Moxibustion – the use of heat to transform your health
Your practitioner may use a focused heat therapy called Moxibustion as part of your treatment. With this technique, a heat source is brought close to, or placed on the skin to stimulate the immune system for therapeutic effect.
This therapy takes its name from the herb Mugwort (known as moxa) which flourishes in China. The dried, processed leaves, when burned, produce a unique penetrating heat that is stimulating to the body. Also gaining in popularity are modern infra-red emitters, which create the same physical effects of traditional burning moxa but without the smoke and smell. (The smoke and smell from burning moxa will vary greatly depending on its quality and format).
Moxa comes in a variety of forms:
- Loose Moxa
Loose moxa is formed into small or large cones and placed either directly on the skin or on top of a slice of garlic or ginger on the skin, and then lit. As the cone of moxa burns, the heat is monitored to ensure that it reaches peak intensity but does not burn.
- Moxa Sticks
Moxa Sticks are cigar shaped sticks which are lit and used to bring the heat back and forth to create a rosy glow on the skin. (This also comes in a charcoalized version, known as "smokeless", that produces little smoke.)
- Stick-on Moxa
Stick-on Moxa is a small portion of moxa mounted on cardboard with an adhesive base. The cardboard creates a buffer between the burning moxa and the skin, so heat can be focused on the point without burning. A number of moxa pieces may be used on different parts of the body at the same time. This treatment method requires monitoring to ensure comfort, and prevent adverse situations.
- Moxa Burners
Moxa Burners which hold a moxa stick, or moxa embers, are used to warm a large area. The holder insulates the skin from the burning moxa so that a very soothing gentle heat penetrates the body. Some burners are moved back and forth over an area while others remain stationary over one spot. Often a cloth is used between the burner and the skin to prevent excess heat and burning.
Precautions with Moxa for home use
Your practitioner may recommend that you follow up treatments with moxibustion for self-care. Patients need to attend carefully to the directions given to prevent injury during treatment. In addition, the burning ember must be extinguished completely before being discarded to avoid fire. Immersing loose or stick on moxa in water ensures the moxa is extinguished. Moxa sticks should be plunged into a jar of salt or sand for three minutes to ensure that the ember is starved of oxygen and extinguished.
Care should also be taken with the ashes, which may appear innocuous, but could contain small embers that may ignite paper or other substances when discarded in a trash can. Always dispose of ashes in your sink or toilet bowl.
For home use, practitioners may recommend a Moxa Heat Pack. These professional strength warmers will last up to 20 hours and heat a large area. They are safe and non-toxic. When in use, it is important to use a cloth barrier between the hot pack and the skin. The pack can be used on and off throughout out the day to warm and relax areas of the body, and stimulate the vital energy. Your practitioner should give specific instructions for use for your particular condition.