Moxibustion therapy is the practice of burning mugwort or 'moxa', a Chinese medicinal herb, at acupuncture points or body areas for therapeutic benefits.
Artemesia vulgaris, known as mugwort or wormwood, or 'ai ye' in Chinese, is a perennial plant from the daisy family and is the herb used in moxibustion therapy. Moxa has a history of use in folk medicine in many cultures and is highly valued in Chinese medicine.
Moxa has a stimulating, warming nature which helps to circulate the flow of Qi through the body, enhancing the therapeutic nature of the acupuncture treatment. Moxibustion is effective for use with the presentation of cold, damp and stagnant conditions that often lead to pain. The medicinal warmth that moxa provides is relaxing, calming as well as therapeutic.
Indirect moxibustion can be burned a few different ways. One way is by use of a moxa stick, roughly the shape and size of a cigar, see right. The practitioner moves the moxa stick over area being treated for several minutes. At no point does the moxa stick touch the skin.
Moxa comes in different forms: dried, compressed charcoal, ointment, and more. Whichever form used you will be receiving full therapeutic effects of the herb. The application of moxa to the body is executed by igniting the herb at the area of treatment.
Direct moxibustion, seen at the left photo, places pieces of moxa, ranging from rice size grains to larger cone shapes, 'directly' on the skin and ignites them gently with an incense stick. The moxa piece is allowed to burn down until it is extinguished by the practitioner, before reaching the skin.
Another form of indirect moxibustion is the burning of moxa cones on top of acupuncture needles, photo at left. The moxa cone is situated on the top of the needle and then ignited - the moxa cone does not have a flame, see photo. Heat is generated through the needle bringing a warm, therapeutic effect to the point and body area. Once the moxa self-extinguishes, it is removed from the needle by the practitioner.