Moxibustion is a type of therapeutic technique within the Japanese needling framework that uses heat and essential oil to do the healing. In this article I will introduce the basic concepts
Moxa, short for Moxibustion, is quite a relaxing process that I use in conjunction with Japanese Needle therapies and Shiatsu to obtain a specific type of acupoint* stimulation. One might put it like this moxa lifts the qi, tonifies, warms and strengthens. It can also be used to disperse stagnant qi and blood and thus alleviating pain and stiffness.
The process uses high grade Mugwort herb which is prepared, applied and burnt over an acupoint to impart the necessary stimulation. The result is in part due to the deeply penetrating far infrared heat and in part the essential oils thus emanated and deposited at the site however the classics also note that even the smoke has beneficial characteristics. Different burn times and dosages me a way to tune the process for specific effects. There are a few variations on this process.
Japanese "Rice Grain" or "String Moxa" is more fickle to apply but is much more focussed in it's stimulation. It uses highest grade Mugwort herb from only leaves. These are sliced finer and graded higher thus enabling it to be formed into short "strings" about 2mm in thickness giving it the "rice grain moxa" name.
These "rice grains" are then affixed directly to the skin at the site of the acupoint, lit and extinguished when required. A practitioner may typically apply 6 to 30 strings until a sufficient dose is attained. In the picture one such grain is burning on Lung 8 (Lu 8) acupoint to strengthen the lung function.
Moxa cones are also used in some circumstances. These are made up by rolling of the herb into a ball and then shaped into a cone. This is placed on the skin over the intended acupoint and lit. When sufficiently burnt, the whole cone is removed and extinguished in a small bowl of water. Typically, a number of cones are applied in a sequence to obtain a sufficient dosage. Their effect is more diffused as in spread to a wider area and thus not as large. They are much easier to manage and use a coarser grain of Mugwort herb.
Japanese Needling also makes use of moxa on a needle. Called Warm Needle, this deeply nourishes an acupoint as is the case here with Bladder 23 or BL23 for short. Located at the side of the lower part of the spine they strengthen the back, drives out the cold and lifts the kidney yang qi. In this particular case I am using Ondam which is a cone of charcoal. A larger ball of Mugwort is also used but the charcoal burns more cleanly and gives double the burn time and hence double the dose in one go.
There are many many more variations that adjust these methods to suit your particular condition but hopefully this gives you an introduction to the subject. Moxa application is typically relaxing and is rarely painful.
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* Acupoint is an alternative term for Acupressure or Acupuncture point. It is not a trigger point.
** Due to the smoke emanated - equivalent to lighting a cigar- I would recommend that if instructed to by me that you use these outdoors or at a pinch in a bathroom with towels removed and exhaust fan running.