In the season of coughs and colds and nasty virus infections, we can use the herb moxa to keep us well. I say ‘we’ because I use moxa alongside acupuncture in the clinic, but also give it to my patients to use at home. Moxa is a herb, a type of Mugwort, that has been used for thousands of years within Chinese medicine to strengthen energy, or Qi, and blood and help the body to heal. The leaves are dried and processed, a bit like tobacco, and made into loose moxa or moxa sticks. When moxa is burnt near the skin it nourishes and strengthens the tissues beneath. When it is used on acupuncture points, it benefits the whole body. Modern research has shown that it strengthens our immune system and other aspects of our blood.
At this time of year, I use lots of Moxa in the clinic. For example, I burn tiny cones of Moxa on the skin at the site of an acupuncture point just below the knee – don’t worry, I don’t let them actually burn the skin! You feel a pleasant heat and the smoke has a relaxing aromatic smell. The Chinese name for this acupuncture point is Zusanli, translated as ‘Leg three miles’, because it increases energy so much that you can to walk another three miles! It is exceptionally good at boosting our immune system so that you can fight off any infections that come your way. This is particularly important for people who get recurrent chest infections. Used as part of acupuncture treatment, moxa is excellent for warming the body core and increasing our Yang energy.
I often teach people how to use moxa on themselves at home. In these circumstances we use a moxa stick, which is a bit like cigar. For boosting your immune system, I teach you how to find ‘leg three miles’ acupuncture point , how to light the moxa stick and how to use it to warm and activate the point by holding it above the skin. I give people moxa sticks to use at home for other conditions as well. I have one patient who uses it to settle inflammation in their Achilles tendon, one who uses it over a wound that won’t heal, and another who finds it reduces the irritation of seborrheic warts. There are many ways moxa can help you keep healthy but if it is not used correctly moxa can also make things worse. So always get advice from a Chinese medicine or acupuncture practitioner before using it.