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Seattle/Shoreline Acupuncture and Moxibustion: The Art of Moxibustion or Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

imagesIf you live in the Seattle/Shoreline area and are in search of an acupuncturist who practices the traditional healing art of Moxibustion, you have come to the right place! So what is moxibustion or moxa? It is the burning of an herb (moxa or Artemesia vulgaris commonly known as mugwort ) either indirectly or directly on the skin.  It is a traditional treatment used in China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Moxibustion was introduced to Japan from China more than a thousand years ago along with acupuncture and herbology.  To be clear, acupuncture and moxibustion com as a pair in the practice of East Asian Medicine. I would also like to point out that in this blog post I will be referring to and speaking about Japanese style moxibustion as I practice it. Acupuncture and moxibustion come as a pair in Oriental Medicine. In Japanese, there are two characters that make up one word, shinkyu. The two practices are complimentary to each other and the therapeutic effect is enhanced when they are applied together.

Mugwort (Artemesia vulgaris)

It is a weed which flourishes on poor, dry and sandy soil. It likes the sun, grows in stands and grows to a height of 1-2 meters. When harvested, it is dried and processed in several steps, producing super pure, pure, semi-pure and course that is used in the various applications listed below.

Indirect Moxibustion

This is mugwort (moxa) that is burned over the skin for a period of time. The moxa used for this is referred to as semi-pure moxa (wakakusa), having  some impurities and particulate matter left. Since the burning ember is a heat source, it is a vasodilator and increases circulation of blood, qi and lymph into the general areas where applied.  We roll a ball of mugwort and attach  it to the handle of the needle and then light it. It burns slowly and hot, heating up the surface of the skin and also encouraging circulation in the micro capillary beds. This style of moxibustion is called kyutoshin.  There is also applications using wooden boxes or bamboo cylinders as well. The “moxa box” has a screen inside where the mugwort is placed and then ignited. It then smolders very slowly producing heat to the underlying surface of the skin. Applying moxa in this way is said to invigorate qi, yang and blood, dispel cold/damp, and move qi/blood stagnation.

Direct Moxibustion

Moxa that is applied directly to the skin is call okyu or tonetskyu. Small pieces of moxa ranging from sesame size to rice grain size cones are applied to the skin, usually with a smear of ointment call shuinko to insulate the skin and to give the moxa a place to stick to the point.  Another indirect method is called chinetskyu, or heat perception moxa. Relatively large cones of moxa are placed on the skin and removed when or before the patient feels warmth or heat. It is okyu however that has some of the most interesting effects on the body.  Some of the positive effects are as follows:

  • changes in blood chemistry after direct moxibustion
  • physical effects of the heat
  • increase in white blood cells
  • phagocytic activity of the white blood cells increase
  • increase in red blood cells and hemoglobin
  • sedimentation rate of red blood cells increases                                                          images
  • platelet count increase
  • speed of coagulation increase
  • blood glucose count increase
  • blood calcium increases
  • serum complements increase

Dr. Hara, a great moxibustionist and researcher claimed the results were produced by minute amounts of “histotoxin” (denatured proteins), which stimulated and increase in blood constituents and their activity. Dr. Hara lived to be 105!! He burned various points everyday on his body. As a practitioner myself, I burn points 3-5x’s a week! I have also found, that when I engage patients and teach them how to do this simple and effective technique, their conditions improve rapidly!! The key is explaining, demonstrating and demystifying  the practice. I expect people to burn themselves a bit, as they sharpen their skills. However, once they “get it”, there is generally no issues at all. If you are  at all interested in moxibustion and how it relates to robust health and well being, please call 206-706-4511.



note: 1) The Moon over Matsushima, Insights into moxa and mugwort, by Merlin Young 2) North Amewrican Journal of Oriental Medicine, Practical Moxibustion Therapy, by Junji Mizutani

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Meet Randy

Randy Clere, L.Ac, Dipl.Ac, MNLP, CH, I have practiced Oriental Medicine and related arts for 30+ years and have had a passion and commitment to provide the most effective and highest level of care to each and everyone of my patients. Throughout the years...


Wisteria Healing Arts

16720 North Park Ave. N.
Shoreline WA, 98133
Phone: 206.706.4511