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moxa and acupuncture

Moxa (Moxibustion) is Heat Therapy and an Acupuncturist's Secret for Better Health

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Moxibustion treatment originated in China and spread to Japan and other Asian countries.  It’s performed by burning small cones of dried herb artemisia (also called Mugwort) close to designated points of the body to transfer the heat from the herb, generally the same points as those used in acupuncture.

Mugwort (“Ai Ye” 艾叶) is a common weed in China.  The herb can be taken orally or used externally in Chinese herbal therapy. It is bitter, acrid, and warm in nature.  The Liver, Spleen, and Kidney are the three Channels it effectively acts on.  Main clinical usage and indications are spitting blood, nosebleed, menstrual disorders, uterine bleeding, PMS, bleeding during pregnancy, restless fetus, chest and abdomen pain due to cold, diarrhea and prolonged dysentery, abnormal vaginal discharge, eczema, sores, and ringworm.

That’s why the ancient Chinese used mugwort so often – it is easy to find, easy to store, and it works so well.

At the Dragon Boat Festival, people hang herbs like mugwort and calamus (“Chang Pu”) on the door of their house, which they believe can help keep their families from being jinxed the whole year. 

Another old tradition, glutinous rice cakes made from mugwort are eaten in during the Ching Ming Festival.  The ratio of fresh leaves and glutinous rice flour mixed together is 1:2.  To add flavor, peanut, sesame, and white sugar or others would be put in as filling too.

The heat generated during moxibustion helps increase the flow of vital energy (also known as “Qi” or “chi”) throughout the body via certain pathways (known as “meridians“). In traditional Chinese medicine, stimulating the flow of Qi is considered essential to achieving health and wellness. In fact, physical and mental health problems are thought to develop (in part) as a result of blockages in the flow of Qi.  

The moxibustion mechanism is related to the thermal effects, radiation effects, and pharmacological actions of moxa and its combustion products. Experimental results show that moxibustion thermal stimulation affects both shallow and deep tissues of the skin. The moxa radiation spectrum ranges near infrared.

Mugwort leaves and moxa smoke have a variety of biological activities. Although a lot of research has been done, there is still a great more to fully understand about moxibustion.

Clinical results with moxa that we see every day:

  • Menstrual cramps go away
  • Digestive problems like diarrhea or bloating improve quickly
  • Arthritis pains get better faster


How to use it

Moxa Sticks: Tightly wrapped dried mugwort pressed together into a stick resembling a long cigar. Usually moved around an acupuncture point about 1/2 inch to 1 inch away from the skin. It can be moved in a circle, or bird-pecking like back and forth towards the skin and off, or held without moving for 1~3 mins at the same location.

Moxa Boxes are made of metal or wood and are designed to hold the moxa wool inside. The heat will gradually increase during the treatment and can be moved over a large area.

Winter Disease and Summer Treatment

The “Dog Days of Summer” moxa treatment originated in the Qing Dynasty. The goal is to stimulate Yang energy in the body during the most Yang season of the year, so that in the Yin time (winter), you will maintain your health. To prevent the winter flu, common cold, cedar allergies, or arthritis pains, this is something to try.

In each phase of summer, you have 3 treatment sessions of moxa, (9 treatments total) —

Beginning : July 16 ~ July 25

Middle : July 26 ~ Aug 14

Ending : Aug 15 ~ Aug 24

There’re also lifestyle and diet recommendations during these three periods —

Avoid excessively cold AC temperatures (75-78 degrees is ok), greasy food, fried food, seafood, alcohol, cigarettes, and staying up late.

It’s recommended to drink ginger tea in the morning and 1.8~2 L of pure water daily.

Helpful foods during this treatment period include bitter melon, winter melon, mung beans, red beans, and black beans (soaked overnight).

For people who want the benefits of acupuncture without getting needled, moxa is an ideal treatment.

For anyone who wants to prevent cedar fever (a winter-time Austin regular), arthritis pains that worsen in cold and damp weather, or asthma, give this a try.

What’s the worst that could happen? You’ll leave our office smelling smoky.

What’s the best that could happen? You’ll be healthy all year long.

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