Moxa is obtained from the herbal plant ‘Artemisia Vulgaris’, also commonly called mugwort.
Mugwort is carefully harvested, dried and aged, then it is shaped into a cigar-like roll. This “moxa” is burned close to the skin to heat the specific pressure points. It has also been used in various size cones that are placed on the skin directly or on top of an herb or some salt and burned.
The moxa leaf is bitter and acrid, producing warmth when used in small amount and strong heat when used in large amount. The acrid odor [spicy fragrance] of the leaf can travel through your acupuncture meridians, regulate your energy, and expel cold. Its bitter nature helps conditions like edema or other types of swellings and accumulations.
Another reason why we use Artemisia leaf is for its ability to burn slowly and project heat through the wool in a gentle manner. We do not use it just for the heat but for the effects that the mugwort vapors and smoke have by entering the body, either through the skin where the moxa is burned or through breathing the fumes, or both. The heat is also important, but it is not the sole function.
Sometimes I would use moxibustion alone, without needles especially for those who are too sensitive to acupuncture and for children.
Personally, I feel that Mugwort is a very special herbal-ally to me. I hope that you, too learn to relate with her and understand its healing and nourishing effects in your body and mind!