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Acupuncture is not just needles: there's MOXA

People generally assume that acupuncture means needle treatment only. There are other tools in my kit, and moxa is one of them. People have always used warmth to heal, from the warmth of hands to the warmth of the household fire. We acupuncturists use a plant called moxa for its warming and healing properties.

Moxa is used most during cold weather, so I'm using more moxa these days, since it's starting to get cooler. When I use moxa on someone's back, for instance, they usually say, "Mmmmmmmm." If you are a really hot person, though, you probably won't have moxa in your treatment.

Moxa warms and activates. We use dried moxa on the skin before or after an acupuncture point is treated, and sometimes moxa is used instead of needles (especially when treating children or those who are afraid of needles).

Moxa is helpful for many conditions, especially when there is cold in some part of the body. The most common way that I apply moxa is to put a small dried piece of it on an acupuncture point, and then touch the moxa with a small piece of lit incense. As the moxa smolders, the patient feels the peaceful, penetrating warmth and tells the practitioner when to remove the moxa. The skin is never hurt.

Another way I apply moxa is by warming areas of the body with moxa sticks about half an inch in diameter and a few inches long. When the stick is lit at one end and moved around above the surface of the skin, the penetrating, dry warmth brings pleasant energy to the whole area.

Sometimes it's not our physical body that is cold: our minds can get cold and bitter, or our spirits can be frozen and inflexible. The movement and warmth of moxa can bring healing to all parts of us.