Mugwort or Artemisia vulgaris would be considered a weed in many households. A member of the daisy family, this Asian and European Native grows up to 6 feet and is a plant that has been revered in many cultures for centuries.
It can be used as a dye, added to some culinary dishes, used as an insect repellent and utilised to treat numerous medical conditions. In Oriental Medicine mugwort is processed to form a type of wool called moxa punk. It is this moxa punk is fashioned in a variety of ways to be used either directly or indirectly on the body to stimulate healing and used as a preventative remedy.
Mugwort burns slowly at a very high temperature having a thermal nature on the body. Further to this mugwort has several active components that when used topically may have an antifungal, antibacterial, anthelmintic and analgesic effect. Some research has already demonstrated the action on the meridians and role in healing the body. See links below for more information if you are interested.
Traditional moxibustion therapy requires the use of mugwort to be burned directly or indirectly on acupoints and along meridians. Indirect moxa is used in the form of a moxa stick, burned above the skin either freely or in a specially designed box while direct moxa is place on the skin in the form of a cone or rice grain sized form. There may be some variations to these treatments.
What is the Connection to the Moon?Mugwort has long been celebrated as sacred medicine. This magical herb is named after the Greek Goddess Artemis, the patron of women, animals and often associated with the moon. Even with this connection we start to build a picture of some of the medicinal properties of Mugwort making a wonderful herb for women’s health, but more on that later.
Mugwort is known as the herb of dreaming. The moon has association with the magic of spell crafting and if you choose to use mugwort in your spells you can be sure to stimulate the creative brain centre. Mugwort taken as a tea or placed under your pillow is said to promote vivid dreaming just like particular phases of the moon can enhance your dream cycle.
The connection to the lunar cycle extends to the cultivation and growth of mugwort. Traditionally the most potent mugwort is harvested according to the moon cycle. Wilcox (2018) writes of historical recommendations for picking mugwort on the third day of the third lunar month or the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. These correspond with the seasons of Spring and Summer. And often significant of the peak energy of the plant.
Further to working with the energy of the plant itself, some records kept from ancient manuscripts demonstrate the use of moxa at particular times of the year and at during certain times of the moon cycle.
As humans we are intrinsically connected to nature, the seasons and even the moon. This can be particularly evident in menstruating women who will have on average a 28-day cycle. The moon has a 29.5-day cycle. We can also view this in people who experience SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder. Mental health changes relating to the seasons is well recognised in medical circles. In Oriental Medicine the nourishment of Kidney Yang is a primary suggestion for treatment of SAD.
Moxibustion has been used to help balance human energy. Moxibustion has a yang action on the body. Yang balances Yin type disorders. Therefore it makes sense to time the use of moxibustion according to the seasons and cycles of the moon.
There is a story of Dr Shimetaro Hara who was still practicing Oriental Medicine at 104 years of age. He was a strong advocate of moxibustion and the use of an 8-day New Moon Moxibustion treatment protocol.
This involves applying moxibustion, directly or indirectly to Zu San Li, acupoint Stomach 36 (ST36) daily for 8 days from the time of the New Moon. Ki and Blood are most deficient since the New Moon is considered most Yin and therefore contributes to weaknesses of the body. The time between the New Moon and where the moon reaches its half fullness represents the Wood Phase of the moon cycle. This being the best time for nourishing and nurturing the body.
By applying moxibustion therapy to ST36 Yang energy is boosted, the immune system is strengthened, fatigue is reduced and longevity of life is increased. This author also posits that using the 8-day New Moon Moxibustion protocol throughout Autumn and Winter would be add extra health benefits based on seasonal connection.
Many people experience conditions relating to reduced Defensive Ki and invasion of cold and dampness during Autumn and Winter. Using Moxibustion can help expel cold, boost the immune system and strengthen the body.
Using MoxibustionThere are several ways that you can access moxibustion as a form of treatment. It is highly recommended that you work with a Qualified Practitioner.
Practitioner Based Therapy
Direct moxa, using the Rice Grain form is the preferred method at Mindful Living Matters. However indirect smokeless moxa may also be used in some circumstances. Moxa may be used as part of a comprehensive treatment or as a stand alone treatment protocol.
At Home Treatment
It may not be possible to attend the practice daily for 8 days therefore your practitioner may provide you with instructions on how to perform a moxibustion treatment at home. Some things to consider when using moxa at home:
- Moxibustion is a heat therapy – therefore it is important not to burn the prescribed moxa stick directly on the body. It is waved about 10cm above the acupoint until the area gets warm. This may be repeat for about 10 – 20 minutes depending on how it feels. Common sense prevails. If it burns you are too close. The quicker it heats the body, the less you need to use it.
- Moxibustion needs to be extinguished properly. It burns slowly and at high temperature. It can set fire to things. Extinguish using sand, rice or even water.
- Moxibustion can produce an odour (and in some cases smoke). If you are asthmatic or suffer from allergies including sinus or rhinitis talk to your practitioner about using alternatives. It is highly recommended to perform your Moxa Ritual outside in open air. But make sure you cover up you neck and lower back so you do not get to cold if applying n Winter.
- Moxibustion also has actions other than heat therapy. Talk to your practitioner whether applying a moxa cream after an indirect moxa treatment would be beneficial for you.