“What’s that smell?”
“What’s that smell?” or “Has someone been…smoking…in here?” These are questions I get frequently! It usually happens after I have performed moxibustion on a patient. Moxa is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine that involves burning the mugwort herb over a part of the body to produce therapeutic results. The smoke and smell lingers—and it smells similar to marijuana. I promise you it is not, and it has many therapeutic effects.
What are the benefits of moxibustion or moxa?
The mugwort herb is used to help with a variety of different ailments. The most common ailments treated include:
• Joint pain that gets worse during cold weather
• Breech babies
• Cold hands and feet, especially for those with Reynaud’s syndrome
• Fertility issues
Practitioners combine acupuncture and moxibustion in the same clinic session when appropriate to the diagnosis. Oftentimes, the acupuncturist will send the patient home with a few sticks of moxa so they can continue the treatment at home.
How is moxibustion used?
There are two types of moxibustion: direct and indirect. Direct scarring moxibustion is something we rarely do in America, because as the name suggests, it has a side effect of actually burning the skin. In direct scarring moxibustion, a small, cone-shaped amount of moxa is placed on top of an acupuncture point and burned. With direct non-scarring moxibustion, the moxa is placed on the point and lit, but is extinguished or removed before it burns the skin. The patient will experience a little bit of warmth but should not experience any pain, blistering, or scarring unless the moxa is left in place for too long.
Indirect moxibustion is more commonly used. It involves the practitioner lighting one end of a moxa stick—roughly the shape and size of a cigar—and holding it close to the area being treated for several minutes. Another form of indirect moxibustion treatment combines both acupuncture needles and moxa. A needle is inserted into the acupuncture point, then the tip of the needle is then wrapped in moxa and lit, thus heating the acupuncture point and area around it.
Moxa smoke alternatives
Smokeless moxa and moxa oils offer alternatives since the smoke and odor tends to stick around for some time. The therapeutic effect of those options are less than that of the smoke, but they can still provide benefits to those who are sensitive to smoke.
Pearl Acupuncture Can Help
Pearl Chang Russell practices as a licensed acupuncturist in Richardson (a suburb of Dallas, Texas) and is a Master of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Pearl’s source of inspiration is her grandmother, whose wealth of experience spans more than 50 years in acupuncture and Chinese medicine.