Here's How to Practice Moxibustion at Home, According to an Acupuncturist

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Just because you are in a long-distance relationship with your acupuncturist doesn't mean you can't practice moxibustion at home by yourself. I've sung the praises of moxibustion before, but social distancing gave me a new appreciation for the holistic treatment, thanks to how accessible it is at home.

The ancient Chinese practice utilizes burning moxa (a plant derived from the Asian mugwort root) to stimulate acupuncture points and move blood and Qi, explained Aileen Moy, an acupuncturist and herbalist with the Yinova Center in New York City.

Typically, I finish off an acupuncture or cupping session with five minutes of moxibustion, which leaves me floating out of the office free of anxiety — my mind and body quiet and rested.

"While moxa can be used for many conditions (circulation, low energy, menstruation, arthritis, digestive issues, aches, and pains, for example), it may not be appropriate for everyone. Find out from a licensed practitioner if this is the right modality for your condition," Moy said.

It's important to note that moxa comes in many forms, and your specialist should advise the type and brand you use, too. Moy warned against ordering off of Amazon, "as the quality of the herb is not always consistent." The Yinova Center offers Longevity Moxa Sticks ($5 for two).

In my case at home, Moy suggested burning moxa poles (which resemble incense) as opposed to our in-office stick-on moxa (think tiny candles attached to the skin) sessions. If your specialist approves this method for you, too, feel free to follow along with Moy's instructions below — then, reflect and take time to just chill. If you haven't talked to a licensed practitioner or your doctor, do not perform moxibustion at home.

  • Before beginning, have everything set up in an area that is clear of flammable objects — a space with great ventilation is recommended.
  • Light the tip of the moxa stick with the candle or lighter — it's important to stay focused throughout the session for safety purposes.
  • Hold the tip of the moxa pole in the flame, turning it very slowly so the end is evenly lit and glowing red all the way through.
  • For those of you using smokeless moxa (the hard, black, charcoal/carbonized version of the moxa stick), it is best to use a burner or a small torch, as it will take several minutes to light the moxa pole with a single candle flame.
  • Hold the hot moxa tip over the points/channels that your acupuncturist has directed you to. Ideally, the pole should be perpendicular to the surface of the skin/point. Do not touch your skin with the moxa.
  • You'll gauge how close to hold the lit end of the pole based on how warm the moxa feels. Aim for a nice, strong heat from the moxa — it should be pleasant and not cause any burning or physical discomfort.
  • Remember to ash frequently to prevent residue from falling onto the skin while keeping the lit end nice and hot.
  • When it is time to extinguish the moxa, it is best not to use water. Simply drop it into an empty mason jar, and screw on the lid. Or press it straight up and down into a dish of uncooked rice or salt, making sure the entire lit end is completely covered.
  • Moxa takes a while to cool down even after it is no longer burning, so never touch the tip until you are sure it has fully cooled.
  • If possible, repeat every day for 20-30 minutes. If your schedule doesn't permit, aim for 10-20 minutes, three to four times a week.

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