There are more moxibustion products available than you can shake an acupuncture needle at and choosing the right ones for your practice can be tricky. Should you be using stick-on moxa? Loose moxa? Does it matter?
Even if you’ve been practising moxibustion for a while, with the increase in moxa products on the market, different styles can get confusing. Clients might also come in with requests for moxa you’ve never used before.
Since this practice has been around for thousands of years, it’s no wonder there’s a range of different ways to go about it. With stricter health and safety regulations in the West too, moxa has morphed to fit with the high modern safety standards.
We’ve written this quick guide to help you work out which type of moxa will be best for you and what the differences are.
Is All Moxa Made from the Same Thing?
Traditional moxa is made from 100% mugwort (Artemesia vulgaris). Moxa is usually compacted dried mugwort and it’s worth checking that the moxa products you buy state they are indeed 100% mugwort.
Moxa comes in different grades which is why it’s essential to buy it from a reputable retailer. Gold moxa is considered to be the best.
Types of Moxa Products
As all moxa is made from the same dried plant, you might wonder how there could be many variations between the products.
The variation in moxa isn’t about its components though, more about the style in which it’s used.
Many moxa sticks look like cigars but you can get shorter sticks that slot into handles for extra length. Moxa sticks are one of the most common products practitioners use as they’re easy to work with.
The downside of handheld moxa sticks is just that, you have to hold them throughout the treatment. For some treatments and situations, it’s not practical to hold the burning moxa when other products are more suitable.
Stick-on moxa is becoming increasingly popular as this method directly stimulates acu-points with the sticker protecting the skin from any injury. Stick-on moxa can be applied and left for the treatment length without intervention from the practitioner.
Not only is this far more convenient, but it’s essential if you want to stimulate multiple acupoints at once.
Loose moxa can be placed in a holder and burnt or manually moulded onto needles by experienced moxibustion practitioners. One benefit to loose moxa is that you can add further dried herbs to the moxa, appropriate to the treatment.
Some practitioners also use small moxa cones to burn at the end of acupuncture needles. For this practice, you’ll need to choose moxibustion-compatible acupuncture needles that have a metal handle and a loop to hold the moxa in place.
Traditional or Smokeless
One of the main issues with traditional moxa is that it doesn’t have a particularly appealing smell and produces a lot of smoke. In a modern clinic environment, smoke is not an ideal result!
Many practitioners can mitigate smoke by ensuring the room is well-ventilated but it’s easy to buy smokeless moxa now as well.
Things to Watch Out For
Many modern moxa products are compacted and formed in a manner that prevents ash from falling. This is important for preventing any risk of burns from hot ash.
Gu Gwan moxa bowls and stick-on moxa are both perfect for eliminating the risk of falling ash. With acupuncture needle moxa use, it’s wise to place a protective layer over the skin underneath the moxa. This allows you to practice safely with no risk to the patient.
The safest form of moxibustion, which all of the above methods fall under, is indirect moxibustion. This means there’s always some separation between the skin and the burning moxa. This might be as simple as a sticker or the moxa being held away from the skin.
Direct moxibustion is where the burning moxa is placed directly onto the skin, a practice which can lead to scarring and blistering from intense heat. Needless to say, this method is generally avoided in Western moxibustion practice.
Experimenting with Moxa
Moxa is generally a very affordable part of Traditional Chinese Medicine and easy to experiment with. Many moxa practitioners have a favourite type of moxa that they stick with and works for them.
As moxa is so affordable, it’s worth trying out different methods until you settle on the types that suit your practice and patients.
Try Out Our Moxa
We carry a range of moxa products to suit all types of modern moxibustion practice. If you want more information about which to choose, get in touch and we’d be more than happy to answer your questions.
We also stock a full range of acupuncture needles, including high-quality needles that are compatible with moxibustion.