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”

Tips for staying healthy this fall!

Prevention is always best! Keep your lungs nourished and enjoy lots of pears.

Pears help moisturize dry skin and improve slow digestion. If you are coming down with a cough, add some honey to a baked pear to clear the cough and soothe your throat. Try this simple and delicious recipe: BAKED PEARS.

Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that “Wind is the mother of 1,000 diseases.”  Be sure to keep your neck protected!! If you come down with a cold notice if you’re feeling feverish and have a burning throat, or if you’re achey and have a headache.


If you’re cold/flu has you feeling hot, eat cooling and heat-clearing foods like fresh fruits and vegetables: cabbage, dandelion, mint, chrysanthemum flowers, apples, and pears. Drink plenty of room temperature water or tea.

If your cold/flu has you feeling achey and chilled, eat warming foods that encourage perspiration. These include ginger, garlic, mustard greens and seeds, parsnips, scallions, basil, and cinnamon. Drink plenty of warm fluids such as soups and tea.

Finally, consider scheduling an acupuncture and/or moxibustion treatment at Royal Road Clinic! We can focus on warming and boosting your immunity. Learn more about Moxibustion HERE.


It’s time to sprout, bloom, grow, and feel renewed!


The philosophical principles of the Five Elements used in Traditional Chinese Medicine refer to the balance and flow of qi, yin and yang energies that occur during specific times of year. According to this philosophy, your body changes in accord with the five elements that occur with a specific season: Fire relates to summer, Earth relates to late summer, Metal relates to fall, Water relates to winter, Wood relates to spring. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners use principles related to these elements to examine the imbalances of the body, diagnose, and treat health problems. 

bdbb3ff05e45f718cb03e29254a9e2bfSpring is represented by the following qualities: 

  • Element: Wood
  • Color: Green
  • Nature: Yang
  • Taste: Sour
  • Organs: Liver, Gallbladder
  • Emotion: Anger

Spring is thought to be a good time to detox and cleanse because it the time of year when activity returns. If we stay in winter-hibernation-mode too long, i.e. if we don’t start moving, our Liver energy stagnates causing muscle aches and pains especially on the sides of the body, irritability and anger, sighing, PMS, constipation or irregular digestion. 

Keep your Liver Qi flowing smoothly this season! 

Move your body – help your Liver flow by keeping your body moving. Try yoga or Tai Chi or go for a walk around the block and breathe in some fresh air!

Eat Greens – try to incorporate as many green vegetables into your diet, slightly cooked or sautéed is the best! 

Taste Sour – Sour flavors stimulate liver qi. Add lemon to your water, try apple cider vinegar + honey in warm water, use vinegar and olive oil for your salad dressing. 

Spring Clean – Just like your body, the energy in your home can stagnate, so it’s time to clear out space to help the flow of energy in your home.

Get Acupuncture treatments – Acupuncture rebalances the overall health of your body to help alleviate symptoms associated with Liver Qi stagnation.

Sick Care vs. Wellness Care: A Shift in How We Understand Health Care

Image result for wellnessThe mainstream medical system tends to support the idea that you only need to go to the doctor when you’re already sick. Think of this as a sick care model of treatment. It’s a good thing modern medicine has given us powerful treatments for sickness, but you don’t need to wait until you’re sick to receive care. Wellness care, on the other hand, is the model of medicine that promotes well-being through preventative care and on-going maintenance check-ups. Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture are paradigmatic examples of the wellness care philosophy.

When I treat patients with Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture, they often ask how quickly they will feel better. The number of treatments will depend on how chronic or acute the case may be and how quickly the body reacts to the treatments. Most people tend to see positive results within three or four treatments. What I also like to encourage patients to consider, however, is coming in to see me before they start feeling sick, or before the symptoms become burdensome.

Shifting our perspective to a wellness model encourages us to play the long game. You should invest in your wellness before you get sick in order to prevent sickness. Some ways to invest in your health include:

  • eating a whole foods and, as much as possible, plant-based diet,
  • moving your body regularly (whether that means going to the gym, a yoga class, or for a walk around the block– it doesn’t matter, just move!)
  • visiting your acupuncturist for maintenance check-ups one to two times per season to help ward off imbalances that lead to illness.Value your health before sickness comes!

Love Your Liver

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, each season corresponds to an organ and emotion. To ensure the best organ function, start eating for the season 3-5 weeks before the seasons change.

It’s time to start preparing for spring which means it’s time to start loving your Liver!

liver-supportWhat do you think of when you think of spring? Green! Growth! New Life bursting from the earth! This is how Traditional Chinese Medicine views the Liver’s energy. It’s in charge of storing and circulating blood throughout the entire body and is responsible for the smooth circulation of qi throughout the body.  If your qi is not flowing smoothly, it stagnates which can cause us to become irritable or angry, feel pain, or experience cramping during menstrual cycles. From a Western perspective, the liver plays an important role in detoxifying, digesting, and processing proteins, fat, sugar, as well as toxins, heavy metals, drugs or alcohol. Love your liver with acupuncture, and a nutritional and emotional spring cleaning!

Signs and symptoms that your Liver function might be out of balance:

  • you are easily angered or irritable,
  • you have hypochondriac pain (wandering or localized),
  • you feel like you have a lump stuck in your throat,
  • you have dry eyes, blurred vision, brittle nails,
  • you wake between the hours of 1-3AM,
  • you experience IBS symptoms or constipation,
  • and ladies, you experience painful menstrual cycles (clotting, cramping, sore breasts).

Nutrition is the best way to help your Liver function at its optimum. TCM tells us to eat green for the spring. Add (preferably cooked or lightly steamed) green vegetables and sour foods to your diet. Acupuncture will work even more effectively if you have the basic nutritional building blocks in place.

Foods to start adding to your diet:

  • warm lemon water first thing in the morning or right before meals
  • mint tea and honey
  • beets, carrots, watercress, mustard greens, onions, seaweeds, radish, dandelions
  • green smoothies (with non dairy milk) or green juices

Get in touch with your anger and express yourself!
Believe it or not, not expressing your feelings can actually make you sick (even if you’re eating the right foods and exercising)!  Each organ has its own emotion. Anger is the emotion associated with the Liver. Being too angry can be just as detrimental to your health as swallowing your anger and pretending everything is fine. Set the intention this season: learn to compassionately speak your mind!  Your voice deserves to be heard. It’s okay to compassionately confront someone if you feel hurt or angry. Help your liver by expressing yourself!

Here’s the quick test. Do you need to cleanse?

On a regular basis do you:

  • feel tired?
  • feel dizzy, trouble concentrating or foggy thinking?
  • eat fast, fatty, fried, oily, processed foods?
  • use stimulants, coffee, cigarettes, sugar to boost yourself each day?
  • move your bowels less than twice a day?
  • have intestinal gas, bloating or constipation?
  • experience headaches?
  • eat fish more than twice a week?
  • have food allergies or skin problems?
  • have sinus problems or often have lower back pain or weakness?
  • feel sluggish or overweight?

If you answered yes to more than three of these questions, you might want to consider adjusting your diet and adding in some acupuncture to help your Liver Qi flow more smoothly!