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Ask Dr. Tracy: Moxa What?

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By Tracy Kozak, Acupuncture Physician
@ Acupuncture & Holistic Health Center
Jacksonville, FL


Moxabustion (moxa) is the process of burning the herb called Mugwort, also known as artemesia vulgaris or, in Chinese, ai ye. It is a spongy herb that helps facilitate healing by warming acupuncture meridians to induce the smooth flow of blood and qi (energy). Your acupuncturist may choose to use moxa to treat chronic deficient conditions, or correct cold and damp conditions within the body.

There are different applications in the use of moxa. Three of these methods include: direct non-scarring moxa, direct scarring moxa and indirect moxa. The method normally used in Worsley Five Element Acupuncture, is direct non-scarring moxa. With this method, small cones of mugwort are placed on chosen acupuncture points and lit. The cone is removed and extinguished before it burns the skin, leaving the patient experiencing a pleasant heating sensation that penetrates deep into the skin. Afterwards, the point may or may not be needled. Direct scarring moxa is a process where the cone is placed on the acupuncture point, lit and left on the point until it extinguishes itself. Scarring moxa is not a common practice for obvious reasons. Indirect moxa is the process where a cigar shaped moxa stick is lite at one end and held close to the area being treated for several minutes until the area turns red. This is a technique that can be taught to the patient and can be performed at home under the correct conditions. In another form of indirect moxa, a needle is inserted into an acupuncture point and retained. Moxa is wrapped around the needle and ignited, providing heat to the point and the surrounding area.

Acupuncturists are trained to correctly use the processes described above to treat their patients’ conditions with optimal effect. If your acupuncturist informs you that you will be treated in this manner, rest easy. Most of my patients love the process and find it to be a very relaxing and comforting.

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