Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese medicine therapy using moxa, or mugwort herb. Moxa warm regions and acupuncture points with the intention of stimulating circulation through the points and inducing a smoother flow of blood and qi, it also stimulates blood-flow in the pelvic area and uterus. It is claimed that moxibustion militates against cold and dampness in the body, and can serve to turn breech babies. The ‘moxa stick’ is the most common form in which moxibustion is used to promote healing. Here the dried mugwort is rolled up tightly and wrapped in paper forming a cigar-like stick. The moxa stick can be held in one place, rotated in circles, or ‘pecked’ in a motion similar to a sparrow pecking at food over the area of an acupuncture point. The practitioner places a finger next to the point being stimulated to maintain a comfortable level of heat and to guard the patient from the unlikely risk of burn.
The moxa stick is held approximately a half inch from the skin, although this may vary from patient to patient. Moxa sticks can be used on their own to stimulate an acupuncture point or can be used on a point where an acupuncture needle has been inserted.
This simultaneous use of moxibustion along with the acupuncture needle intensifies the therapeutic benefit of the given acupuncture point.
The moxa stick is primarily used to treat a deficiency of ‘yang’ energy in the body. It is yang energy that governs movement and warmth, and a deficiency of yang results in cold symptoms. The patient may feel cold, or may complain of cold hands and feet. For patients who are very weak and deficient, stick moxa is chosen as a primary treatment due to the fact that it actually adds “yang qi” to the body. Yang qi deficiency can also manifest in incontinence or loose stools, although these symptoms must be carefully differentiated by the practitioner as they may have other causes.
Another popular use of stick moxa is in the turning of a breech baby. Stick moxa is applied to the outside edge of the little toe on both feet of the pregnant mother for 15 to 20 minutes a day. Best results are achieved when treatment starts in the 34th week of pregnancy. Moxibustion therapy should be discontinued once the baby turns. The stimulation of yang results in movement and prolonged use of moxibustion could cause the baby to continuously turn, once again moving into a breech position. Turning breech babies with moxibustion is a very common practice in Chinese medicine and success had been reported for centuries. moxibustion to be especially effective in the treatment of chronic problems, “deficient conditions” (weakness), and gerontology. Bian Que (fl.circa 500 BCE), one of the most famous semi-legendary doctors of Chinese antiquity and the first specialist in moxibustion, discussed the benefits of moxa over acupuncture in his classic work. He asserted that moxa could add new energy to the body and could treat both excess and deficient conditions. Indirect moxibustion holds a cigar made of mugwort near the acupuncture point to heat the skin, or holds it on an acupuncture needle inserted in the skin to heat the needle. There are Moxa spray, Moxa stick and many more available and used.