It’s that time of year again and we all need to be vigilant in our own wellness!
As most of you know, I am a big fan of self care and have quite a variety of treatments I do for myself and my family. And as we move closer and closer to cold and flu season, let’s consider a home remedy gifted by the ancient Chinese tradition – moxibustion.
Moxibustion: is a form of heat therapy that consists of burning the dried leaf on or above specific points on the body. This herb is known as mugwort, moxa, or Aì yè in Chinese medicine. It helps to warm areas of the body with the intention of stimulating circulation and lymphatic flow. It also helps to smooth the flow of Qi and blood and expel pathogenic influences. The scent of moxa is very distinct and many people find it to have a therapeutic and relaxing aroma.
When is moxibustion used?
Moxibustion is used for:
Pain due to injury or arthritis, especially in "cold" patterns where the pain naturally feels better with the application of heat. Help to speed up healing of any injury.
Digestive problems , irregular elimination, stomach aches, gas, bloating and diarrhea due to cold patterns.
Gynecological :cramps, uterine spasms and obstetrical conditions, including breech presentation in late term pregnancy
Protection against cold and flu strains, as well as overall immune support.
Warm Channels and Dispel Cold Damp (Think along the lines of nagging joint pain that worsens during the winter.)
Induce smooth flow of Qi & Blood (Back to basics- cold contracts and slows, but heat expands and quickens, allowing the free flow of energy and blood to and through and area that requires healing. Mugwort is actually used internally as well to move the blood and promote healing.)
Strengthen Yang Qi (The benefits of raising the Yang energy are too numerous to list, but depending on the organ system involved will range from increasing sexual function to rectifying chronic loose stool.)
Add energy (While needles move and balance energy, moxa transfers new energy into the body.)
Practitioners often do both acupuncture and moxibustion in the same clinic session when appropriate to the diagnosis and treatment strategy. Practitioners believe that the therapies increase each other's effectiveness when used together.
Unlike acupuncture, which is almost always done by a trained practitioner in a clinic setting, moxibustion can be easily used at home. It is not uncommon for Chinese medical practitioners to train their patients to use moxa on themselves to strengthen the effect of the clinical sessions between appointments.
The surest way to promote longevity and health is to support the strength of the Wei Qi. The Wei Qi is comparable to what we think of in our culture as the immune system. Traditional Chinese Medicine has realized for centuries that this energy is created by and dependent on the digestive energy. The Wei Qi is created in our digestive center (the Spleen and Stomach meridians) and then transferred and stored in the Lung system, which is our most superficial organ system. Moxibustion a couple times per week on one or all of the points below will help your body’s defenses stay strong during the winter.
The Spleen meridian starts at the lateral side of the big toe, runs along the medial side of the foot crossing the inner ankle. It then travels along the medial side of the lower leg and thighs reaching the pubic bone. Once it enters the abdominal cavity, it connects with the spleen and continues upward to the Heart meridian. Externally, the Spleen meridian continues moving toward the chest and branches out to reach the throat and the tongue.
The Spleen meridian represents the Earth element. Its prenatal virtues include faith, honesty, openness, acceptance, and truthfulness. Interestingly, according to the Daoist view, our intention and ideas (known as Yi) are stored in the spleen. The postnatal emotions associated with the Spleen include worrying, remorse, regret, obsessiveness, self-doubt, self-centeredness, and suspicion.
The Stomach meridian begins just under the eye. It travels up and then down the face, chest, abdomen, and the leg, ending on the second toe. Internally, the Stomach meridian connects with the stomach and spleen.
Also adding a nice Yin practice that focuses on these meridians can enhance your wellness and immunity.
Yin poses that help restore Spleen/Stomach imbalances are those that target the inner legs, anterolateral side of the legs, abdominals and chest area. Try poses like dragon lunge, pigeon/swan, dragonfly/straddle. Holding each pose for 5-10 minutes per side. Taking time to rest for 1 minute in between each shape on belly, on back reclined, or in Childs pose.
You will need moxa sticks or stick-on cones, which you can purchase from your own local Traditional Chinese Medicine resource.
I personally use stick-on cones, and it is easiest to hold the cone in your hand while you light it then place the sticker-side of the cone on the point. Remove the cone as soon as you feel the point get warm, depositing it in a steel bowl or ashtray. Place another lit cone on the point and repeat the process for 5-10 minutes until the skin is slightly pink. The advantage of this form is that you can treat several points simultaneously; however, finding a comfortable position while you have burning cones sticking off your body can be an awkward maneuver. You may need to ask for help.
In addition to the moxa cones that you burn, I often use another method to relax and restore!
A moxa foot bath, these come in compressed pucks that you toss in warm to hot water, plunk your feet in for a soak and feel your body sigh in ease!
Also aids one in getting a good nights sleep 😴
I really love these for travel and will be bringing one for everyone to our Morocco Yoga Retreat along with moxa cones to use in meridian therapy.
Point protocol for strengthening the Wei Qi:
Moxa Cone at Stomach-36
Stomach 36 – Stomach 36 is on the lateral side of the tibia (shin bone), a hand’s-width below the crease at the knee. If you feel along the tibia, coming up from the foot, you’ll feel a notch below the kneecap. Just as you start to feel this notch, move your finger just lateral (toward the right on the right leg, toward the left on the left leg) to the bone, where you’ll feel a slight depression. Stomach 36 is called “Zu San Li,” which is translated as “Leg Three Miles.” Legend says that soldiers used to needle this point when fatigued so that they could make it three more miles.
Moxa Cone on Spleen-3
Spleen 3 – Feel on the inside of your foot, start at the front of thebig toe, then moving back toward the heel. Just behind the big toe joint, you’ll feel an obvious depression, and there lies Spleen 3, the tonification point on the Spleen meridian.
Ren 6 – About 2-finger widths below the umbilicus, on the midline of the torso, this point will help regulate Qi of Spleen and Stomach.
The aim of strengthening the body and achieving longevity cannot be attained by just applying moxibustion once or twice, it requires persistence for a long time. This does not mean that one should receive moxibustion every day. For the purpose of convalescence for the weak and sick, the moxibustion may be applied once every 2-3 days in the early stage; yet for reinforcement of the body or longevity, it should be once a week in the early stage. And when it has shown some effect, the frequency can be reduced to once a month, and later, once or twice every three months, or even once or twice a year. So long as the practice is persisted in, good effect is sure to ensue.
If unsure about using moxibustion, seek a professional and ask for guidance or a treatment that combines both acupuncture and moxibustion.
For my local friends here in Palm Beach, Florida you can find below a list of Acupuncturist with whom I know personally and have worked with quite a lot over the years. I can recommend all them without a shadow of a doubt as they are all experts in their field and continue to grow and develop new techniques regularly.
Dr. Maryann McCarthy, O.M.D., A.P. - acupuncturepb.com a fabulous practitioner for over 30 years offers a beautiful treatment. Often uses moxa in combination with acupuncture and cupping and offers a very yummy neck and shoulder massage during part of your treatment.
Kimberly Marrone, A.P. Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner (CFMP) - integrativeacupuncture.net Also offers a beautiful treatment and shares a wealth of knowledge through her regular youtube videos @ IntAcupuncture. Kim is also a contributor to this article along with myself. We also collaborate on workshops to bring Yin and Acupuncture together while sharing and educating participants on the meridians affected by the practice.
Sarah Smith, A.P. - sarahsmithap.com offers her clients a sweet escape from their overly stressed lives. She is a regular yin student and has also collaborated with me to bring acupuncture to my yin classes. In addition to her private practice in West Palm Beach, Sarah offers acupuncture for cancer patients, survivors and caregivers as part of the team at Sari Center, an integrative cancer care non-profit.
I appreciate each one of these ladies for all the knowledge they have shared with me and for our collaborative efforts to educate and share these practices with others!
Cheers to you in health and wellness,