Health and Fitness

Published on November 5th, 2009 | by Jennifer Lance


Herbal Remedies: Ancient Chinese Moxibustion With Mugwort Relieves Deep Pain

I have recently been suffering from pain in my hips and lower back that has prevented me from writing for almost two weeks now. This constant pain has been caused by an old injury, changes in the weather, stress, and physical exertion (although not more than more normal hiking and yoga practice). The pain took me by surprise, as the old injury has never bothered me before, and I felt much anxiety when the strain did not go away after a few days. Thanks to my massage therapist friend Christine Brandt, I am on the healing path. Not only did a full body massage relieve built up tension contributing to my pain, but Christine introduced me to the ancient Chinese practice of moxibustion.

Photo by superfantasticMoxibustion relieves muscle pain and improves circulation.

Moxibustion relieves muscle pain and improves circulation.

Moxibustion involves the burning of mugwort (moxa) “to strengthen the blood, stimulate the flow of qi, and maintain general health”. In general, there are two forms of moxibustion (direct and indirect); however, “some fifty kinds of moxibustion methods have been summarized through research into ancient literature on moxibustion.”  Indirect moxibustion was practiced upon my old hip injury without the use of acupuncture needles.

Indirect moxibustion is currently the more popular form of care because there is a much lower risk of pain or burning. In indirect moxibustion, a practitioner lights one end of a moxa stick, roughly the shape and size of a cigar, and holds it close to the area being treated for several minutes until the area turns red.

There are many conditions that benefit from moxa treatments, especially those requiring increased circulation, and it is thought to predate acupuncture.

Moxibustion therapy is effective in simple and infantile diarrhea, chronic gastroenteritis, peptic ulcer, bronchial asthma, rheumatism of muscles and joints, neurasthenia, hypertension, menstrual disorders, chronic pelvic inflammation, and climacteric syndrome [menopause]. Definite effect was obtained in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis, and thromboangitis obliterans. A report of 182 cases of asthma treated with scarring moxibustion at acupoints selected on the basis of differential diagnosis resulted in a shot-term effective rate of 76.9%, with 70% long-term effective rate on follow-up examination for three years. Other reports claim that scarring moxibustion may markedly lower blood pressure, reduce blood viscosity, and dilate various vessels.

Moxibustion has even been used to turn breech positioned babies successfully in utero.

After my massage, my friend Christine sent me home with my own moxa stick, and I have been able to continue the healing at home on my old injury. For about 15 minutes, I hold the lighted moxa stick near my hip and cover the area in small circular motions (I’ve only burned myself once).  In her infinite wisdom, Christine told me the herbal remedies we need for our ailments are the ones that abound in our own natural environment.  My yard abounds with motherwort, not mugwort, but in my early twenties I used to wildcraft it for an herbal company along the shores of our local river.  I am thankful my relationship with artemisia vulgaris has continued, and I will no longer view mugwort as an invasive weed.

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