The Magic of Mugwort

mugwort-artemisia-vulgaris-imgMugwort, Artemis vulgaris, is an herb that has been imbued with magic and charm for many cultures. Named for the ancient moon goddess, Artemis, goddess of the hunt, fertility, and the forests and hills. Roman soldiers were known to put mugwort in their sandals to keep their feet from getting tired. Native Americans equate mugwort with witchcraft. They believed that rubbing leaves on the body kept ghosts away. Others believed that mugwort held special dreaming powers. Stuffing a pillow with the herb encouraged lucid and prophetic dreaming. Traditional Chinese Medicine uses mugwort in a therapeutic warming treatment called: moxibustion.

What is moxibustion?

Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese medicine therapy consisting of burning dried mugwort just above particular points on the body. The purpose of this therapy is to strengthen overall energy and immunity. This is done by burning the herb over an moxibustion_ezg_1acu-point and along meridians, or by placing the burning herb on top of an acupuncture needle inserted into the acu-point. The heat penetrates deeply, warming the body and causing capillaries to dilate, thus increasing the blood and lymph circulations in the entire body, and improving blood and lymph circulation. The deep warmth loosens cold trapped in the body, and relieves pains associated with stiff joints and muscles. Because mugwort is considered an emmenagogue, a substance that stimulates or increases menstrual blood flow, it makes a great natural therapy for cramps or irregular periods, or for warming and preparing a uterus for pregnancy.

Who should consider moxibustion therapy?

Warming the meridians of the body increases a smooth flow of qi and blood. Therefore, those who need to expel cold stagnation and tonify their energy are well treated by moxibustion.

In Western terms, moxibustion is a good therapy for those who have:

    • oversensitivity to cold or poor circulation
    • hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s
    • diarrhea or sluggish digestion and wish to strengthen digestion
    • low immunity or wish to strengthen their immunity
    • cold and  flu
    • muscle or joint pain (arthritis)*
    • back pain
    • low energy or depression
    • infertility or IVF preparation
    • dysmenorrhea (painful periods) or amenorrhea (absence of regular periods)
    • breeched baby position**

Who should avoid moxibustion therapy?

Moxibustion is not for everyone. It is meant for patients who have cold symptoms and should, therefore, not be used on those who have heat conditions (such as those who generally tend to run warm) or those who have asthma or sensitivity to smoke.

What to expect during Moxibustion therapy?

Moxibustion can be added to an acupuncture treatment or done on its own.The patient will be positioned on the acupuncture table so that the practitioner can access the correct acu-points. (Common points are below your knees, your belly button, and local areas of muscle or joint pain. There are more specialized uses of moxibustion as well; for example it is done over the little toe to reposition a breeched baby.) Next, the moxa will be lit and held over the points until you feel a deeply warming and relaxing sensation. Symptoms should begin to immediately decrease and, with time, dissipate altogether.


*Recent studies have shown that the method of RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) actually delays healing of injured areas. Healing occurs when fresh blood and nutrients are brought to the injured area. Heat increases this blood flow and so moxa is a great therapy for muscle and arthritic aches.

**A landmark study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998 found that up to 75% of women suffering from breech presentations before childbirth had fetuses that rotated to the normal position after receiving moxibustion at an acupuncture point on the Bladder meridian. Other studies have shown that moxibustion increases the movement of the fetus in pregnant women, and may reduce the symptoms of menstrual cramps when used in conjunction with traditional acupuncture.

Hongyong Deng and Xueyong Shen, “The Mechanism of Moxibustion: Ancient Theory and Modern Research”

Andrew’s Five Tips for Remembering Dreams

I spend a lot of time thinking about and working with dreams. When people learn this about me, one of the questions they frequently ask is, “How can I remember my dreams?” If you share that question, then read on! I’ll give five pointers for how to increase your capacity for dream recall.dreamcatcher

Continue reading Andrew’s Five Tips for Remembering Dreams

What your dreams and sleeping patterns are saying about your health

static1-squarespaceA single poor night of sleep can derail an entire day or even week. Imagine what chronic poor sleep can do to the mind and body! Western medicine includes some potentially valuable sleep treatments, but they also have considerable drawbacks. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is less well known as a sleep health treatment, but is similarly powerful. Let’s take a look at both approaches:

Continue reading What your dreams and sleeping patterns are saying about your health

Support through the Fall to prepare for the Winter.

Traditional Chinese Medicine is a two thousand year old medicine that looks to nature as its teacher. In the Fall, imagine the leaves changing colors, falling from trees, and eventually drying. Like fragile leaves, our Lungs are most susceptible to the wind and dryness in the Fall. Acupuncture and other Traditional Chinese Medicine modalities help prepare Lungs for the cold winter months ahead. Fall is also the time to harvest, a time when nature transforms and transitions towards an ending. In Fall, nature shifts from activity to rest, letting the the earth lie fallow through the winter.

Just as the seasons cycle, so do our energies, emotions and bodies. Fall and the Lungs are also associated with grief and with letting go. It’s not unusual to feel these shifts emotionally or physically. Old pains (physical or emotional) might reemerge and ache with the appearance of gusting cold winds rustling them from their trees.



Ancient wisdom teaches us not to avoid, but to lean in and listen to what the season is teaching us. This season ask yourself:

  • Is it time to slow down & reap my harvest?
  • Do I really want to resort to allergy meds that make me drowsy or should I try a natural alternative?
  • Are old injuries reappearing and aching suddenly?
  • Do I have something that I need to let go?
  • Am I grieving and need support along the way?
  • Am I prepared to slow down and turn inward?


First off, let me start by saying, I have a needle phobia and I mean a bona-fide sweaty palms, heart racing out of my chest, kind of phobia. As a child, I used to cling to the undersides of chairs before I let a nurse or doctor pry me off and stick a needle in me. As an adult, I find myself still fighting the fear of needles, often fainting at blood draws, etc. Believe me when I say that acupuncture, a therapy using needles, was the LAST treatment on my radar.

So, how did I get in the treatment chair (and not hide under it)?   About up six years ago, I found myself in a doctoral program, stressed and exhausted with migraines, insomnia, and some serious anxiety (not to mention many other symptoms that I didn’t even realize were related until I began to get treatments).  I visited doctors. I tried medication. I worked out. Nothing gave me relief, and no one had the answers because “nothing was wrong” with me. So, I decided to take my studies of meditation and embodiment into my own hands and become my own research experiment. I found a wonderful acupuncturist who was extra caring.After a lot of talking, calming, and deep breaths, the needles went in (about 12 in total). To be clear: the needles are needles…don’t let anyone tell you different, but they are not hollow like the ones used to draw blood.

acupuncture needles

They are as thin as a whisker and don’t suck anything (e.g. blood) out of you! If you’ve never had an acupuncture treatment this might sound strange, but after a few moments with the needles, I could actually feel a heavy energy traveling along lines (what I now understand to be meridians) from my head to my toes. It was a divine experience feeling cocooned in a warm blanket of qi (or energy), and, best of all, my anxiety (the anxiety I walked in with prior to thinking about needles and the anxiety I had about the needles) disappeared. I was able to breathe, my headache stopped, I relaxed…in short it was incredible. If that’s not enough to at least get you to try a treatment or two, then I don’t know what is!

The “magic” behind acupuncture is that the needles tap into your body’s own healing capacities. The needles simply remind the body to “wake up” and “reboot” what needs attention (i.e., what’s become stuck, or tired, or overworked). That’s why when you go in for a treatment to address anxiety (e.g.), you might also get a better night’s sleep, your digestion might improve, and your overall energy might increase. Repeat: This all happens naturally! (I’ll discuss the Western scientific understanding of how this works in my next post.)

I didn’t decide to start pursuing a career as an acupuncturist for another couple of years after this initial experience, but did continue to receive treatments. The truth is, I still don’t love the needles per-say, but I fell in love with the philosophy of this medicine and what the needles could do. I knew I had to learn more! I left my graduate program, enrolled in school for Oriental Medicine, and now I want to share all of the knowledge I’ve gathered up in the nine years I’ve been a graduate student (yes nine, phew!) as a philosopher and as a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner.  If you’re curious about acupuncture or looking to try something natural to get back into balance, I’d love to work with you! Schedule your appointment with me today!