Moxa Takes Acupuncture to the Next Level

Unlike traditional acupuncture, some of these needles are set on fire.



Fotolia//Monika Wisniewska

Acupuncture can be daunting enough for some. What if the needles were on fire? That’s what’s up at Healing Place Acupuncture in Wayne. There, owners Megan Conover and Taissa Carmody are incorporating needles, fire and mugwort into a heat-based healing therapy called moxa, or moxibustion.

Moxa relieves asthma, osteoarthritis, lower back pain, endometriosis and gynecological disorders, IBS and other GI problems, Carmody explains. “When there is pain or inflammation, something is not flowing,” she adds. “This therapy gets chi flowing and increases circulation to release that pain.”

Acupuncture does the same thing; incorporating moxa kicks the needle power up a few notches. The two have been used in conjunction for centuries, but the practice is not widespread in the U.S., where acupuncture still isn’t mainstream.

A key component of moxa is mugwort, a weed revered for its curative power. The mugwort is dried, purified and processed into a wool-like substance. During the treatment, thimble-sized balls of moxa are placed on top of acupuncture needles, which are strategically placed along patients’ various meridians. Then, the moxa is lit on fire. It burns for a few minutes, releasing a fragrant smoke. But the real therapy comes from delivering the heat through the needle and into the body. “It feels wonderful,” Carmody says. “Heat goes right into the area of pain.”


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Carmody says that moxa is one of the oldest methods of treating breach babies. No needles are used. Instead, moxa sticks are placed in appropriate locations in women’s feet, then set aflame. The chi that is created moves the fetus into the correct birth position. Moxa is also used to increase movement in sluggish fetuses, something that causes concern during pregnancies. As Conover tells it, many local moms use moxa without hesitation. “Towards the end of a pregnancy, people will do anything to help their baby and prepare for a healthy delivery,” Conover says.

Post-partum women also get acupuncture with moxa. “When baby comes out, you’re left with an empty, cold cavity,” Carmody explains. “To stimulate healing, you need to infuse heat.”

Moxa is not used on all of the acupuncture needles inserted into clients’ skin. Usually, Carmody and Conover use moxa on only a few needles. 

When fire goes out, patients remain still with needles in them. Sessions last one hour and patients should feel a difference in as few as 3-4 sessions.

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