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MOXibustion or moxa

So, what can you expect from an acupuncture session? Did you know that sometimes we don't even have to use needles?


This page is all about moxa or moxibustion. Until I studied Chinese Medicine, I admit moxa was something I had never heard of or seen in action. However, since then I have fallen in love with this powerful treatment and use it frequently where the diagnosis supports it.


Below I am going to talk about the history of moxibustion, why we use it in acupuncture treatment, safety considerations and further reading.


What is moxa?

Moxibustion is an external therapy using a burning moxa stick or cone to produce a warm sensation and moxa smoke on the acupoints. It is regarded as a principal treatment.

The studies of the earliest known form of Chinese writing, Oracle Bone Script, indicated that moxibustion might have been applied in the Shang dynasty (1600 BC–1046 BC)


Moxa is derived from the plant Artemisia Vulgaris or Chinese mugwort. The plant is dehydrated, crushed and sieved to produce moxa punk. This is then burnt directly or indirectly at specific places on the body

How does moxa work?

Mugwort is classified as bitter, acrid and warm, qualities that make it essentially Yang in nature.

  • warm herbs activate/ supplement Yang and expel Cold

  • acrid herbs disperse and move, so the Qi of the moxa can travel through the meridians, regulate Qi and Blood, and expel/ scatter Cold

  • bitter herbs drain and dry, so moxa can resolves Dampness

Your acupuncturist will either use moxa directly or indirectly depending on your diagnosis:



Moxa cones are placed directly on an acupuncture point. Small cones are tonifying, large cones can be dispersing


Indirect moxa is not on the skin but placed on salt or ginger. Other alternatives can be a moxa stick or box over areas

When would your acupuncturist use moxa?

  • Expel signs and symptoms which would be similar to a cold i.e. runny or blocked nose, shivering 

  • Treat pain

  • Tonify signs and symptoms of Yang deficiency which would be, for example, the subjective feeling of cold, excessive urination, weak lower back or knees, exhaustion

  • Nourish Blood

Safety considerations when using moxa

As with all treatments used by your qualified and regulated acupuncturist we are aware of when we should not use moxibustion.

  • DO NOT USE ON the abdomen of pregnant women, or on any of the points contraindicated for needling in pregnancy

  • CAUTION: Decreased neurological function which can inhibit pain perception

  • CAUTION: respiratory problems

  • DO NOT USE ON points near arteries; on the head and face near the sensory orifices, or sensitive structures like the nipples

Moxa in action

Below are examples of when your acupuncturist will use moxa and a short video of me using moxa.

Further information on moxa

If you would like more information there are some inspiring Facebook groups and books.


I had the pleasure of having an email conversation with Merlin Young who wrote The Moon Over Matsushima: Insights into Moxa and Mugwort. He is also part of Moxa Africa and his knowledge is incredible


The Moon Over Matsushima -

Moxa Africa -

Moxibustion: The Power of Mugwort Fire -

Moxa in Motion -

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