Moxa or moxibustion is an Asian medicine technique utilized to deeply warm acupuncture points and/or areas of the body. Moxa is made up of the mugwort
plant. The mugwort plant is known for its special deeply warming abilities, particularly when used in the form of moxibustion- as an external heat source.
Chances are that if you are reading this, you have been given moxa by your acupuncturist to apply at specific spots on your own body during the days that you are not receiving an acupuncture treatment. If you have NOT been given this recommendation from a practitioner and have NEVER used moxibustion before and/or are wanting to experiment on your own, then I advise you NOT USE MOXA until you have received the guidance of a practitioner as to what points are appropriate to moxa. I recommend this because there are many points on the body that are contraindicated to moxa and also because this therapy may be inappropriate for your specific body constitution.
If you have been asked to apply moxibustion by a trained practitioner, then here are a few reminders to go by when using this technique:
- When using a stick of moxa: be sure to peel off the glossy outer sheath of paper that has print on it. Keep the white paper underneath this sheath intact. The white layer of paper is essential, as it holds the moxa in place and makes it possible to burn as a stick.
- If using smokeless moxa: be sure to remove the plastic covering, if there is one.
- For both smoking and smokeless moxa: light the tip until it burns red across the entire tip.
- When warming a point or an area of the body, hold or circle the moxa about 1″- 1 1/2″ away from the skin. NEVER touch this hot tip directly to the skin- you will get burned! (Unless using a tiger warmer- a metal contraption that holds the moxa inside of it. If you are using this, ask your practitioner for specific instructions.)
- Keep the moxa over an area until the heat becomes too strong (don’t burn yourself!), then move to another area. Can return to the same spot until the warmth has penetrated deeply and feels sufficient.
- To put out the moxa stick: submerge in the center of a bowl of uncooked rice. The rice will put the moxa out, because the hot tip will be deprived of oxygen. You can also run water over the hot tip , however it may be hard to relight if you put it out with water. Be sure that the tip is completely out. It is not recommended to leave the moxa still burning in an ashtray, because it will likely continue to burn. The moxa stick can create a strong heat. Please be sure that it is completely out before leaving the room, so that it does not start a fire.
Moxibustion is powerful tool that is deeply warming to the body. Unless specified otherwise by your Asian medicine practitioner: Moxa should not be done on a person who has is having night sweats and hot flashes, is very hot bodied in constitution, during very hot days, on the face, on red/swollen areas of the body, over large blood vessels (aka large body creases) as found under arms/groin crease/behind knee/etc, if a person has diabetes, over numb areas of the body (you can burn yourself without knowing it). Again please consult with your practitioner of Asian medicine before using moxa for the first time, and/or branching out and trying it on new areas that have not been recommended to you.
Yasmin Spencer LAc, DAOM, Dipl. OM
427 F Street, Eureka, CA 95501
*Coursework at Five Branches University