What is Moxibustion?
Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese medicine technique in which mugwort is burnt. Mugwort is a small, spongy herb that is used to promote healing with acupuncture. The role of moxibustion therapy is to maintain general health by strengthening the blood and stimulating the flow of qi. It is used in people with cold and stagnant conditions. It expels cold and warm meridians and smoothes the flow of blood and qi.
How is Moxibustion Done?
Moxibustion can be done directly or indirectly. In indirect moxibustion, the moxa cone rests on the body at the treatment point. It is lighted up by the practitioner and it then burns slowly until the skin starts turning red. As a person begins to feel the heat, it is removed.
Another way is to place the moxa on the acupuncture needle and ignite it. It keeps burning on the needle until it’s extinguished. The heat from the burning moxa travels to the acupuncture point.
Indirect moxibustion is practiced commonly. It is a safer option as in this case moxa does not touch the skin. Instead, the practitioner holds it an inch away from the body. As the skin becomes red and warm, it is removed.
There is one more method of moxibustion in which insulating layers of salt or garlic are used between the cone and the skin. In one more option, moxa boxes are filled with moxa and ignited, and placed in the boxes.
Who Can Perform Moxibustion?
Moxibustion can be done by a skilled practitioner. If it is difficult to look for one, search for an acupuncturist.
Moxibustion is done along with acupuncture and some acupuncturist do moxibustion.
Can Moxibustion Help Turn a Breech Baby?
Moxibustion is well known for being an alternative way to help with breech position, a condition when a baby is presented with feet first in the birth canal.
It is done in the 34th week with indirect moxibustion around the acupuncture point called Urinary Bladder 67. This spot lies on the outer part of the pinkie toe.
For safety, it is best to be done by a professional.
Studies on moxibustion for breech presentation concluded, there is some evidence that it may work.(1)
Other Uses of Moxibustion
Moxibustion is also used for a range of issues including:
- Menstrual cramps
- Urinary incontinence
- Cold and flu prevention
- Arthritis pain and other joint and muscle pain
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Cancer-related nausea
In the 2010 evaluation review, moxibustion was found useful for:(2)
It was noted that all the reviews had conflicting results. There are a few recent studies that are more promising.
Moxibustion is found effective in pain and symptom management. A review compared moxibustion to drug therapies and sham treatment and found it to be effective.(3) A review of studies concluded moxibustion and acupuncture increased bone density and reduce pain.(4)
How Safe is Moxibustion?
If exploring complementary and integrative treatments moxibustion is worth a try. However, it has a few risks as well.
The biggest risk is burn caused during the process. This is why it is best to stick with indirect moxibustion, especially when doing it yourself.
A 2014 review identified some side effects of moxibustion, including:(5)
- Allergic reaction to moxa
- Dark patches on the skin
- Basal cell carcinoma
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sore throat or coughing
- Fetal distress and premature birth
The odor of moxa smoke is similar to cannabis smoke. For those living in areas where cannabis is illegal, it can be a problem with neighbors or law enforcement.
Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese medication used for a variety of health issues. You can try it on your own but it’s better to be done professionally a few times so that you get to know about the safety.