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Today we are looking into a less well-known modality called Moxibustion. This technique employs the burning of a commonly used herb called Artemesia Vulgaris, Mugwort, or Ai Ye in Pinyin. The unique chemical, and structural makeup of the herb, along with its volatile oil content allows this herb to burn cooler than most, burn for longer, and keep its structural integrity in the burning process. For these reasons, and for its warming and energetically moving qualities, Ai Ye is processed in to Moxa, which is then used for Moxibustion. 

Ai Ye is an herb that has a warm and spicy nature to it. Its actions on the body are one and the same. By igniting the herb, its therapeutic and warming actions are heightened. The heat produced has an ability to penetrate the skin and warm up surrounding tissues. This is useful for promoting blood and qi flow and to dispel lingering cold from a body area. This technique is referred to as Moxibustion, and there are a few different ways of applying it based on the region and medical school of thought that a practitioner of oriental medicine comes from. 

The more Chinese way of applying Moxibustion is by using larger quantities of Moxa that are rolled up and placed on top of an inserted needle. This technique warms up the needle and delivers heat deeply and very accurately into the acupuncture point and body. Sometimes the herb is rolled into a large cone and burned on top of a slice of another herb like ginger, garlic, or even a small pile of salt. 

The more common Japanese method of using Moxibustion is quite different. Only the highest quality Moxa is used in this application. This quality of Moxa is very fine and looks like a big golden ball of fluff. This fluffy Moxa is rolled between two wooden planks to make long thin tubes about the diameter of a toothpick. The Moxibustionist will apply an oil-based barrier on the skin and then plucks a piece of rolled Moxa about the size of a grain of rice and place it perpendicularly on the skin. The Moxa is ignited and it slowly burns down close to the skin where it is snuffed out at the last moment. This technique is called direct Moxibustion and since the higher quality of Moxa burns cooler and the amount used is significantly smaller, the skin is not damaged in the burning process. 

Both of these systems work well to activate acupuncture points, restore the balance of warming energy of the body, move blood and qi, and also dispel cold that has invaded and caused illness. 

I hope you enjoyed learning about Moxibustion! Next time we will take a look at the role of nutrition and how Dietary Therapy is applied under the lens of Oriental Medicine. 


Diego Garcia, LAc



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