Moxibustion is an essential part of Chinese medicine which uses moxa, a soft woolly substance prepared from mugwort leaves (Artemisia vulgaris). In moxibustion the moxa is placed either directly on the skin or held just above it, over specific acupuncture points or meridians. The herb is lit and as it smoulders slowly, a therapeutic heat permeates the skin and affects the flow of “qi” (energy) and blood in the area being treated.
Direct moxibustion is more commonly used for patients suffering with symptoms of cancer treatment, peri-menopausal, mid-cycle spotting, low-energy or impaired immune system. I shape the moxa into a tiny cone and places it directly on to the body before lighting.
What conditions can moxa treat?
Moxibustion is commonly used for:
Pain due to injury or arthritis, especially in “cold” patterns where the pain naturally feels better with the application of heat
Digestive problems and irregular elimination
Gynecological and obstetrical conditions, including breech presentation in late term pregnancy, mid-cycle spotting
Protection against cold and flu strains
In traditional Chinese medicine, moxibustion is used on people who have a cold or stagnant condition. The burning of moxa is believed to expel cold and warm the meridians, which leads to smoother flow of blood and qi.
In Western medicine, moxibustion has successfully been used to turn breech babies into a normal head-down position prior to childbirth. A landmark study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998 found that up to 75% of women suffering from breech presentations before childbirth had fetuses that rotated to the normal position after receiving moxibustion at an acupuncture point on the Bladder meridian.
Other studies have shown that moxibustion increases the movement of the fetus in pregnant women, and may reduce the symptoms of menstrual cramps when used in conjunction with traditional acupuncture.
Research has also shown that it acts as an emmenagogue that is, an agent that increases blood circulation to the pelvic area and uterus and stimulates menstruation. This could explain its use in treating breech births and menstrual cramps.