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tcm_moxibustion

Moxibustion

Moxibustion therapy is a technique in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) that has been used throughout Asia for thousands of years. Moxibustion works on the properties of warming and stimulating the Yang Yi Qi, by combating cold and dampness from the body thus promoting normal functioning of the organs. Moxibustion also works in parallel with acupuncture therapy to treat and prevent disease when heat is applied to selected pressure points as to stimulate the flow of Qi. The material used is “Moxa Wool” made from the Mugwort leaves (Artemisia vulgaris in Latin). The Moxa Wool is either shaped into small cones, sticks that look like (smokeless) cigars or rolled into balls and placed onto the handle of the acupuncture needle.

What is Mugwort (Moxa or Ai Ye)?

The herb Mugwort is known by many names, including Ai Ye and Japanese Wormwood. It resembles a shrub, which can reach a height of more than three feet, with small greenish-yellow flowers and alternating leaves of green, greyish green or silver. Traditionally in Chinese medicine, the leaf of the Mugwort plant is used for its medicinal purposes. The leaves are gathered in the spring and summer, while the plant is flowering, and dried in a shady place. Suppliers usually age the Mugwort and grind it up to a fluff. Depending on the practitioner they will either burn the fluff or process it further into a stick that resembles a (smokeless) cigar.

What is Moxibustion used for?

An active ingredient in Moxa is borneol, a substance that is known for its analgesic and antiseptic properties. Borneol is often included in topical remedies to reduce pain and inflammation.

Moxibustion can be used on its own, or in conjunction with the acupuncture technique can be very effective to:

  • strengthen the blood, and stimulate the flow of life energy or Qi
  • add new life energy (Qi) to the body
  • warm the meridians and clear damp
  • stop bleeding
  • dispel cold and stop pain
  • maintain general health

TCM considers Moxibustion to be especially effective in the treatment of chronic problems, degenerative diseases and “deficient conditions” (weakness) including:

  • cold and flu
  • digestive disorders
  • back pain
  • muscle tension
  • headaches, migraines
  • tendonitis, arthritis
  • anxiety
  • inflammation
  • carpel tunnel syndrome and repetitive strain injuries
  • Female health problems such as reducing menstrual cramps, irregular periods and infertility

Moxa for Women’s Health

The benefits of Moxa treatments for women include:

  • Regulate menstruation and reduce menstrual cramps when used in conjunction with traditional acupuncture
  • Reduced risk of pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Improved fertility
  • Inducing labour and decreasing the length and intensity of contractions

A landmark study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998 found that up to 75% of the pregnant women in the study had breech fetuses that turned in the normal position after receiving moxibustion at an acupuncture point on the Bladder meridian. The study showed that moxibustion using mugwort leaf on expectant mothers could help breech babies relocate into a normal head-down position that is considered safer during childbirth.

Results

The British RCT yielded results that indicate Moxibustion of Mugwort was indeed effective at increasing the cephalic positioning of fetuses that were in a breech position before the intervention. In contrast, a Cochrane review in 2005 found that Moxibustion may be beneficial in reducing the need for ECV, but stressed a need for well-designed randomized controlled trials to evaluate this usage. Since it also causes uterine contractions, it has been used to cause abortion. It also plays a role in Asian traditional medicine as a method of correcting breech presentation. A study of 260 Chinese women at 33 weeks of pregnancy demonstrated cephalic version within two weeks in 75% of fetuses carried by patients who were treated with Moxibustion, as opposed to 48% in the control group.

How is Moxibustion applied?

The raw Moxa can be burnt as rice grain sized pellet directly over specific pressure points of the body in order to stimulate the function of the point and induce a smoother flow of blood and Qi. It can also be burnt over the pressure point as a Moxa roll in order to indirectly warm the pressure point and meridian (when a larger area is to be treated). Moxa can also be placed in a moxa box in order to warm an area such as the lower abdomen or the back. It can also be rubbed along the meridian in a lion or tiger warmer or placed on the end of an inserted acupuncture needle in order to strengthen the stimulation of an acupuncture point.

Another special technique is the burning of Moxa on a fine slice of ginger root to prevent scarring.

When is Moxibustion used?

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.

Research on Moxibustion

Research studies have shown that Moxa acts as an effective emmenagogue, which means that it helps to stimulate blood flow to the pelvic area and uterus. Other studies have shown that Moxibustion also significantly increases fetal movements in pregnant women. This could explain its use in treating breech births and menstrual cramps.

What are the benefits of Moxibustion?

The benefit of Moxa therapy is that often the patient will notice an immediate improvement. Moxa relieves fatigue, fights muscular weakness, improves blood-circulation, eases muscular tension and stiffness, eases rheumatism, neuralgias and muscular pain and stimulates gastric functions. Moxa is especially good for treating menstrual disorders. It improves the overall blood and lymph circulations. Moxa also increases the:

  • production of white blood cells
  • production of red blood cells and haemoglobin

What to expect from the Moxibustion treatment?

Most clients described the feeling of the treatment as a calm, warming sensation that helps them to feel comfortable and relaxed. Moxa encourages deep breathing and improved circulation which helps to ease deep muscle tension. The treatment brings warmth and helps strengthen the activity of the blood.