different forms:
a) Moxa cones – Moxa cones larger in size are burned on top of another herb are placed between the skin and the moxa. Medicinal herbal “cakes,” salt, boiled egg white, root of lotus, citrus peel, sliced garlic, gauze or cloth infused with herb, raw sliced aconite, or fresh sliced ginger or some of the common herbs used underneath the moxa cones. The practitioner chooses the substance to be used based on the state of health of the patient.
b) Stick-on moxa – This method is also known as Ibuki moxa.
c) Moxa balls – The balls are placed at the top end of acupuncture needled and an incense stick is used to light it up.
d) Pole moxa – In this type of moxibustion, a moxa pole is used made up of lower quality moxa that’s rolled into a shape of a cigar and enfolded in rice paper. Other practitioners utilize their own kind of moxa poles and add the moxa with a unique combination of herbs. Pole moxa is an ideal treatment for fatigue, digestive issues, and pain. It originally uses a moxa pole and a medicated cloth is placed over the skin. Then the practitioner lightly presses the burning moxa pole to the cloth for a second then lifts back up. The procedure is done repeatedly until the patient senses the heat. Presently, the common procedure is for practitioners to hold over the skin the burning moxa pole for a specified amount of time without the pole ever touching the skin. This method has certain disadvantages one of which is that patients sensitive to the smoke of the moxa need an effective method of ventilation to breathe easily.
e) Moxa box – In this method, moxa is burned inside a heat-conducting bamboo bowl with a mesh screen at the bottom then applied on the patient’s body. On the top and sides of the bowl are ventilation windows to help the patient breathe more easily.
f) Korean moxa bowl – A heat-conducting bowl is used in which moxa is burned inside. The bowl is then applied on the body.
Mistakes Commonly Made By Some Practitioners
When properly conducted by licensed qualified acupuncturists, moxibustion should be a very safe healing technique. Amateur practitioners, however, can be susceptible to common mistakes which can lead to infections, blisters, and burns. Some of the common mistakes when conducting moxibustion therapy include:
1) Using direct moxibustion on an acupuncture point with a needle already in it. If treatment requires the use of both moxibustion and acupuncture on an acupuncture point, a moxa ball should be applied on the needle’s top end, and the skin surrounding the needles should first be protected with skin shields before lighting up the moxa ball with an incense stick. Another method is to remove the needle, and then apply direct moxibustion. Applying direct moxa to an acupuncture point that already has a needle in it makes it virtually impossible to properly remove the moxa cone without burning the patient, and because a needle is in the skin it can also result in an infection.
2) Using a lighter to lit the moxa to an acupoint or after applying it with an acupuncture needle. In moxibustion plus acupuncture in Jacksonville, the moxa balls should be placed on top of the needle and then lit up using an incense stick to prevent burning.
3) Abandoning the patient in a room while a burning moxa is on a needle stuck in the patient’s body or a smoking moxa box, or any other type of lit moxa is on his/her body. When any type of lit moxa is on a patient’s body, a responsible acupuncturist should never leave the patient alone. A moxa that’s burning can get hot very fast. It literally takes a split second for the flame of the burning moxa to go from curative to painful.