Moxibustion is the burning of cones made from the
wool of the Mugwort plant on Acupuncture points, or on broad areas
of the body to achieve specific healing effects. In many cases,
especially of deficiency it acts similarly to the Acupuncture
needle to stimulate the point.
The Moxa leaf is bitter and acrid, producing warmth
when used in small amounts and strong heat when used in large
amounts. Moxa is Yang in nature and is therefore used mainly
to restore deficient Yang conditions. Moxa opens channels,
regulates Qi and blood flow in the body, expels Cold and
Dampness and warms the Uterus.
Asthma, Diarrhea, Rheumatic pain, abdominal pain,
vomiting, certain Gynecological disorders, any kind of pain due
to cold or deficiency and deficient organ function are some of
the main disorders treated with Moxa.
The Moxa plant, in Chinese called Ai Ye is a member of
the Artemesia family,and flourishes throughout China and
is therefore relatively cheap. The fresh leaves are picked in
the Spring and dried in the sun. The dried leaves are then ground
into a fine powder or moxa 'wool.' In ancient times and even to
this day, this wool is usually kneaded by hand into 'cones' which
are burned directly on the skin. At Compassionate Dragon Healing
we are somewhat more sophisticated and use pre-formed cones
attached to fireproof bases which protect you from being actually
burned while conducting the heat.
The burning of Moxa directly on the skin is called
Direct Moxa. The cone is placed directly on the skin at specific
points and burned. Direct Moxa is divided
into two types; a) the Blister-Forming Method, and b) the Non-Blister
Forming Method. The Blister-Forming Method is more intense and
as its name implies the cone is burned right down to the skin
such that a blister is formed. Usually the cones used in this
method are quite small, about the size of a grain of rice. Still
it can be quite uncomfortable for the client. The Moxa wool can
be mixed with powdered Cloves or Cinnamon to increase heat penetration.
Garlic Oil is sometimes smeared around the site to help hold the
cone in place and further stimulate the skin. As the cone burns
and the client feels pain, the skin around the cone is lightly
tapped to lessen the pain. Once the cone is burned right down
it is removed and the area swabbed with clean water. This process
is repeated several times; up to 10 cones per point, depending
on the condition. A blister will appear after a few days which
should be kept clean and dressed to prevent
infection. After about a month the blister forms into a small
scar. In ancient times, this process of blistering and scarring
was considered essential to obtain good results and is still used
The Non-Blistering method, is similar except that
the cone is removed before the skin is damaged. Heat is still
felt but the cone is removed before it becomes intolerable. With
the Non-Blistering method it may take more treatments to achieve
the desired effect. Usually a treatment consists of 6 to 10 cones
on each point.
With Indirect Moxa something is placed between the
burning Moxa and the skin. This is less painful and reduces the
risk of infection. This is the method preferred by modern practitioners.
Some common substances used are slices of Ginger, Garlic, Salt,
Aconite, Pepper, and mud. The use of pre-formed cones favoured
at Compassionate Dragon is a form of Indirect Moxa.
The Moxa Stick or Roll was developed in the Ming
Dynasty as a convenient, less time consuming and easily controlled
method of applying Moxa. The Moxa wool is wrapped tightly in paper
like a cigar. Sometimes the powder of
other herbals is mixed in. The most common recipe is 24 grams
of Moxa Wool and 6 grams each of Cinnamon, Cloves, Sichuan Pepper,
Realgur, Saussurea, Angelica, Asarum, Atractylodes, Myrrh and
The Moxa Stick is lit at one end and held about
1 inch from the skin, the distance varying with the tolerance
of the patient and the degree of stimulation required. Normally
the stick is burned for up to 15 minutes or until the skin around
the area is bright red. This method is used for pain due to obstruction
(Arthritic type pain). The two main methods are spiraling, which
is waving the stick in a circular motion over the area or point.
The other method is called Sparrow Pecking in which the pecking
motion of a bird is simulated.
Moxibustion is contraindicated with Febrile Diseases
(where a fever is present), since it is unwise to add heat to
an already overheated body, on the back or lower abdomen of pregnant
women as heat may injure the fetus. Moxa is not to be burned in
the vicinity of sensory organs such as the eyes, mouth or mucous
membranes, nose or anus. Direct Moxa should not be used on the
face, breast, where large blood vessels are located or on major
creases such as the elbows and knees. Care must also be exercises
when burning Moxa on areas of numbness or when the patient is