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  • Writer's pictureWellness Ctr of Franklin


Moxibustion Alternative Therapy

Moxibustion is an alternative therapy that involves burning a dried leafy herb, called “moxa”, and applying the resulting heat to specific points on the body, or pathways, to promote healing. A technique used in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine for thousands of years, moxibustion is typically administered in conjunction with acupuncture.

Why moxibustion (“Moxa” for short)?

In general terms, alternative medicine practitioners, use moxibustion or “Moxa” to warm body regions which stimulates circulation and activates a smoother flow of blood and vital energy (also known as "qi" or "chi") throughout the body via certain pathways known as “meridians". Along with stimulating the internal systems (digestive, respiratory, gynecological, etc.), Moxa boosts overall immune function. 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 the result of blockages in the flow of qi.

What does Moxa treat?

• Pain – back pain, tendonitis, headaches, migraines, muscle stiffness, arthritis. In Chinese Medicine, external cold is thought to get trapped in our bodies as stagnation. The result can be increased pain in our joints and muscles. Thus, a common use of moxa is to place it over the affected area, warming it in a way that a hot bath cannot. Because of how the moxa works, it penetrates at a much deeper level.

• Digestive problems – ulcers, constipation IBS. Since the heat from the moxa stimulates the digestive system, it is effective in helping with digestion in general.

• Gynecological and obstetrical conditions - breech presentation (Dr. Allison has had many successes with this.), menstrual cramps, irregular cycles. Traditionally, it is thought that many common activities can cause cold to become trapped in the uterus. Moxa’s warmth can reverse these effects.

• Coughs and respiratory problems. Coughs are much more prevalent in the cold winter. Moxa is very effective in moving the qi and stagnation in the lungs to clear these nagging, hacking coughs. It can also be used preventatively, to stave off seasonal allergies and protect against cold and flu.

• And more…Moxa can impact many internal medicine issues, even recalcitrant symptoms that haven’t responded to other approaches.

Practitioners often do both acupuncture and moxibustion in the same clinic session when appropriate to the diagnosis and treatment strategy. Practitioners believe that the therapies increase each other's effectiveness when used together.

What does Moxa involve?

In the U.S., practitioners generally hold a burning moxa stick close to, but not touching, the surface of the skin.

In this method, the moxa material - a substance created from dried leaves of the herbs, Chinese mugwort (Artemesia agyi or A.vlugaris) or wormwood - is compressed into a stick or pole, looking not unlike an oversized cigar that can be lit and allowed to smolder, producing a unique form of very penetrating heat.

The smoldering moxa stick is held over specific areas, often, though not always, corresponding to certain acupuncture points. The glowing end of the moxa stick is held about an inch or two above the surface of the skin until the area reddens and becomes suffused with warmth. In some cases, practitioners may set the burning moxa over a layer of ginger, garlic, or salt placed on the patient's skin. Other techniques include applying heat to acupuncture points from an electrical source.

What can I expect to feel?

It is not uncommon for patients receiving Moxa to report a sudden flooding of warmth that quickly radiates along a specific pathway moving away from the site of application. This is a good result, as it indicates the arrival of the qi and signals that the flow of qi has been freed in the channel.

What does it smell like?

There is a small inconvenience associated with moxibustion: the smoke and odor. Although there are so-called smokeless varieties of moxa, the preferred true moxa (made from mugwort) does produce a lot of smoke when burned. Most clinics are well equipped with a good ventilation and air purification system, so this is not a big problem.

However, the lingering odor produced from burning mugwort unfortunately smells somewhat like marijuana. Most practitioners do place small signs around their office informing patients and visitors about the true nature of the odor that they may be noticing. Therefore, you may see one similar to this...

PUBLIC NOTICE From time to time, you may smell what seems like Cannibis... it's only Chinese Moxibustion

How do I find an acupuncturist in Franklin, TN who practices Moxa?

Moxibustion is usually taught as part of a qualified acupuncture or traditional Chinese medicine degree program.

The Wellness Center of Franklin offers Moxa as part of our acupuncture therapy. To find out more about our program, call 615.790.6363.

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