Compared to Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture, moxibustion is one of the less commonly known components of Chinese medicine. This soothing technique has a wealth of health benefits and it’s usually used as a complementary treatment to acupuncture.

Moxibustion is an especially useful remedy for people suffering from stubborn health conditions. According to the ancient Chinese medical text Wang Di Nei Jing Ling Shu, written around 100 BCE, “Health problems that cannot be resolved through acupuncture may be treated with moxibustion.” These days, moxibustion is used for people who are too sensitive to acupuncture or drugs and for conditions that do not respond to those two treatments.

This article can be used as a guide to help you gain a better understanding of what moxibustion is and how it’s used. This will help you to make informed decisions about your health care.

The Definition of Moxibustion

Moxibustion is a Chinese medicine type of treatment that involves the burning of a mugwort plant (artemesia vulgaris) directly or over the skin in order to cure an illness. Practitioners may use several different forms of moxibustion in terms of the form and application of moxa used for their patients. Moxibustion has been around for more than 2,500 years and is believed to have been practiced even earlier than acupuncture. The Chinese refer to this practice as zhenjiu, which simply means acupuncture and moxibustion.

As with all ancient Chinese therapies, the aim of moxibustion is to restore balance within the body and bring back, maintain or establish a consistent flow of qi. These are achieved by the lighting up of dried mugwort or ai ye (Chinese word of moxa) directly on or close to the skin. Mugwort has been used for hundreds of years in Europe, America and China due to its powerful medicinal properties. It has been used to treat various types of illnesses including itchy skin, anxiety, menstrual irregularities, and abdominal pain.

In modern Western medicine, moxa is considered a moderate stimulant, a natural diuretic, as well as an emmenagogue, which means this herb can help boost the flow of blood flow to the pelvic region – particularly around the uterus. For this reason, it is regularly used to cure amenorrhea (no or light menstruation) and uterine cramping. It is also widely utilized to turn breech babies to their proper normal position.

Moxibustion can improve stagnated, deficient, or sluggish vital energy (qi) through the use of therapeutic heat especially when it is administered by a skilled Chinese medicine practitioner. When used alongside acupuncture, it enhances the healing effects of acupuncture and rectifies chronic stagnation.

Types of Moxibustion

Acupuncturists and other practitioners of Chinese medicine may utilize indirect or direct healing modalities to conduct a moxibustion procedure. Both have their own drawbacks and benefits, and the procedure used will be based on both the patient’s and the clinic’s preference.

Direct moxibustion, as its name indicates, involves extremely close or direct moxa burning on the skin. The acupuncturist/practitioner lights up a stick of moxa wool, while the patient lies on the acupuncture table. As the herbal wool burns, it generates warmth on the targeted acupoints. These points are selected based on the personal attributes and condition of the patient.

Acupuncturists/practitioners based in the US, almost always practice indirect moxibustion. This type of moxibustion is typically administered in two different ways. One way is the smoking end of a moxa stick is held by practitioner until the acupuncture point becomes sufficiently warm. This signifies that the body’s vital fluids including the blood have been coursed along the appropriate energy channels (called meridians) which initiates the healing of the patient’s ailments. (Newer acupuncture clinics utilize smokeless, slower-burning moxa sticks that maybe a more comfortable option for people who are sensitive to smoke). Indirect moxibustion can also be administered using a tiger warmer, or with things (like slices or garlic or ginger, aconite, or salt) that can serve as a buffer between the skin and the stick. This technique can help the warmth penetrate deep into the body.

One other indirect moxibustion technique is to insert acupuncture needles into the acupoints. The top of the needles is wrapped in small moxa balls that are lit until they are smoking. The needles conduct the heat down into the acupuncture point, augmenting the therapeutic effects of acupuncture. In each treatment session, a ball of moxa wool, more often than not, is placed on one or two of the needles. Patients treated this way often report a soothing warm feeling during and even just after a single session of acu-moxibustion treatment.

How Does Moxibustion Work?

Right now, Western medicine still cannot explain how moxibustion treatments exactly work. Some researchers believe moxibustion works in the same way as warming creams, heat packs, hot tubs, saunas and other heat-based treatments. While most people in the West know that these healing therapies can be helpful for localized pain, in Chinese medicine, heat is considered a very important factor in the healing of the whole body and severe systemic complaints.

Is Moxibustion the Right Treatment For You?

Since fire (yang) is the most important element in moxibustion therapy, moxibustion is often utilized to treat stagnation due to cold (yin) and its associated conditions. Typical problems recognized by Western medicine that are associated with cold stagnation in one way or another are:
o Poor mood and depression
o Arthritis and joint problems
o Poor immunity
o Fluid retention
o Hypersensitivity to cold
o Slow digestion
o Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
o Hypothyroidism

Western medicine studies are slowly beginning to prove that moxibustion is able to treat these conditions effectively. One such study involves a clinical trial that’s placebo-controlled, in which moxibustion proved to be extremely helpful for people suffering from osteoarthritis. The researchers concluded at the end of the study that moxibustion is an inexpensive, simple and easy to perform therapy. Compared to acupuncture, which is subject to the various needling techniques of different acupuncturists, moxibustion is more easily replicated. The study indicates that moxibustion is a facile, effective, and safe technique that can serve as a useful complement to conventional medicine to help improve the function of a patient stricken with knee osteoarthritis and for relieving pain.

In one other research, scientists availed of indirect moxibustion on a couple of acupuncture points in 42 patients suffering from autoimmune hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis). The scientists discovered that in addition to taking prescription medication, the group treated with moxibustion experienced better thyroid function compared to the group that were only treated with medication.

Perhaps, one of the most interesting benefits of moxibustion for women is its ability to turn breech babies into their normal position. Cesarean section is required for almost all (90 percent) cases of breech baby presentations. Of course, women would rather prefer to not undergo this procedure. New studies show that when used alongside with acupuncture and/or postural techniques, moxibustion may be able to turn babies over helping them to be born in a less dangerous position during delivery. Moxibustion is known to stimulate uterine contractions which can explain its ability to gently turn breech babies around.


The healing powers of moxibustion are essentially the same as acupuncture’s. This has been proven true by several clinical studies.

For people suffering from illnesses that alternative and conventional treatments have failed to treat, moxibustion can be a really useful option. Thus, it is recommended for people who still suffer from certain health problems after they’ve used both alternative and conventional treatments without success. Acupuncturists who include moxibustion in their practice use moxa rolls on their patients and some may even show their patients how to administer moxibustion on themselves at home. To bring about long lasting and really good results, regular moxibustion treatments are necessary.

It is very important that you only seek the services of a qualified and certified acupuncturist in Orlando who include moxibustion in his practice or an experienced Chinese medicine practitioner who offer a wide range of healing modalities that include moxibustion.