Use Moxa at home to increase the effects of your acupuncture
While you may not be needling yourself at home, you *can* use moxa. I like to give patients a stick of moxa to use between appointments, especially during wintertime, or if you run cold, or are overstressed so you can DIY Moxa whenever you need.
In Chinese, the word for acupuncture is 針灸 Zhēnjiǔ, which translates literally to mean “needle & warming treatment.” It is an essential method of treating acupoints, just as needles are. Moxa (or “moxibustion”) comes in different forms, but “pole or stick” moxa is probably the most convenient to use. Pole moxa is made of compressed mugwort, a Chinese herb, and other warming, aromatic herbs.
Pole moxa is shaped like a long cigar wrapped in thin paper. When lit, it burns quite hot and has a strong odor. (Some folks mistake for cannabis.) There are “smokeless moxa” sticks, but I don’t recommend them. I do not find to be as effective; they don’t have the same herbs as the standard moxa pole, and I’m concerned about the toxic off-gassing that occurs with charcoal use.
Supplies you’ll need to DIY moxa
- moxa pole
- scissors & a cup of water
- small jar of sand
- candle, matches or lighter
Set up for moxa at home
Be sure to use moxa in a room with good ventilation and have a small jar of dry sand, cup of water & scissors, or a metal cigar tube (cut your moxa pole to fit) so you can extinguish the ember. Also, use a good lighter or candle to light your moxa pole. And you need an ashtray so that you can gently remove the hot ash.
Steps for DIY Moxa
- First, tear off about an inch of the outside paper layer, but not any inner layers.
- Light the end with the lighter or candle flame. Blow lightly at the lit end to help the ember spread evenly across the tip to make the end glow. While you may start with some of the surface not ignited, it should eventually form a glowing coal.
- Hold the lit moxa pole about one inch above the point or area to be warmed. If you place the thumb and index finger of your other hand around the point, you’ll be able to determine how close to safely bring the moxa to your skin.
- Circle the end of the pole in small clockwise circles above the point. If it feels too hot, immediately move it, either to another point or away. Feel the point and see if it loses heat quickly. The spot you’re working on should stay warm for several minutes after you treat the area, but this may take several applications.
- When the ash starts building up, gently guide the moxa pole around the inside the edge of your ashtray to remove the ash: the ash may be hot enough to cause a burn, so you don’t want it falling on your skin. A little burn cream or ice can deal with burns if you miscalculate.
- Finish by burying the moxa in the sand or snuffer or enclosing it in the cigar tube so that the ember suffocates. Air out the room afterward, but you stay warm to enhance the effect. Keep the area that you warmed covered.
- If you don’t feel well in either your hands or legs you should use moxa on yourself.
- Never touch the lighted end of the moxa stick even if it’s not glowing.
Here’s a handout with steps for DIY Moxa you can print for easy reference.
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Thanks to Karen Vaughan, L.Ac. for inspiration for this post.