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Self-Heating Moxa Pads

Self-Heating Moxa Pads

Detail of artemesia leaf from moxa pad packet 

Moxa refers to leaves of Artemisia argyii, a type of mugwort, that is used in the classial Chinese medicine practice of moxibustion (burning of moxa). In the characteristic ancient style of moxibustion, the leaves would be molded into a cone shape and placed on the skin or on some herb material (such as a slice of fresh ginger) resting on the skin. Then, it would be burned to produce a strong local heating, with vapors from the burning moxa penetrating the skin and contributing to a stimulation of circulation.

In modern times, this type of "direct moxa" treatment, where the moxa cones are burned while resting on the skin, have largely been replaced by a variety of indirect moxa methods, especially for Western patients who don't want to risk burning their skin as part of the treatment (in China, forming a blister at the moxibustion site had been considered a good sign of effective application of moxibustion). One method commonly employed today is use of the moxa stick, a tube of moxa leaves with one end burning and the other end held by the person applying the treatment. The smoking moxa stick is held over the area of skin to be treated and pulled away when the patient finds the warmth too strong. Unfortunately, this method produces a lot of smoke; a "smokeless" moxa stick has also been developed, using carbonized moxa leaves.

Self-heating moxa pads, made in Korea, provide another alternative. These pads are cloth packs that contain a large amount of moxa leaf into which has been blended a self-heating combination (iron and activated charcoal). The packs remain cool so long as they are free of oxygen in their original plastic bag; once opened, the heating process is initiated by vigorously shaking the pack. Within five minutes, the pack is heated and it maintains a temperature of 60-75°C (140-165°F) for hours. This is the same technology used for the popular new drugstore products, such as ThermaCare, which are self-heating pads applied to the body. The difference is that the moxa pads are larger and have the added benefit of providing the artemisia vapours.

Detail of instruction sheet for moxa pads  
Detail of instruction sheet for moxa pads.

Applications of the moxa pads include treatment of injuries, back pain, knee pain, and menstrual pain. In addition, these pads are applied for chilliness and discomfort following exposure to excessive airconditioning, frigid outdoor winter conditions, or damp windy weather. A belt to hold the pad over the abdomen is also available. The pads can be used following a treatment with acupuncture and moxibustion to extend the effects of the initial therapy, or as an alternative to those treatments when professional help is not convenient. Moxa pads should not be applied to skin that is broken or to areas that display red inflammation and discomfort with application of heat

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