top of page


moxi chart.jpg

What is moxibustion?

Moxibustion is a form of heat therapy in which dried plant materials called "moxa" are burned on or very near the surface of the skin. The intention is to warm and invigorate the flow of Qi in the body and dispel certain pathogenic influences.


Moxa is usually made from the dried leafy material of Chinese mugwort (Artemesia argyi or A.vlugaris), but it can be made of other substances as well.

There are two types of moxibustion: direct and indirect.


Direct Moxibustion


In direct moxibustion, a small amount of moxa is shaped into a cone or rice grain shape and placed on top of an acupuncture point and burned. In modern moxibustion, the moxa is placed on the point and lit, but is extinguished or removed before it burns the skin. The patient will experience a pleasant heating sensation that penetrates deep into the skin, but should not experience any pain.


Indirect Moxibustion


In indirect moxibustion, a moxa stick, roughly the shape and size of a cigar, is burned near the acupuncture meridians or over specific areas of pain or injury.  Another form of indirect moxibustion is performed by wrapping the handle of an acupuncture needle with moxa and burning it, which pushes the heat down into the point directly.


In either case, the purpose of moxibustion is to use the heat to stimulate the flow of Qi and blood to improve circulation, enhance acupuncture treatments, and create other healing effects in the body.


Benefits of Moxibustion


  • Moxibustion can treat a variety of conditions including:

  • Arthritis

  • Digestive Problems

  • Gynecological conditions

  • Protection against cold and flu strains


What exactly will you do?

I generally hold a burning moxa stick close to, but not touching, the surface of the skin.


In this method, the moxa material is compressed into a stick or pole, looking not unlike an oversized cigar that can be lit and allowed to smolder, producing a unique form of very penetrating heat.


The smoldering moxa stick is held over specific areas, often, though not always, corresponding to certain acupuncture points. The glowing end of the moxa stick is held about an inch or two above the surface of the skin until the area reddens and becomes suffused with warmth.


What can I expect to feel?

It is not uncommon for patients receiving moxibustion to report a sudden flooding of warmth that quickly radiates along a specific pathway (usually corresponding with the jing luo channel that is being treated) away from the site of application. This is a good result, as it indicates the arrival of the Qi and signals that the flow of Qi and xue has been freed in the channel.


When is moxibustion used?

Example of moxibustionMoxibustion is used for:


  • Pain due to injury or arthritis, especially in "cold" patterns where the pain naturally feels better with the application of heat

  • Digestive problems and irregular elimination

  • Gynecological and obstetrical conditions, including breech presentation in late term pregnancy

  • Protection against cold and flu strains


I often do both acupuncture and moxibustion in the same clinic session when appropriate to the diagnosis and treatment strategy. Practitioners believe that the therapies increase each other's effectiveness when used together.

What does it smell like?

There is a small inconvenience associated with moxibustion: the smoke and odor. Although there are so-called smokeless varieties of moxa, the preferred true moxa (made from mugwort) does produce a lot of smoke when burned. 


However, the lingering odor produced from burning mugwort unfortunately smells somewhat like marijuana. 

bottom of page