Moxibustion therapy is not as well-known as other forms of traditional medicine, such as acupuncture, but it still has a long history that combines spirituality with science. To decide whether moxibustion treatment is right for you, first you need to understand how it works, including the different types and techniques that can be used.

What is Moxibustion therapy?

Originating in China and traditionally practiced in Asian countries including Japan, Korea, Mongolia and Vietnam, moxibustion involves the burning of what is known as moxa, a form of dried artemisia (also called mugwort). Much like acupuncture, it aims to bring your body back into balance, ensuring your qi, or energy is flowing properly, and it uses certain points and meridians on the body to do so.

Indeed, moxibustion and acupuncture can be used to complement each other and are often practiced in concert. Moxibustion often focuses particularly on so-called “cold” problems related to a lack of yang in relation to yin.

One of the most common uses of moxibustion is to try to turn a baby in breech position. It is also used as a form of pain relief for everything from headaches to joint stiffness, as well as a way to settle indigestion and other gastrointestinal issues. Sometimes individuals who have experienced infertility and have found that other treatments do not work may turn to moxibustion.

It is important that moxibustion is conducted safely by a qualified and experienced professional to avoid the risk of burning or scarring. Moxibustion should take place in rooms with good ventilation to avoid smoke build-up and may not be suitable for people with asthma or similar conditions.

Direct Moxibustion

Direct moxibustion is when the burning moxa is applied directly to your skin in the form of tiny threads or through a cone. This does present a small possibility of burning you at the same time, but if the moxa is properly refined and at a low enough temperature, the risk is low, especially when performed by a skilled and experienced practitioner. Performed correctly, it should improve your circulation and stimulate the body’s healing processes.

Indirect Moxibustion (kyotoshin)

There is less risk of burning the skin if the moxibustion is applied indirectly. This can be done with acupuncture needles, which are inserted into one or more of the usual acupuncture points. The burning moxa is attached to the needle. The resulting heat is channelled into the body to create a pleasant warming sensation, stimulating both qi and blood flow as it encourages you to heal. Sometimes, indirect moxibustion is even carried out by holding the burning moxa a short distance from the skin, with no contact at all.

Summing up

The practice of moxibustion has evolved in different countries over the centuries, but it still relies on the same principles. It is very similar to acupuncture but is based on the burning of herbs rather than the use of needles. Direct and indirect moxibustion have their own advantages and disadvantages, but both attempt to balance you spiritually while treating your aches and pains. Practiced safely and by a professional, it may be able to offer you relief as an alternative or complementary therapy.