On our recent trip to China we went to Mr. Wei’s clinic in Hong Kong. There we learned of a new type of moxibustion – thunder moxa. It has many valuable uses and although it’s only available in China that I know of, you can still do it yourself. But first, what is moxa? Moxa is a shortened term for moxibustion, the method of burning herbs on or above the skin. This technique alleviates blockages and stimulates the flow of energy, blood and fluids. As well, it warms areas of coldness. Since pain usually results from some sort of blockage (stagnation) in the body such as the improper flow of energy, blood, or fluids, moxa is especially wonderful for sprains, traumas and injuries, although it treats other types of pain such as arthritis, rheumatism, sciatica, menstrual pain, and muscle aches and pains. In addition, depending on where it is used, it can stimulate and supports immunity and promote better organ functioning. Moxa is generally made from the mugwort plant (Artemisia vulgaris). This herb has a mild heat, burns easily and penetrates deeply. It is generally aged from 7 – 14 years and then processed into a variety of forms, either as loose wool, in cones, or as sticks (often called moxa “cigars”).
Thunder Moxa Thunder moxa is an exceedingly large stick of aged mugwort, equivalent to about 4-5 regular “cigars.” As such, it covers much larger areas of the body at one time and stimulates more heat. Thunder moxa may be used like regular moxa by waving it over any site of pain. As well, a thin piece can be cut off the stick, lighted, placed on a slice of fresh ginger, and the unit set over the desired site. The moxa burns to ash, carrying not only the moxa heat deeply into the affected area but also the stimulating and warming energy of ginger. How moxibustion works Moxa provides a far-infrared ray heat that deeply penetrates the body. This heat relaxes muscles, dilates the vessels and stimulates the flow of blood, energy and fluids to break up blockages and bring in infection-fighting cell, thus speeding the healing process. Heat instead of cold? But why use heat instead of cold as is usually prescribed by western practitioners, you might ask? While ice alleviates pain in the moment, in the long run it causes blood and energy to stagnate, particularly in the deeper levels of the body. This can result in arthritic pain in that area later in life. As well, ice and coldness decrease circulation and congeal blood and energy, (just as cold turns water to ice), overall slowing the healing process. Heat, on the other hand, stimulates fresh blood and energy circulation, alleviating pain and speeding healing. Although other heat applications exacerbate inflamed conditions, moxa’s far-infrared ray heat is different and doesn’t aggravate most of these conditions. In fact, it often relieves inflammation because it stimulates circulation instead of blocking it the way ice does. The only time moxa should not be used is either when the area is very red and swollen, or the application doesn’t feel good. If this occurs, switch back and forth between cold applications and moxa, using ice no more than 20 minutes at a time and ending the session with moxa. The proof is in the pudding (moxa!) Using moxa heat may sound doubtful to most Western ears but I suggest you try it to learn for yourself. I’ve personally seen many cases benefit from moxa where ice aggravated the condition. I’ve had people with three week-old knee injuries throw away their crutches after only one moxa session, sprains heal faster than most doctors admit possible and arthritic pain, frozen shoulder and areas of limited movement that even surgery didn’t improve disappear after regular moxa treatment. Next week I’ll describe how to use moxa so you can experiment yourself and see how amazingly effective it is.