Moxa Wool: Smoke & Odors
The biggest complaint about the use of moxa (mugwort) wool and the moxa box is the smoke emitted during usage and the fragrance (or for some, odor) left behind afterwards. I have not found a way to completely eliminate this issue besides using smokeless moxa sticks. There is debate, however, as to whether using smokeless moxa is therapeutically substandard to the use of moxa wool. The fact that the location where mugwort is grown as well as the time of year it is harvested determines the quality of moxa suggests that the healing properties go beyond just the slow burning, gentle heating properties of the herb. Mugwort also contains an active compound called borneol which has been used topically for its analgesic and antiseptic effects. Additionally, it has been described in some chinese texts that moxa wool not only generates heat but has other properties such as its bitter nature resolving dampness and its spicy fragrance moving through the channels to regulate qi and blood and expel cold. In the modern production of smokeless moxa, the spicy fragranced acrid components (including volatile oils like borneol) of mugwort are, however, essentially eliminated.
So the debate remains open, but my personal leaning is to use the moxa wool whenever maximum benefit is desired. That said, it is not normally practical in clinic to use moxa wool due to smoke and odor. So whenever applicable and doable, I suggest moxa wool usage at home. Though I do believe the smoke and fragrance probably have medicinal properties as well (with mugwort smoke having been used in chinese hospitals in the recent past to neutralize air-borne pathogens), the following tips will make the moxa experience for the modern individual in our modern environment more acceptable.
My tip for the use of moxa wool in your moxa box:
Light up the moxa OUTSIDE (in multiple areas to accelerate the ignition process) and leave it there to smoke as all the herb gets ignited. When it has stopped smoking and the herb is glowing, bring your box inside and use it. You'll be benefiting from the heated mugwort with reduced smoke and fragrance in your home.
I use a moxa box made in Japan with an active coal filter to further minimize smell and smoke in the environment.
Moxa is very helpful for herpes zoster, asthma, menstrual issues, fertility, gastro-intestinal disorders, organ prolapse and pain. If you'd like more information about moxibustion, please don't hesitate to contact me.
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Dharmananda, Subhuti. “Borneol, Artemisia, and Moxa.”Itmonline.Org, Sept. 1998, www.itmonline.org/arts/borneol.htm.
Dharmananda, Subhuti. “Moxibustion: Practical Considerations for Modern Use of an Ancient Technique.”Itmonline.Org, Jan. 2004, www.itmonline.org/arts/moxibustion.htm.
Long Zhixian (chief editor), Acupuncture and Moxibustion, 1999 Academy Press, Beijing
Shen Dehui, Wu Xiufen, and Nissi Wang, Manual of Dermatology in Chinese Medicine, 1995 Eastland Press, Seattle, WA
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Yang Shouzhong and Chace C, The Systematic Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, 1994 Blue Poppy Press, Boulder, CO