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Flaming Needles: The Healing Practice Of Moxibustion

Moxibustion is the practice of burning herbal substances at acupuncture points to warm and strengthen the body. Older than acupuncture, moxibustion clocks in at an approximate 5,000 years. In modern times, moxibustion can make a wonderful addition to acupuncture treatments. 

Moxibustion is effective to improve energy and stamina, relieve pain, speed tissue repair, treat some dermatological conditions, bolster the immune system, and promote healing. It can be used to stop chronic diarrhea, treat organ prolapse, improve period cramps, boost fertility and treat side effects of chemotherapy and cancer (PMID: 37746720, 24159344, 31108096, 33986820). The regular burning of moxa at the acupuncture point Bladder-67 can be effective in preparing the body for labor and delivery, as well as helping to reposition a breech baby* (PMID: 18514911, 34067379, 19245719). 

Moxa, the material burned in moxibustion therapies, is traditionally made from the dried leaves of the Chinese herb Ai Ye (芦蒿, Artemisia Argyi), commonly known as mugwort. According to traditional Chinese medicine, mugwort warms and opens the acupuncture meridians, disperses cold, alleviates pain, relieves itching due to damp-heat conditions, and stops bleeding (think postpartum bleeding or abnormal uterine bleeding). While other substances may be used, Ai Ye is prized since the natural plant oils released when it is burned also have beneficial therapeutic effects that can be absorbed through the skin. 

There are several different ways of incorporating moxibustion into treatments. Cones of moxa may be placed directly on acupuncture points on the skin (direct moxa), on the handle of an acupuncture needle while it is inserted in the body (warm needling), or on top of a slice of ginger, garlic or another barrier material which is then placed onto the acupuncture point (indirect moxa). Patients typically report a pleasant warming sensation and feelings of relaxation, relief as well as increased strength, stamina and energy during and after treatment with moxibustion. In my personal experience, moxibustion at specific acupoints can improve athletic performance and reduce recovery time. 

For patients who cannot tolerate the smell or are sensitive to smoke produced by traditional moxa, modern treatments may use of smokeless moxa sticks. These compressed charcoal sticks can be heated with a lighter or butane torch and then waved close to acupuncture points on the skin, providing warmth and activating the acupuncture meridian to promote circulation, relieve inflammation and reduce pain. Smokeless moxa sticks are also highly portable, safe and convenient. In some cases, patients can be taught how to use smokeless moxa sticks on themselves or a family member to help provide additional relief and support in between acupuncture treatments.  

Want to feel the healing benefits of moxibustion? Schedule with us today!

*Please note: for safety and efficacy reasons, this should be done under the supervision of a licensed trained acupuncturist and at the recommendation of your licensed healthcare practitioner. 

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