As I greeted a new acupuncture patient in the waiting room she asked “What’s that smell coming from the treatment rooms?” At first I was taken aback, I had not noticed a smell.  Seeing my puzzled look, she described a smoky incense smell she had noticed wafting around the office. Smiling, I said, “That’s Moxa, a therapy that is used in most acupuncturists’ offices.”  

Since this question has come up more than once in my years of practice, I thought I would share what Moxa is and the reasons an acupuncturist would choose to use Moxa.

Moxa is made from the herb Mugwort or Artemisia Vulgaris. The plant is dried, powdered and then formed into a wool-like substance. It is then burned on or above the skin to release its therapeutic properties at the location of acupuncture points. This practice is called Moxabustion. When burned moxa penetrates the acupuncture channels, increasing warmth, energy (Qi), blood flow, circulation, eliminating cold and the accumulations of fluids. 

Burning moxa has a distinct odor. The essential oils in the plant have a significant effect as a form of aromatherapy or medicinal incense. A large part of its healing ability is not just the warmth it provides but also the smell of the burning oils.  All over the world, mugwort has a reputation as a plant of healing.  In European Folk Medicine, it was placed in dream pillows to keep away bad dreams. In the American old west, the Sagebrush which is Artemesia Tridentata is closer to Mugwort than to the Sage plant and was burned and used as a cleansing for those who were sick.

Modern research has shown that Moxa increases the production of white and red blood cells improving blood and lymph circulation and is extremely effective for long standing chronic disease of the internal organs.

Acupuncture and Moxibustion have been paired therapies for hundreds of years.  Moxa therapy can be used alone or combined with acupuncture needles. Some of the conditions treated are asthma, diarrhea, pain in the joints, especially from rheumatic diseases, and gynecological disorders including infertility, fibroids and menstrual cramps.  In Chinese therapeutics, the theory states that certain conditions of pain are caused by an invasion from the outside by cold. This is most common in joints like the knees and the low back. Think about how getting into a cold car feels on a freezing morning and how different it feels when the heat come on.  When Moxibustion is used this is what happens in our bodies. With many conditions there is no substitution for the use of Moxibustion. 

So, next time you are in an acupuncture office and detect a strange but pleasant incense-like aroma, breathe it in deeply!  It’s Moxa, made from a healing herb that has been used for centuries in the East and the West to help restore people to health and vigor.

Stephanie Judge M.Ac., L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.

ImageI’ve been working professionally in the health care field as a nurse since receiving my Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from Seton Hall University over 30 years ago.  In conjunction with nursing I am an acupuncturist, licensed by the State of Maryland and board certified through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) and a Chinese Herbalist.

I have successfully worked with patients suffering from a variety of ailments and conditions. My passion and specialty is working with patients who are experiencing pain. From my own experience with back and shoulder pain I chose to peruse continuing education in pain management and apply this knowledge to my practice.

To further expand my skills and knowledge of Oriental Medicine, I completed a 660 hour certification course in Chinese Herbal Medicine. I’m excited about the possibilities that this opens up for you. By adding this new dimension to my skills, I can now enhance you therapeutic results. This will enable you to reach your health goals quickly and completely. 

In addition, I am certified in facial rejuvenation acupuncture. Different from cosmetic surgery this treatment enhances ones inner and outer beauty. By creating balance in the body, beauty appears on the face. Fine lines start to disappear, skin tones becomes even, the eyes brighten, and the face appears younger and healthier.
My commitment to you is to being your guide through your healing process. I will bring my knowledge of eastern and western medicine to focus on your needs and to support and enhance your own unique healing abilities.