History and Usage-
Moxibustion, or ‘Moxa’ is the application of therapeutic heat to different areas of the body using the dried and ground leaves of medicinal plants, the most common being mugwort (artemesia vulgaris). According to the principles of Chinese medicine, moxa is used to strengthen the blood, stimulate the flow of energy (qi) in the body, and maintain general health.
Moxa has many uses in Chinese medicine, and has been used traditionally to increase fertility, encourage implantation, and ensure that a pregnancy continues into full term. It can also be used to help with placenta previa and to turn breech babies into a normal head-down position prior to childbirth. “A landmark study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998 found that up to 75% of women suffering from breech presentations before childbirth had fetuses that rotated to the normal position after receiving moxibustion at an acupuncture point on the Bladder meridian.” (http://www.acupuncturetoday.com/abc/moxibustion.php) Moxa is also frequently used to help with digestive issues, pain, and menstrual cramps. Research has shown that it increases blood circulation to the pelvic area and uterus and stimulates menstruation.
In western medicine, the effects moxa have been found to increase white and red blood cell count, immediately after a treatment. It also increases the production of hemoglobin in the blood, which increases the amount of oxygen carried in the blood to other parts of the body. The circulation of blood and the movement of the lymph system are also improved by moxa.
In many folk medicine traditions, Mugwort is used in ritual to dispel evil. It is also known to prevent bad dreams and increase the memory of dreams when placed beside the bed, drank as a tea, or smelled as a fresh plant before bedtime.
Technique and safety –
We will be using moxa that has been rolled into sticks, or stick shaped smokeless moxa, which has been prepared as a charcoal for those who are sensitive to smoke.
During a treatment the smoldering moxa stick is held about a half inch from a skin over a therapeutic acupressure point, and moved back and forth in a circular motion. The practitioner can keep a hand on the skin nearby to monitor the heat level as well as confirm with the patient that the heat isn’t too much. The treatment over each point can continue until the skin feels warm to the touch, and the patient also feels that the area is fully warmed. Often the skin might feel warm, but the patient isn’t yet feeling it – this is why dual confirmation is ideal. Warming each point may take between 2-5 minutes, maybe more.
In some cases people with diabetes or neuropathy, may experience limited sensations on the skin. They might not be aware of being burned, and therefore it is important to use caution in these cases, and monitor the heat with your own hand, and keep a close eye on their skin for any signs of redness. It is also important not to use moxa on someone who has a fever, blisters, rash, sunburn, or other signs of heat. People with allergies or respiratory problems may find the smoke of moxa irritating. It is good to do moxa treatment in a well-ventilated room, with windows open, or outside.
The warming sensation of a moxa treatment is often very soothing. The essential oils of the mugwort and other plants can also have a calming effect on the patient.
The Acupressure Points
Acupoints are measured by a unit called a cun, it is the measure of a person’s thumb at the knuckle. The width of 2 fingers at the knuckle is considered 1.5 cun, and 3 cun the width of 4 fingers. The lateral side of the body refers to the outer aspect, and the medial the inner aspect (the lateral side of the foot would be the side with the small toe, and the medial side, the side of the big toe).
The points ST 36, DU 20, and SP 1 can be used to increase fertility, encourage implantation, and also to help strengthen and maintain the pregnancy after conception (to decrease chance of miscarriage).
Before pregnancy, the area above the uterus can also be used with moxa – just below the navel an area about the size of the palm can be warmed.
Stomach 36 (ST 36) Chinese Name: Zusanli (English translation: Leg Three Miles)
St-36 is located on the channel pathway known as the Stomach Meridian. It is about 4 finger widths (3 cun) below the bottom of the knee cap, 1 cun (the width of the thumb at the knuckle) lateral to the anterior crest of the tibia (the large bone in the front of the leg below the knee
Governing Vessel 20 (Du 20/GV 20) Chinese Name: Bai Hui (English Translation: Hundred Meetings)
Du 20 is located on the channel pathway known as the Governing Vessel. At the vertex of the head, on the midline, 5 cun posterior to the anterior hairline.
Spleen 1 is located on the pathway of the Spleen channel. It is on the dorsal aspect of the big toe, at the junction of the lines drawn along the medial border of the nail and the base of the nail, approximately .1 cun from the corner of the nail. This area is basically at the base of the nail bed of the big toe, on the inner corner of the nail and the medial aspect of the foot.