Moxibustion is not as well-known as other forms of complementary treatments, such as acupuncture, but it has a similar long history in the world of traditional Chinese medicine. It also has a wide range of reported health benefits on the physical, mental and emotional levels, including as a potential alleviator of stress and anxiety.

What is moxibustion therapy?

Moxibustion’s fundamental concept involves the therapeutic application of burnt herbs, typically using mugwort, also known as moxa. There are two ways that moxibustion can be applied: directly to the skin, or indirectly with the use of a needle, similar to acupuncture. Also, like acupuncture, moxibustion focuses on specific points on the body, known as pressure points or meridians. In traditional Chinese medicine, these are the channels where qi, or energy, flows. If they are blocked or impaired in any way, this can cause pain and ill health. Stimulating these meridians is considered a potential treatment for a wide range of physical and mental ailments, perhaps most famously for turning a breech baby.

Care needs to be taken in moxibustion not to burn or damage the skin. Indirect moxibustion (kyotoshin) may be considered safer as the burning mugwort does not make direct contact with your body. If you visit an experienced practitioner and take proper precautions, direct moxibustion can be carried out safely, too.

How does moxibustion treatment work for stress and anxiety?

Stress can have a profound impact on both body and mind. Physical symptoms can include headaches, stomach issues, rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, sweating and shaking. Mentally and emotionally, it contributes to patterns of negative thoughts associated with depression and anxiety. It interferes with your memory and ability to focus, and it can make you more susceptible to other forms of illness.

One way to alleviate stress is to remove the stressor, such as work or family problems, but this is not always possible. If you cannot treat the cause, you can treat the symptoms, and this may involve a multi-pronged approach to try to deal with the many different aspects of stress.

Modern theories regarding the efficacy of moxibustion do not just relate to the Chinese concept of qi, but also to how the application of heat can stimulate blood flow and hormone production to help you feel calmer and less stressed. While you are in the therapy room, you can escape from the stresses of the real world, and hopefully the treatment will help trigger your body’s natural healing processes so you can continue to feel the benefits after you leave.

A successful session of moxibustion could alleviate the physical aches and pains caused by stress while also leaving your mind clearer and more focused. The pleasant, relaxing sensation caused by the warmth of burning mugwort will hopefully allow you to let go of your negative thoughts as your body begins to heal.

When performed safely by an experienced practitioner, moxibustion treatment may trigger certain physiological reactions to encourage your body to heal itself both physically and emotionally. It presents you with an opportunity to relax and recover from the many ways that stress can impact your life, restoring your equilibrium and focus.