Moxibustion (sometimes just called moxa) is similar to acupuncture, except that instead of stimulating points on the body with inserted needles, these points are stimulated with the burning of mugwort, a medicinal herb, on top of a tiny cone. Moxibustion may be indirect, when the burning herb is held about an inch above pressure points, or direct, during which the cone is placed on the skin.
The origins of moxibustion: The origins of moxibustion are lost in time, though its use was first recorded in China during the Shang dynasty, from 1,600 to 1,100 BC.
Benefits Of Moxibustion
Moxibustion is meant to work by applying heated energy to the nerve meridians in the body. The burning herb warms the meridians and smooths the flow of qi. Traditionally, moxibustion is used to treat colds. The therapy has also been shown to have salutary effects on premenstrual pain. One study by the American Medical Association even suggests that moxibustion may shift breech babies into a better position prior to childbirth.
What To Expect
During a typical moxibustion session, heat is applied to pressure points on the body and meridians with burning moxa sticks (filled with mugwort, a traditional healing herb). These sticks are either held an inch from the body or actually placed on the meridians; they may or may not be removed before burning down entirely. Moxibustion generally feels relaxing and is not uncomfortable.
Recommended sessions: One session normally suffices for a cold, though several may be needed for more serious physical conditions, like a breech baby.
Preparation: Make sure to tell your practitioner if you are pregnant or asthmatic. Non-smoking moxa candles are available for those with breathing issues.
Moxibustion may cause miscarriage, especially earlier in pregnancy. For this reason it is not approved in Germany. The smoke from the burning herb can cause breathing difficulties in asthmatics. If the mugwort is accidentally allowed to burn down to the skin, the skin may be burned or even scarred. Other side effects include fatigue and dizziness.
Who wouldn't benefit: Pregnant women should not have moxibustion unless cleared by a doctor.