Moxibustion is used in a very similar manner to acupuncture to influence the body's immune system and energy flow. It involves the burning of mugwort wool--often in the form of a moxa stick or cones. There are two main types of moxa: direct and indirect. Lit moxa may also be employed atop acupuncture needles in certain Damp or Cold related diseases where moxa's warming nature can increase the therapeutic effect when compared to lone needling.
Moxa may cause intentional irritation, burning, or blistering depending on the style of moxa used and the desired result.
Direct moxa involves the burning of a number of moxa cones directly on top of the skin until an "almost burning" and slightly painful sensation is achieved. Once the desired sensation is achieved the process will be repeated until the chosen number of cones have been ignited. There are two types of direct moxa: regular and scarring. Regular direct moxa is used to intentionally cause a minor first degree burn that will constantly stimulate the area over which the moxa was ignited until the burn has been healed. This constant stimulation reinforces the treatment over the next several days and often shortens the number of treatments needed to see a desired change in a condition or otherwise increases the length of time for which desireable outcomes may be experienced.
Direct scarring moxa is used to intentionally induce blistering of the skin over certain acupoints, which often results in the creation of a scar. This therapy is usually used for preventative purposes (to boost immunity) and to treat certain chronic lung conditions. Direct scarring moxa, however, is not often employed, for cosmetic reasons, though it is highly effective. In these cases, extra care should be taken to avoid rupturing the blister. The blister should remain intact until the body naturally reabsorbs the fluid, in order to achieve the maximum lasting therapeutic effect and minimize potential risks of the therapy.
Herbal "moxa" may also be employed in certain conditions, whereby an irritating, slightly caustic paste of herbs is applied to "burn" the skin and achieve similar results to real, mugwort moxa. This therapy is used to intentionally induce blistering of the skin in the same manner as direct scarring moxa. And like direct scarring moxa, is not often employed, for cosmetic reasons, though it is highly effective at treating certain conditions AND the same precautions should be taken after treatment to avoid rupturing the blister until the body naturally reabsorbs its fluid. Again, this is done to achieve the maximum lasting therapeutic effect and minimize potential risks of the therapy.
Indirect moxa is mainly used in chronic deficiencies and is commonly applied in the form of a moxa stick, though occasionally a moxa box is used. The moxa stick contains the same moxa wool used in direct moxa rolled up in a paper sheath. This allows the practitioner to easily control and guide the warmth of the burning moxa. The moxa stick is generally kept over a single point for 5-15 minutes before moving onto the next point or set of points. A moxa box is used on larger areas such as the low back. It consists of a lidded box with a screen suspended above the opened bottom of the box. Moxa wool is placed on the screen and ignited. Moxa is burned slowly in indirect moxa in order to allow the warmth to gently penetrate the body and warm the interior. It generally poses fewer and less severe risks compared to direct moxa.
As moxa involves the use of smoke, patients with asthma or other lung-related issues may find it difficult to breath during and after moxa therapy.
Disclaimer: Certain genetic, pulmonary, and circulatory conditions and old age may increase the probability of undesireable side-effects and risks as outlined in the Specified Informed Consent Form for this therapy.