I often get asked about what the strange smelling cigar is and what it actually does. Moxa, or Moxibustion, has been around for as long as acupuncture (about 2000 years), with some believing it predated acupuncture itself.
The Chinese character for acupuncture actually translates to Acupuncture-Moxibustion. This is why you will often see acupuncture accompanied by Moxa in most Traditional Chinese Medicine clinics.
Moxibustion involves the burning of a dried herb called Mugwort. The dried Mugwort is often rolled up into what looks like a cigar and is then placed close to the skin. The warmth from the herb heats the skin and underlying tissues, helping to stimulate blood flow to the area. It is often combined with acupuncture, heating the needles to increase their effectiveness.
Traditionally, pain is thought to be ‘stagnation’ or ‘cold’ in the acupuncture channels. A classic example of ‘cold in the channels’ is when people feel that their joints ache and feel stiff in cold weather. The burning of Moxa is thought to warm and increase the flow in the channels, clearing any stagnation and warming any lingering cold, thereby easing pain.
I like to think that Moxa works similarly to heat packs and heat creams, increasing blood flow to the area and helping to relax tight muscles. It’s kind of like a hot shower on a cold morning. Regardless, it feels good whatever the explanation!