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Moxabustion is another treatment that can be used during an acupuncture session. It is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves the burning of mugwort, a small, spongy herb, to facilitate healing. Moxibustion has been used throughout Asia for thousands of years; in fact, the actual Chinese character for acupuncture, translated literally, means “acupuncture-moxibustion.” The purpose of moxibustion, as with most forms of traditional Chinese medicine, is to strengthen the blood, stimulate the flow of qi, and maintain general health.

How does moxibustion work?

There is a variety of ways to use moxa – on the needle, stick on the skin, in a moxa holder, or indirectly you can hold a moxa stick over an area. The patient will experience a pleasant heating sensation that penetrates deep into the skin, but should not experience any pain and this is why your acupuncturist will keep asking  “how does that feel?”  and continue to check on it. If at anytime you feel it is getting to hot it is important to tell your acupuncturist immediately.

Indirect moxibustion is currently the more popular form of care because there is a much lower risk of any pain or burning unintentionally.  With indirect moxibustion, an acupuncturist lights one end of a moxa stick, roughly the shape and size of a cigar, and holds it close to the area being treated for several minutes until the area turns red.

What is moxibustion used for?

In traditional Chinese medicine, moxibustion is used on people who have a cold or stagnant condition due to its actions of  expelling cold and warming the meridians, which leads to smoother flow of blood and qi.

Moxibustion has successfully been used to turn breech babies into a normal head-down position prior to childbirth and this is a treatment I offer in my clinic. I also send mum to be away with some moxa and explanation on how to use it safely at home.The optimum time to carry out the moxibustion treatment during pregnancy is around 34 weeks, but can be effective as late as 38-39 weeks. One treatment is required in clinic to be shown how to use the moxibustion, then treatment is continued at home for ten days.


Mugwort, also known as artemesia vulgaris is an invasive weed, which grows in many climates, including Western North Carolina. Mugwort has a long history of use in folk medicine. It is believed that the Romans planted mugwort by roadsides to make it available to travellers to put in their shoes to relieve aching feet and protect them from exhaustion. Maybe this is because of its ability to enhance the movement of qi and blood.

Mugwort gets its botanical name from the Greek moon goddess Artemis, a patron of women, and is a wonderful herb for gynaecological conditions. In Chinese Herbal Medicine it is used to treat heavy menstrual bleeding and uterine bleeding and to increase blood circulation to the pelvic area to treat menstrual pain

Are there any precautions I should be aware of?

Although moxibustion has been safely used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, it is not for everyone. Because it is used specifically for patients suffering from cold or stagnant conditions, it should not be used on anyone diagnosed with too much heat. (although strangely can be used for hot flushes in menopause). Moxa also produces a great deal of smoke and a with that a very specific odour, if you have smelt it you know what I’m talking about.

The contraindications for moxibustion are heat syndrome of the excess type or fever due to Yin deficiency, and the abdominal and lumbar sacral regions of pregnant women. Also hypertension or any areas where there maybe loss of tactile sensation for instance in diabetic patients or anyone with neuropathy.Direct moxibustion should never be used on broken skin, directly on the face or on other sensitive areas.


*Any patients with respiratory problems may request that I use smokeless moxa sticks as an alternative.

Within an hour after moxibustion, do not touch cold water, avoid blowing air, especially cold wind, and do not eat any cold food or drink. Keep your neck, waist, abdomen, and feet warm. Because the heat in the moxibustion process will cause the body’s pores to open, at this time, if we don’t pay attention to keeping warm, we are vulnerable to cold and evil intrusion.


Most people will become thirsty after moxibustion. At this time, it is recommended to drink warm water instead of all kinds of tea.


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