Where There’s Smoke, There’s Moxibustion
In the ancient Chinese book Ling Shu, chapter Guen Neng it says that when the needle does not work, moxibustion does.
So, what is moxibustion?
Moxibustion (Pinyin jiu) involves the burning of moxa, or the herb mugwort, which is applied to certain acupuncture points on the body. It has been part of traditional Chinese medicine for so long that no one is really sure when it first began. Although, the first written discussion of moxibustion appeared in the pre-Qin dynasty of China, 581 BC.
“Moxibustion is described as using fire to warm the yang and to eliminate the cold of yin. It can melt the poisoning things caused by damp wind, phlegm, blood stasis, and etc. Fire can drain the channels, remove the pain and numbness, and activate the blood and chi.” ~ Dr. Barabara Fougere, BVSc
Moxibustion can be used for disease prevention and health maintenance. Plus, pain relief, improve circulation, an immune system boost, enhances vitality, reduces blood flow to tumors, etc. And, it has a good effect on skin lesions, like, verruca, leishmania, herpes, cutaneous necrosis, and poor wound healing. Various acupuncture points that are stimulated by moxi have an internal visceral effect…right down to the organs. For example, moxi on acupoints BL40/BL41 helps incontinence; LV14 protects the liver. And, the good news is you only need to learn a small number of acupuncture points to perform it successfully. So, no one should feel intimidated by using moxibustion on yourself or others, including your pets.
However, there are 28 acupoints to avoid when using moxibustion. This would include points on the face, sense organs (nose & eyes), or regions with large blood vessels. Also, avoid moxi on the abdomen and lumbosacral during pregnancy.
What is the evidence of moxibustion success?
In 1998, a study done by the Journal of American Medical Association showed that the effects of moxibustion had turned 75% breeched babies to a normal birth position. In a 2013 study, moxibustion showed a reduced need for the pain-killer oxytocin after child birth.In a 2015 study on rats that had precancerous lesions of atropic gastritis were treated with moxibustion “at the stomach meridian acupoints or control points for 30 minutes a day” had shown to inhibit dysplasia, and promoted the recovery of the gastric mucosa after it has been damaged (Read Study).
How do you use moxibustion?
Moxa comes either lose, or rolled into 6 to 10-inch-long cigar-shape sticks. There are two methods: Direct and indirect. A direct method is: the lose moxa is rolled into small cones and burned like an incense on the skin (an indirect version is where the cone is placed on a thin slice of ginger so you don’t touch and burn the skin). NOTE: I don’t recommend the cones for animals. Or, the lose moxa can be placed and burned inside a brass or wood container and rolled-over or placed on an acupoint. When using the brass container a cloth must be placed between the container and skin or it’ll get too hot and can cause a burn.
For animals, indirect methods are best. Or, better yet, the Suspending Method where you hold a burning moxa stick above the acupoint. I like to use the smokeless moxa sticks, especially with animals. Moxa sticks are usually smokey and have a strong herbal scent (moxa smells like marijuana). However, high quality moxa will be less smelly and less smokey.
To know whether you’re buying high quality moxa it’s important that it is pale yellow in color. If it’s greenish then it’s poor quality. Also, the moxa should be aged for at least a year. It should be dry and fluffy, ignite easily and leave a little ash, and the heat will be soft and pleasant.
My Siamese cat, Poppy, enjoys moxibustion. She’s a senior, now, and she’ll sit on my lap while I use a moxa stick on acupoints ST36, BL23, and GV4. I guess she enjoys the heat treatment, but more importantly, these 3 points are often mentioned in Chinese ancient literature as a way to slow aging and encourage good health.