Sometimes you just need a little warmth
The smell of smoke at your acupuncturist clinic is most likely not because they are a smoker (or using illegal medicinal plants!). It is most likely that they are using a traditional treatment called moxibustion.
Moxibustion is a warming technique that is commonly used by acupuncturists. It developed alongside acupuncture thousands of years ago, and continues to be an integral part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Moxibustion involves burning a dried or charcoaled form of the herb Artemisia Argyi or Artemisia Vulgaris, more commonly known as Chinese mugwort. It can be used in conjunction with acupuncture or on its own. For some conditions, moxibustion is considered superior to acupuncture.
How is it used?
A practitioner will select where to do moxibustion in the same way as acupuncture points are chosen. The practitioner may choose points that are known to have systemic effects on the body, or they may focus on the local problem area, or they may use both approaches.
There are a number of different ways to apply moxibustion. One frequently used technique is to light a 'cigar' of the herb (either charcoaled or dried leaves) and hold it approximately an inch away from the skin, thereby creating a pleasant warm sensation for anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes. Another common technique is to apply a ball of dried moxa to an acupuncture needle, which is then lit, warming the needle and local area.
When is moxa recommended?
Your practitioner may recommend moxa for a variety of conditions, including:
Loose bowel motions, bloating and tiredness
Tendency to cold hands, feet or generally feeling uncomfortable in the cold
Joint or muscle aches or stiffness that are worse in cold environments
Tendency to put on weight easily
Poor immunity and tendency to colds, influenza and other viral infections
If you have not had successful results with acupuncture alone, this can be a great adjunct to treatment. Ask your practitioner if it’s right for you.