Moxa is Artemisia or mugwort. As there are over 550 species of Artemisia, generally the Artemisia Vulgaris Latiflorais used, although in Japan the Montana or Princeps variety is preferred.
Moxibustion is a particular technique and treatment strategy that has benefitted from Japanese specialisation, refinement and development. Japan is the only country that requires separate licences for the application of moxa and acupuncture. This has encouraged and supported unique extensions of use and refinements in moxa application. This specialisation has in turn provided the demand for a high quality of moxa.
Okyu refers to small pieces of moxa punk, usually in the shape of a grain of rice, placed directly on the skin, lit by incense and allowed to burn down very close to the skin in order to stimulate the selected acupoint.
The grain of moxa is generally extinguished once it has burned down about 80% of the way and this ensures that the heat penetrates the skin but does not burn the skin. The grade of moxa used with Okyu is a gold or very high grade, it is processed so that only the ‘wool’ remains and most of the plant fibres and particles have been washed out. It burns with less intensity and it therefore allows greater control over the amount of heat applied.
Chinetsukyu, or cone moxa is a method used extensively in Meridian Therapy (Keiraku Chiryo). Using a semi-pure or sweet grass moxa, it is rolled into relatively small cones of moxa about half the size of an ear plug or the same size as a small incense cone and placed directly over the acupoint being treated. The moxa cone is generally only burned between 30-45%, and is removed when the patient begins to feel warmth.
Due to the nature of the moxa, the cones burn relatively slowly and allow for a greater level of control of heat application. This allows for a very precise as well as supplementation effect and is suitable for a range of uses including general ki enhancement, or movement of ki in obstructed meridians.
Kyutoshin or Needle head moxa is a technique that places a ball of moxa on top of a needle and thereby delivers a radiant heat to the area around the needle and through the needle shaft into the skin and surrounding tissue. The technique is generally applied so that the heat felt is a comfortable sensation of warmth. There are many adaptations of this kind of moxa treatment and the most often used in modern clinics in Australia is the smokeless moxa caps. They are easy to use, less likely to fall off and do not smell.
For further information about moxibustion please refer to the excellent and comprehensive reference book, The Moon over Matsushima: Insights in Moxa and Mugwort, by Merlin Young [Godiva Books]