Moxibustion is a form of heat therapy in which dried plant materials called "moxa" are burned on or very near the surface of the skin. The intention is to warm and invigorate the flow of Qi in the body and dispel certain pathogenic influences.
Moxa is usually made from the dried leafy material of Chinese mugwort (Artemesia argyi or A.vlugaris), but it can be made of other substances as well.
Practitioners generally hold a burning moxa stick close to, but not touching, the surface of the skin. In this method, the moxa material is compressed into a stick or pole, looking not unlike an oversized cigar that can be lit and allowed to smolder, producing a unique form of very penetrating heat.
The smoldering moxa stick is held over specific areas, often corresponding to certain acupuncture points. The glowing end of the moxa stick is held about an inch or two above the surface of the skin until the area reddens and becomes suffused with warmth.
Practitioners often do both acupuncture and moxibustion in the same clinic session when appropriate to the diagnosis and treatment strategy. Practitioners believe that the therapies increase each other's effectiveness when used together.
Moxibustion may be used to treat:
Pain due to injury or arthritis
Digestive problems and irregular elimination
Gynecological and obstetrical conditions, including breech presentation in late term pregnancy
Protection against cold and flu strains