Heat Therapy & Moxibustion

Heat applied to specific body parts, specifically acupuncture points, has been shown since ancient times to be effective in ridding the body of disease and increasing the general level of health. Because of this, Chinese physicians developed the art of moxibustion, which, when used in conjunction with acupuncture needling, dramatically increases the potential for effective treatment in a wide variety of cases.

moxa moxibustion heat therapyWhat is Moxa?

The substance used for moxibustion is obtained from the leaves of the plant Artemisia Vulgaris, a small plant that grows wild and abundantly in the mountains and fields of China. The lower surface of the leaf has a layer of white hair or fur, which, when dried, becomes the spongy, tissue-like material called moxa.

Properly aged moxa has a rich, somewhat mellow fragrance. It burns very hot and stays together in a tight clump while burning, which is ideal for using the herb for heat treatment.

The Effects of Moxa on the Body

According to Chinese medical texts, the warmth of moxa may be effectively used to achieve the following therapeutic effects:

  • to increase the circulation of blood and Qi in the twelve meridians of the body
  • to remove cold sensations and treat cold-induced pain such as arthritis
  • to relax the body and lift the spirit
  • to help muscles heal
  • to keep the uterus warm during pregnancy
  • To assist in turning a breech presentation in pregnancy
  • to protect good health

How Moxa is used in Treatment

In ancient times, moxa was burned directly on the skin to cause a blister at the acupuncture point that was being treated. Direct moxa is a powerful and penetrating form of heat therapy that is considered the most effective method of moxibustion therapy. However, it is quite painful and often leaves a scar.  Therefore, Karen does not use direct moxibustion in her practice.

In more modern times, indirect methods of moxa therapy were developed, meaning the herb is not burned directly on the skin.  Instead, the herb may be burned:

  • on top of a piece of ginger which is placed on the acupuncture point
  • on top of a mound of garlic which is placed on the acupuncture point
  • on top of a mound of salt placed inside the belly button
  • on the handle of the needle, so the needle draws the heat into the acupuncture point

Another method of indirect moxa is using a rolled moxa stick which is lit and burned near the acupuncture points.  Moxa can also be placed in a moxa burning device called a Tiger warmer, which is then used to apply heat to the points.

While moxa is traditional and very effective, there are issues with smoke and ventilation. Therefore, Karen uses the more modern technique of an Infrared Heat Lamp to apply gentle heat to the acupuncture points and the needles. It is an effective therapy when heat is needed to support the treatment.