What Is Moxibustion?

Moxibustion (commonly referred to as moxa) is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) therapy. It uses the downy substance of a dried herb known as mugwort;  Artemisia vulgaris. In Japanese it is called mo kusa, meaning burning herb. This treatment is very warming and nourishing when lit. It warms specific areas of your body.

Instead of using acupuncture needles, a stick or a cone of moxa is slowly burnt near the acupoint on your skin. Then removed when it is very warm to hot. Hence no burning of the skin is involved. So it can be a useful treatment for needle-phobic patients and children.

Moxibustion Theory

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the heat generated during moxibustion helps increase the flow of vital energy or qi. Qi flows throughout the body via certain channels know as meridians. In TCM, stimulating this flow of qi is considered essential to achieving health and wellness. According to Chinese Medicine, physical and mental health problems develop from blockage of qi flow. Also from excesses and deficiencies of energy in the body.

History of Moxibustion

“Moxibustion is an important invention of the Chinese nation, which originated as early as in the clan commune period of the primitive society. The literature records on moxibustion can be traced back to the Warring States Period (475 B.C. to 221 B.C.). Doctors through the ages made considerable progress and published a great number of books on moxibustion.” Zhang R, 2004.

Moxibustion was once popular in Europe after it was brought to the West in the seventeenth century. European practitioners even invented some new methods of moxibustion.


Moxibustion has been applied to treat a great range of diseases in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Since the 1950s, the treatment scope of moxibustion has been expanded. The therapeutic methods of moxibustion are becoming increasingly rich and varied. Especially in places such as Japan. Great progress in research on the mechanism of moxibustion has been made. Japan is the leading country where fruitful efforts have been made in research on moxibustion. In modern times, moxibustion has been used for health protection, and the scientists are paying great attention to the experimental research on moxibustion.

What Does Moxa Do?

Moxa is beneficial for improving circulation, warming the uterus which in Chinese medicine is essential for a woman’s fertility.  Classically is it renowned for tuning breech babies at a 70% efficacy rate and may even be recommended as a valid option for those who desire the option to birth naturally (see below). According to TCM theory, moxibustion has a dual effect, tonification and purgation. This involves the actions of the meridian system and the roles of moxa and fire.

How Is It Beneficial?

Moxa is a yang, warming and heating herb and therapy. Hence, I often use it for people that feel cold or have fluid retention pertaining to yang deficiency or excess yin (internal cold). Thus it is applicable for arthritis in winter, cold and flu, exhaustion, slow metabolism, abdominal pain and diarrhoea (interior deficiency in Chinese Medicine). Babies and children can have moxa therapy by an experienced practitioner.

Safety of Moxibustion

Providing the moxibustion is applied by an experienced practitioner, the safety is generally high.

What Does It Feel Like?

If you can imagine lying down and relaxing while your experienced Acupuncturist gently waves the Moxa stick above your skin on prescribed  acupoints. You feel the heat and warmth slowly and softly move into your body. It is usually a very pleasant experience. It can help you feel energised and restored.

Breech Baby

An old Chinese proverb says that if you apply moxa to acupoint Stomach 36 everyday you will live until you are 100 years old! Traditionally Moxa is applied for breech baby. I have seen it to be effective in my personal clinical practice however more research is required for us to completely know the mechanisms of how and why it works. If you seek moxibustion for breech baby, ensure that your Acupuncturist is experienced and knowledgeable about supporting pregnant women.

Moxibustion woman Chinese Herbs tea

In Asia, women are routinely given Moxa, massage, special foods, rest and Chinese Herbal Medicine to create an excellent rebound from pregnancy and birth.

Post-Partum Wellbeing

Traditionally Moxa is also used for healing during the post-partum. For more about Post-Partum Acupuncture go here. I find most women do not understand how important it is to look after themselves in the post-partum. With such great focus on the baby, women end up exhausted, depleted and sometimes with post-partum depression. To have a healthy child, you need a healthy mother. Prevention is better than cure. If women continued to yangshen (nourish their health) right after pregnancy motherhood could be a prettier picture in that first year.

Next Time…

you have some acupuncture, ask your Acupuncturist to give you some and take a stick home for wellbeing. It is especially good around the lower abdomen and back, and feels energising! For further information, click here on how to use moxa.


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