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Healing with Moxibustion: What is it, Benefits, and Methods of Use

By: Daisy Rho (1st Year Eight Branches Student)


Today, I want to share some information about Moxibustion and how it can quickly become one of your favourite ways of healing the body. Many people are familiar with treatment methods such as cupping, acupuncture, and massage. Moxibustion is less common in the clinic due to the fumes or lack of knowledge about this treatment method among patients. Today, we will dive into how to use moxa in the clinic and the benefits of this treatment method. Moxibustion is a fantastic way to restore the Qi in the body and it’s also perfect for those who fear needles!




What is Moxibustion?

For those of you that are not familiar with Moxibustion, this treatment method involves burning a plant called Mugwort onto the skin, to disperse Qi and heal various illnesses. The practice of Moxibustion has been used for over 2500 years in ancient China. It has been an integral part of treating patients along with acupuncture and is a common method of treatment in China. However, in Canada, Moxa is less commonly used in a clinical setting, due to the smoke and fumes from the burning of the Mugwort, and perhaps because many people don’t know this even exists. Through my training as a TCM student at Eight Branches, I was exposed to various tools and different methods of Moxibustion that can be performed without creating large amounts of smoke, such as slow-burning and smokeless moxa sticks. Of course, one would need to perform Moxa in a room that has a window and good ventilation, to prevent the smoke from building up too much inside the clinic. However, with careful attention to ventilation, high-quality mugwort and along with proper methods of Moxa, this could be a powerful way to heal the body.


Healing with Moxibustion

Moxibustion can tonify Qi and move the blood to break up stasis and promote circulation. When a patient’s health concern is deep and has produced damage at a tissue level, Moxa is extremely beneficial as it allows for a deeper level of healing. Often used for dispelling cold stagnation, Moxibustion enhances the benefits of acupuncture as well. Additionally, it can detoxify the body and help boost immune system functions. Depending on the concern and depth of the condition, we can use various acupuncture points and moxibustion methods to treat the patient. Here are some popular methods of Moxa that can be used in the clinic:


1. Indirect Method

Indirect Moxa has no contact with the skin and is ideal for those afraid of the heat. Tools like a tiger warmer, a smokeless stick, and a hand-held holder are used to infuse the benefits of the burning mugwort into the body. It is more difficult to get the benefits of Moxa through this method than a semi-direct method but is still beneficial and a great way to introduce Moxa to a patient.


2. Semi-Direct Method

In this method, we apply a cream, or a thin layer of Vaseline to create a barrier between the skin and the heated mugwort. Ginger, salt, and other items can be used to create a barrier between the heat and the skin. For the heat-controlled methods of Moxibustion, the heat builds up on the barrier to a certain point, and the practitioner then kills of the heat of the mugwort by using different methods such as: “Grab” method, “Kiiko method”, and “Heat-sensing method”. All of these methods allow the heat from the mugwort to be controlled by the practitioner and can be repeated multiple times to get the full benefits of Moxa. This is the most popular method of Moxibustion.


3. Direct Method

Before I scare anyone away, let me begin by saying, this method is rarely used and is not practiced in most clinics, due to the high risk of blistering and side effects from burning the skin. In this method, there is a direct application of Mugwort on the skin, and we allow the plant to burn down 100%. There is no barrier between the skin and Mugwort and is therefore often called “scarring” or “thread” Moxa. The point of this method is to let the Mugwort burn or scar the skin to create a strong immune response and is effective for treating warts for superficial cysts.


When the process of Moxibustion is explained, we inevitably use the words “smoke”, “burn”, and “fire”. These terms often scare many patients away from this treatment method and we immediately lose their interest. However, the reality of this treatment method is that when a skilled practitioner performs Moxa, it is very safe and unlikely to cause burning on the skin or side effects. The semi-direct method, for example, is not only effective but also ensures a safe way of treating the patient by using a barrier to protect the skin. Although we cannot use moxibustion on all acupuncture points, there are many relevant points along the meridians where moxibustion can be used. I hope that more patients will be exposed to this treatment method and that practitioners can encourage the use of Moxibustion.


If you would like to try out moxibustion and how it may benefit you, then please visit Eight Branches Teaching Clinic to book a treatment with one of our amazing students!

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