leaves of the mugwort plant, Artemisia vulgaris

The Moxa plant, in Chinese called Ai Ye, is a member of the Artemesia family, (Artemisia vulgaris) and flourishes throughout China and is therefore relatively cheap. The fresh leaves are picked in the spring and dried in the sun. They 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 protects you from being actually burned, while conducting the heat into the point.

The method of burning a moxa herb stick of compressed, dried leaves of the mugwort plant, above the skin, along the acupuncture meridians and at specific points, to support and restore good health is called Moxibustion. The heat, penetrates deeply into the body to release energy blockages, balance the flow of energy, and increase the circulation of Qi. Regular moxa treatment is believed to be helpful in preventing disease.

Direct Moxa

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. 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 exercised when burning Moxa on areas of numbness or when the patient is unconscious.

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 the heat penetration. Garlic oil is sometimes smeared around the Moxa 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 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 occasionally today.

The Non-blistering method, is similar except that the cone is removed before the skin is damaged and a blister forms. Heat is still felt but the cone is removed before there is any pain. With the non-blistering method it may take more treatments to achieve the desired effect. Usually a treatment consists of 3 - 6 cones on each point.

Indirect Moxa

With indirect Moxa, something is placed between the burning moxa and the skin. This is less painful and reduces the risk of infection. Some common substances are slices of Ginger, Garlic, Salt, Aconite, Pepper and mud.

History of Moxibustion

Moxibustion has been professionally used by acupuncturists and Oriental physicians for centuries.

? Three thousand years ago (during the Shang Dynasy in China), hieroglyphs of moxibustion appeared in shell and bone carvings.
? Moxibustion teachings appeared in Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon (Huangdi Neijing), the essential text in Chinese medical literature, written around 200 BC and revised in the first century AD.
? Moxibustion diagrams were introduced to Japan by the Chinese physician Zhi Cong around 562 A.D.
? Those who specialized in moxa therapy in 7th century China, were called moxibustionists. Acupuncture and moxibustion became established as a special branch of Chinese medicine.
? During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), extensive research and writings on the effectiveness of moxibustion were compiled.
? Shenjiu Jinglun,published during Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), featured advanced writings on how to use, grow, prepare and store moxa.
? Moxibustion was first introduced to the west through the Dutch physician Willem ten Rhijne (1647-1700).

Moxa Sticks

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 of powder made with cinnamon, cloves, Sichuan pepper, realgur, saussurea (Mu Xiang), Angelica (Du Hua), Asarum (Xi Xin), Angelica ( Bai Zhi), Atractylodes (Cang Zhu), Myrrh & Frankincense.

The Moxa stick is lit at one end and held about 1 inch from the skin, the distance varying with the tolerance and the amount of stimulation required. Normally the stick is burned for about 1-15 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 spiralling, which is waving the stick in a circular motion over the area. The other method is called Sparrow Pecking, which involves a pecking motion over the point without touching the skin.

Treated with Moxa

Moxa is Yang in nature and is therefore used mainly to restore deficient Yang conditions. It opens the channels, regulates Qi and blood, expels Cold & Damp, and warms the uterus. Asthma, Diarrhoea, Rheumatic pain, Abdominal Pain, Vomiting, certain Gynaecological disorders, any kind of pain due to cold or deficiency and deficient organ functions are some of the main disorders treated with Moxa.

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 the heat may injure the fetus. Moxa is not to be burned in the vicinity of sensory organs such as the eyes or mouth or mucous membranes, nose or anus.