Moxibustion is the term used for one of the modalities practiced in Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It’s an external treatment using an herb called Artemisia Argyi, or Mugwort, or Moxa that is dried, ground and turned into a wool like fluff.
The process of moxibustion consists of burning small portions of the herb over intact, unbroken skin, mostly in locations that are over acupuncture points, but not exclusively. The skin is protected to prevent burns, and the heat and oils of the burning mugwort penetrate the skin and cause several effects in the body.
Moxibustion has been studied and used for millenia, however there are some newer scientific studies and papers that offer a modernized take on the effects and benefits of moxibustion in the body.
A bibliometric analysis on the papers published from 1954 to 2007 in China showed that up to 364 kinds of diseases can be treated with moxibustion (1), so here are some of the main current applications for moxibustion:
fetus malposition, diarrhea, colitis, urinary incontinence, dysmenorrhea, osteoarthritis, temporomandibular joint disturbance syndrome, soft tissue injury, heel pain, asthma, urinary retention, herpes zoster, general weakness, fatigue, and aging related problems. In addition, in my clinical practice, and in my home with my family, I particularly rely on moxibustion as an immune system builder, an extra layer of natural protection from virus and bacterial infections, especially during the cold months.
Modern research, which mostly comes from Japan, where moxibustion is used in greater scale than most countries, classifies the effects of moxibustion as:
- thermal, given the use of fire heat through the burning of the moxa;
- radiation, as the burning of moxa emits infrared radiation;
- pharmacological, volatile oils of moxa include 1,8-Cineole, alkenes (alpha-thujene, pinene, sabinene, etc.), camphor, borneol, and little aldehydes, ketones, phenols, alkanes, and benzene series compounds, heptatriacontane (C37H76) plays an important role in combustion , and burning moxa also has tannins, flavonoids, sterols, polysaccharides, trace elements, and other ingredients (1).
There’s also a well known use of moxibustion in the Acupuncture and TCM community, which uses moxibustion on a point in the leg called Zuzanli. This particular application has been proven to increase white blood cell production, along with other protective and fighting cells in the body, and promote autophagy (2), which is key in ridding the body of harmful viruses and bacteria. I tend to offer this to most patients as often as I can during the winter. There are some minor contraindications that would prevent this technique from being available to everyone.
In conclusion, moxibustion offers an incredible array of benefits to the human body, specially during the winter months when there are higher incidence of colds and flus. If you are curious or wanting to try to benefits of moxibustion, feel free to talk to your friendly acupuncturist at Chiropractic Health and Acupuncture in Frisco.
Renata Silveira, MSAOM, L.Ac.
(1) The Mechanism of Moxibustion: Ancient Theory and Modern Research, https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2013/379291/
(2) Moxibustion Activates Macrophage Autophagy and Protects Experimental Mice against Bacterial Infection https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4129972/