What is it?

Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves the burning of mugwort, a type of small spongy herb, to facilitate healing. It produces a heating sensation that penetrates deep into the skin, warming muscles and relaxing the body.

How does it work?

There are two main types of moxibustion; direct and indirect. Direct moxibustion is further categorised into scarring and non-scarring, and consists of a small cone-shaped moxa placed on top of an acupuncture point and burned. In scarring moxibustion, the ignited moxa is placed on a point and remains until it burns out completely. This may lead to local scarring, blisters, and scarring after healing. However in non-scarring moxibustion, the ignited moxa is extinguished before it burns the skin. In this case, the patient should not experience any pain, blistering, or scarring.

Indirect moxibustion presents a much lower risk of pain or burning. In this case, a practitioner lights one end of a moxa stick (roughly the size and shape of a cigar) and holds it close to the area being treated, until the area turns red. Another form of indirect moxibustion involves a combination of acupuncture and indirect moxibustion, whereby a needle inserted into an acupoint is wrapped in moxa and ignited, generating heat into the point and the surrounding area. After the desired effect is achieved, the moxa is extinguished and the needle removed.


Western medicine has found that moxibustion has successfully been used to turn breech babies into a normal head-down position prior to childbirth. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998 found that up to 75% of women suffering from breech babies before childbirth had foetuses that rotated to normal position after receiving moxibustion in the appropriate meridians. Similarly, moxibustion has also been found to reduce the symptoms of menstrual cramps when in conjunction with regular acupuncture. However, the more common purpose of moxibustion is to strengthen the blood, stimulate the flow of qi, and maintain general health.


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