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Moxibustion Therapy

Deanna Settlemier, LAc

What is "Moxa"? The ancient healing technique of Moxibustion is approximately 3,000 years old. It plays an important role in the Traditional medical systems of Asia. Moxibustion uses "moxa" which is made from mugwort herb (artemisia vulgaris) and heat to warm regions of the body and acupuncture points. This combination of herb and heat stimulates circulation, encourages the smooth flow of blood and Qi, protects against cold constitution and dampness, and maintains general health. Clinically, I find it to be very effective for most pain conditions, gastrointestinal disorders, and OB/GYN issues (read: smooth pregnancy... all of the "Moxa-babies" I've treated have been very happy and mellow, and were fairly easy on their mommies in delivery!).

As I was researching moxa articles, I found a recent clinical report that was published in the World Journal of Acupuncture from ChengZhong Hospital that showed 100% effective rate of acupuncture and moxabustion on primary dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps). 66 patients were treated over 3 menstrual cycles with acupuncture/moxa and most were effectively cured within 2-6 treatments.

Moxabustion is also very effective for fatigue, anxiety, immune enhancement, and sinus congestion; with so many people suffering from sinus issues while living here in the cold and damp Northwest, moxa is an extremely valuable and appreciated method of treatment, keeping people from having to take antibiotics or over-the-counter medications for sinusitis and/or seasonal allergies. Most people also love how it feels to have their points and channels warmed and invigorated with moxa heat.

There are two basic types of Moxibustion techniques. One is the Direct method, which requires a small or large cone shaped amount of moxa placed directly on the skin on top of an acupuncture point. Then it is burned on ointment or a slice of ginger and removed when the patient feels it is hot.

The second type is the Indirect method, which is what I use, that is more closely based in the Classical Chinese tradition. This technique has the same healing qualities as Direct, but there is little to no risk of pain or burning. The Indirect moxibustion techniques I use include the use of "moxa boxes" – little wooden temples that sit above specific areas of the body – and "stick moxa", a cigar-shaped stick of moxa held near specific acu-points. Both techniques are great ways of warming and tonifying the points and channels, stimulating qi and blood flow, and dispersing cold and dampness.

So now when you step into the clinic and wonder, "what's that wonderful, earthy smell?"... it's Moxa!