What is Moxibustion?

Acupuncture and MoxibustionMoxibustion literally means “burning of mugwort”. Mugwort (Artemesia Vulgaris) is an herb that grows throughout the world and has been used for medicinal purposes in a number of cultures, including the Chinese. The actual word for acupuncture in the Chinese language is zhen jiu which means needling of acupuncture points and applying the burning of mugwort to acupuncture points.

Where is the moxibustion herb mugwort grown?

The herb mugwort is commercially grown in China, cultivated and dried into a fluff and commonly rolled into cigar shaped sticks for use by acupuncturists.

What are the techniques of using moxibustion? 

There are a number of ways how moxa can be used. The most common method is to light the moxa stick and hold it close above the selected acupuncture point, and then slowly raising and lowering the stick allowing comfortable warmth to penetrate the area. Another method is to physically apply small sections of the moxa stick onto the end of the needles. This method allows a deeper type heat penetration that goes specifically into the acupuncture point. Moxibustion can also be put onto slices of ginger and placed directly on the skin.  Mr Daniel Deng, an Australian registered TCM practitioner in Sydney, has patented a unique Pyramid Moxibustion  Box that practitioners and patients can use alike.

Moxibustion with StickThe moxibustion technique is used by acupuncture practitioners for a number of reasons.

One important aspect of moxibustion is to increase blood circulation.

If you think that just plain rubbing your hand on a sore knee will increase the blood supply to the area and provide some pain relief you will understand how beneficial applying the moxibustion method would be.

Many patients remark that they can feel the heat penetrating very deeply and yet not actually burn the skin. The heat and therapeutic benefit of moxibustion far outweighs the heat from infra red lamps.

Can moxibustion be used for arthritis?

Chinese medical theory has the view that arthritis can be an accumulation of cold and damp from the external environment which has settled into the joints. This is why some patients with arthritis always say that their pain and stiffness increases when it is cold. This is where moxibustion can be of great benefit as it literally warms up the cold accumulation and helps remove it.

Can moxibustion treat tiredness, weakness and depletion?

One of the fundamental diagnostic criteria of Chinese medicine is based on whether the condition of the patient is in deficiency and excess. If you can imagine a patient that has been working long hours, doing difficult and stressful work and living off stimulants to get them through the day, eventually they will start to have weakness, tiredness and even adrenal exhaustion. This is deficiency of energy in traditional diagnostic thought. Moxibustion, because of the heating nature is regarded as a yang tonic and can supplement the weakened energy state.

Can moxibustion be better than acupuncture?

There are many conditions where moxibustion is used and even regarded as being superior to acupuncture needles alone. In fact, there is a saying in traditional Chinese medicine, “A doctor, who uses only needles and avoids burning mugwort, is only half a doctor”. The hospitals in modern day China have special smoke extractors installed in their wards to cope the excessive smoke that the moxibustion procedure emits.

Some of the conditions that moxibustion can be particularly beneficial include the following

Moxibustion Warm NeedleMoxibustion can even help for breech baby

The actual process of moxibustion has been researched on the effectiveness of turning breech babies.

There have been a number of studies demonstrating the success rate in this regard. The research has confirmed that moxibustion is what provides the result as opposed to acupuncture needling.

For breech baby conditions, Moxibustion is used on the Bladder 67 acupuncture point, zhiyin.

More information can be obtained by going to our breech baby page devoted to this.  

Moxibustion and its role with stem cells

Chendu University has researched and demonstrated that acupuncture and moxibustion could improve proliferation of neural stem cells, but only the process of moxibustion could induce differentiation of neural stem cells into the neuron.

This demonstrates  the synergistic effect of combining acupuncture with moxibustion.

Is it possible to just have moxibustion and not have needles?

Some needle phobic patients come regularly for treatment at The Acupuncture Clinic and opt to only have moxibustion. Other patients are shown how to do moxibustion on themselves or on their family members so they can do it at home.  

You might also be interested in...
About Heiko Lade

Hi, I'm Heiko Lade - qualified acupuncturist at The Acupuncture Clinic in Hastings, New Zealand. If you would like to make an appointment for a consultation and treatment, please contact me.


  1. How unfortunate the scent is applied to the inside of the mask!

Please join the discussion by leaving a comment...

Please note: Your email is required but will not be displayed. Comments posted here will appear publicly on the website. If you have a private enquiry please email me via the contact page instead.