History of Moxibustion
“Moxibustion” is a term used to describe the combustion of an herb called moxa/mugwort in Chinese medicine. While the name might sound like it belongs in a Harry Potter novel, mugwort comes from the Artemisia Vulgaris plant – a species of chrysanthemum. Its Latin name is derived from the goddess Diana/Artemis in the Greek pantheon (the goddess of childbirth), because of its ability to cure diseases of women. Many scholars believe that moxibustion predates acupuncture and it was first adopted around the second century B.C. The earliest known record of its use in Chinese medicine, however, dates back to a piece of silk from 168 B.C. that described the use of the herb for hemorrhoid therapy. Mugwort has been used for a wide range of therapeutic purposes since that time – none more famous than its use to create the potent drug artemisin, which was developed in the 1970’s and has been used to help hundreds of millions of people suffering from malaria across the world.
A Personal Story Involving Moxibustion
Before we get into the details of moxibustion and why we use it in our clinic, we think it is important to share a personal story on how this amazing treatment modality helped change our own personal lives.
When our owner and acupuncturist Erik Johnson was just finishing up his four year acupuncture program, his wife was pregnant with their first child. When she was full-term, imaging showed that their daughter presented as breech in the womb (i.e. head up instead of head down). Erik’s wife went to get a Webster adjustment from a chiropractor (a gentle adjustment to align the pelvis) and even had a manual external cephalic version (ECV) performed by two doctors (a VERY uncomfortable procedure where they dig into the abdomen and try to manually turn the baby for over 30 minutes). Both procedures were unsuccessful and the doctors suggested that a Cesarean section (aka: C-section) was the best course of action.
Erik spoke with the doctors about his profession and his desire to explore moxibustion as a breech treatment option for his wife before a c-section was deemed necessary. Although the doctors knew very little about this Chinese medicine procedure, they gave Erik two full days to try moxibustion before a final ultrasound was performed to see if it had an effect. If the moxibustion was not successful, the doctors wanted to schedule a c-section the following day. Erik immediately went home with his wife and performed moxibustion for two small five-minute sessions each day until the time of the ultrasound. In only those two short days, the ultrasound confirmed that the moxibustion was able to flip their daughter 180 degrees – saving Erik’s wife from ever having a c-section.
If it can have that profound of an effect in this instance, one can only imagine the other amazing things that this modality can do.