Last updated date: 16-Jun-2023

Originally Written in English


What is Moxibustion?

Oriental medicine is the world 's earliest structured medical system. It promotes health and well-being via the treatment of illness and disease through the six Major Branches of Oriental Medicine: acupuncture, nutrition, herbal therapy, meditation, physical exercise, and massage.

Oriental medicine, often known as Chinese medicine, is a centuries-old medical system that employs a profound understanding of nature's principles and patterns to treat the human body. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes acupuncture and eastern medicine as beneficial for over 43 disorders across nine key health domains.

Moxibustion is a kind of traditional Chinese medicine. It entails placing moxa, a cone or stick made of grounded mugwort leaves, on or near meridians and acupuncture sites on your body. Moxibustion is a type of heat therapy in which dried plant components known as "moxa" are burnt on or near the skin's surface. The goal is to warm and energize the flow of Qi (energy) in the body while also dispelling certain pathogenic effects.

Moxa is traditionally produced from the dried leafy material of Chinese mugwort (Artemesia argyi or A.vlugaris), but it can also be created from other materials. Mugwort, often known as artemisia, is a daisy-like flowering plant. It's included in recipes all across the world, including German Christmas goose, Korean clam soup, and kusa mochi, a green Japanese sweet.

Moxibustion is used to treat persons who are cold or stagnant. The technique expels cold and warms the meridians, resulting in smoother blood and qi flow. Moxibustion has been used in Western medicine to shift breech newborns into a normal head-down position before to childbirth.

Patients getting moxibustion frequently experience a rapid rush of warmth that rapidly radiates along a specific pathway (typically correlating with the jing luo channel being treated) away from the place of treatment. This is a favorable outcome since it denotes the arrival of the Qi and implies that the flow of Qi and xue in the channel has been released. 


What are the Types of Moxibustion?

Types of Moxibustion

Moxibustion is divided into three types: traditional moxibustion, pharmacologic moxibustion, and modern moxibustion. Traditional moxibustion treatment is the most often utilized in ancient and modern moxibustion clinics; it is distinguished by the use of moxa as a burning substance and is classified as direct or indirect moxibustion depending on whether the moxa comes into direct contact with the skin while working.

A tiny, cone-shaped quantity of moxa is put on top of an acupuncture point and burnt in direct moxibustion. Direct moxibustion can be either scarring or non-scarring. Scarring moxibustion involves burning moxa on the acupuncture point until it is fully burned. The moxa is put on the point and lighted, but it is extinguished or removed before it burns the skin in non-scarring moxibustion. Patients get a pleasant hot feeling that penetrates deep into the skin, but should not experience discomfort, blistering, or scarring unless the moxa is applied for an extended period of time.

This direct treatment, however, may result in scarring or burning of the skin. As a result, practitioners should avoid using direct moxibustion on the following body parts:

  • Face.
  • Breasts.
  • Genitals.
  • Major tendons.
  • Major creases in the skin.
  • Areas close to large blood vessels.

The indirect style of traditional moxibustion is more popular since it has a decreased danger of soreness or burning. An acupuncturist does indirect moxibustion by lighting one end of a moxa stick and holding it close to the treatment area for a few minutes until the region turns red.

Acupuncture needles and moxa are used in another type of indirect moxibustion. A needle is inserted and held in an acupoint. The needle's tip is then coated with moxa and lit, creating heat in the spot and surrounding region. When the individual feels better, the moxa is extinguished and the needle is removed. Another type of indirect moxibustion is when the practitioner employs an additional barrier between the burning moxa and the skin, such as garlic, ginger, or a little pile of salt.

Pharmacological moxibustion, also known as natural moxibustion, cures illnesses by coating the surface of acupoints with irritating medications (such as cantharis, garlic, and semen sinapis) and causing local skin flushing and blistering.

Modern moxibustions, such as microwave moxibustion, laser moxibustion, and electrothermal moxibustion, employ physical or chemical ways to imitate classic moxibustion stimulation elements in order to accomplish therapeutic benefits of moxibustion. 


How does Moxibustion work?

Modern moxibustion mechanism

Modern moxibustion mechanism studies focus on the heat effects, radiation impacts, and pharmacological properties of moxa and its combustion products. Moxibustion thermal stimulation affects both superficial and deep skin tissues, and the warm-heat effects of moxibustion have a tight relationship to the warm receptors or/and the polymodal receptor.

Many chemicals were found in mugwort leaves and moxa smoke, which have a variety of biological functions; they were thought to contribute to the overall effects of moxibustion. Although much study has been conducted and significant progress has been achieved, there is still a long way to go before completely understanding the mechanism of moxibustion.

Moxibustion works where needles do not. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) principles, moxibustion has a dual action of tonification and purgation. Unlike needles and medications, the properties of moxibustion in materials and the use of fire define that its efficacy is oriented toward warming and feeding. As a result, moxibustion is frequently used in deficiency-cold condition, but it can also be used in some excess-heat syndrome.

Moxibustion's functions can be generically classified as warm nourishing, warm dredging, and warm melting. Warm nourishing refers to the advantages of warming Yang, tonifying qi, nourishing blood, and alleviating depletion. Warm dredging functions include stimulating blood, dissolving stasis, increasing qi, dredging channels, and reducing pain. Warm melting is used to reduce phlegm, eliminate stagnation, remove wind, dissipate dampness, draw out the poison, and purge heat. Some individuals say that the essence of moxibustion is warm dredging and that it is the primary role of moxibustion effects.

Moxibustion's functions, such as expelling cold, stimulating circulation in meridians and collaterals, clearing out heat, detoxifying, and so on, are based on its ability to circulate qi and blood flow. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) principles, moxibustion has a dual effect of tonification and purgation, which is based on two aspects: the acts of the meridian system (Meridians are routes via which the life-energy known as "qi" (ch'i) flows) and the functions of moxa and fire.


Meridian System:

TCM uses the terms "needling" and "moxibustion" interchangeably since they are both related therapies based on the same meridian and acupoint theories. In other words, the therapeutic efficacy of moxibustion is partly based on the body's nonspecific system of meridians.

Moxibustion is linked to meridians, cutaneous areas, and acupoints. The meridian system is made up of channels and collaterals, which are passageways for internal and external communication, touching organs, running qi-blood, and controlling the entire body.

According to Ling Shu, Hai Lun, there are twelve normal channels, the inner ones belonging to viscera and the outside ones connecting with limbs. TCM views a person as a whole. The meridian system, which plays a vital role in physiological activities and pathological processes, allows organs and limbs to communicate and interact.

The cutaneous regions are the surface portions of the twelve normal channels that are fed by channel-qi. The cutaneous areas may reveal the state of qi-blood from meridians and organs, as well as receive therapeutic stimulation and induce effects. Acupoints are locations on the body's surface where the qi of organs and meridians concentrate and serve as treatment target points and reaction points. The cutaneous areas and acupoints are the terminals of the meridian system in the moxibustion therapy process, acting as receivers for moxibustion stimulations to be transferred throughout the body.

Moxibustion, through the meridian system, may either reinforce insufficiency and diminish excess, thereby correcting the illness condition of the human body, or it can stimulate the meridian system's self-healing capacity and play a therapeutic role. For example, various acupoints in moxibustion may heal different illnesses, and the same acupoints in acupuncture or moxibustion can have comparable outcomes; all of this demonstrated that the body meridian and acupoint system play a significant part in the treatment of moxibustion.


Moxa and Fire:

Moxibustion, according to Elementary Medicine, should be used to treat disorders that cannot be healed by medications or acupuncture. The specificity of moxa and fire is directly connected to the uniquely therapeutic benefits of moxibustion.

Fire is hot, so it can warm back the Yang and erase the cold of the Yin; it can also dissolve the poisoned products created by damp, wind, phlegm, and so on; and it is fast, so it can dredge the channels, remove pain or numbness, and activate blood and qi. As a result, the characteristic of moxa fire demonstrates the primary purpose of moxibustion.

Moxibustion relies heavily on materials. TCM is quite strict about the ingredients used in moxibustion. Xiao Pin Fang identified eight different types of fire, none of which can be used:

  • Moxibustion with pine wood fire: difficult to heal.
  • Cedar wood fire: causes ulcers and pus.
  • Orange wood fire: causes skin irritation.
  • Mulberry wood fire: causes muscle withering
  • Jujube wood fire: causes body malnourishment.
  • Bamboo fire: causes damage to the tendons.
  • Trifoliate orange wood fire: causes venous collapse.
  • Elm wood fire: causes damage to the bones.

However, moxa fire is heated without being dry, and it may rise and descend with great penetration into the viscera. When fresh, moxa leaves are a little bitter and very peppery, and when processed, they are mildly spicy and overly bitter.

Moxa with a Yang nature, raw moxa is warm and becomes hot after processing. It can withstand the Tai-Yang fire and return dying Yang. It can pass through three Yin, remove all cold and dampness, and change cold into warm after being taken orally. Moxibustion with moxa leaf has the ability to penetrate the channels and treat hundreds of illnesses.

It serves an important purpose. The drug properties of moxa leaves (raw) are that they become warmer after processing, forming moxa wool (processed), which is suitable for moxibustion, and the older the better. Long-term clinical trials have proven that the ancients picked moxa as a moxibustion material because it is easy to harvest and has medicinal benefits. 


Can I perform Moxibustion by myself?

perform moxibustion

Moxibustion is typically performed by a professional practitioner. If you're not sure where to begin your search, consider looking for an acupuncturist in your neighborhood. Moxibustion is frequently used in conjunction with acupuncture, and some acupuncturists also practice moxibustion.

You may attempt indirect moxibustion on your own, but it's best to have a demonstration from an expert first. They can show you not only how to do it without burning yourself, but also which areas to concentrate on based on your requirements. 


What conditions are treated with Moxibustion?

treated with moxibustion

The most frequent proper indications for moxibustion therapy are malposition (breech baby), diarrhea, and colitis; the next most common proper indications are knee osteoarthritis, temporomandibular joint disruption syndrome, soft tissue damage, heel pain, asthma, urinary retention, and herpes zoster. Moxibustion can also be used to alleviate tiredness, weakness, and aging-related issues.

Moxibustion is frequently beneficial in instances when the sickness is caused by cold pathogens or a specific qi/yang deficit, such as:

It's also widely utilized for breech pregnancy, which occurs when a baby is positioned in the uterus feet- or bottom-first rather than head-first. Moxibustion has been demonstrated to be a successful method for getting a baby to turn around on its own, without the need for medical intervention. Moxibustion should be performed at the end of the second or beginning of the third trimester in this scenario.

Several studies have been undertaken to determine how moxibustion treatment can enhance your health. They also work to determine the procedure's safety and usefulness in treating various health issues.

According to one study, moxibustion is a good treatment for chronic renal disease. Researchers discovered that it had a significant effect in lowering blood creatinine, which is responsible for impaired kidney function at high levels.


Role of moxibustion in hot flashes:

Hot flashes are sudden, temporary onset of body warmth, flushing, and sweating in a postmenopausal woman. According to research including 51 postmenopausal women attempted to determine the effect of moxibustion on hot flashes. The researchers discovered that taking the treatment for 14 sessions helped lower the severity and frequency of hot flashes.


Role of moxibustion in Ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a long-term condition where the colon and rectum become inflamed causing diarrhea and blood in the stool.

The present scientific data on the use of moxibustion to treat intestinal inflammation is inconclusive. The research concluded that the procedure had no benefit for persons with ulcerative colitis. These studies, however, were of poor quality. However, research into the safety and usefulness of moxa heat in the treatment of inflammatory bowel illness is ongoing. 


Can moxibustion actually help to turn a breech baby?


Moxibustion is arguably best recognized as an alternate method of assisting with breech presentation. This occurs when a baby is placed in the delivery canal feet first, making the childbirth procedure considerably more challenging. It's commonly done at 34 weeks using indirect moxibustion around an acupuncture point called Urinary Bladder 67, also known as Zhiyin or reaching yin. This area is located on the outside of your pinkie toe.

It is important to get this done by a professional for safety and efficacy. Some hospitals, particularly in the United Kingdom, even have acupuncture and moxibustion-trained midwives and obstetricians on staff. Acupuncturists in your state need also to be licensed.

2005 research found that moxibustion is ineffective in treating the problem. They concluded that further study is needed before prescribing moxibustion to women seeking a breech birth solution. The findings, however, show that moxibustion can greatly minimize the requirement for medical operations used to improve the presentation. According to a 2018 review of studies on moxibustion for breech presentation, there is some evidence that it may work.


What are the Potential Complications of Moxibustion?

Moxibustion Complications

If you are pregnant, inform your acupuncturist ahead of time so that moxibustion can be used with caution, if at all. Also, request that your acupuncturist refrains from using moxibustion if you have:

  • An allergy to mugwort.
  • Sensitivity to smoke.
  • A lung problem, such as asthma.

If you have any of the following conditions, you should avoid moxibustion with acupuncture or take care when getting it:

  • Lymphedema.
  • Low white blood cell count.
  • Low platelet count.
  • Heart murmur.
  • An implanted pacemaker or other cardiac devices.

Moxibustion is an integrative and complementary therapeutic practice worth trying. It does, however, pose a few concerns, one of which being the chance of being burned in the process. As a result, it's better to stick with the indirect moxibustion, especially when practicing it alone. Other probable adverse effects are as follows:

  • Mugwort toxicity.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Smoke-induced coughing.
  • Dark skin patches.
  • Fetal distress if you’re pregnant.
  • Premature birth
  • Basal cell carcinoma (a type of skin cancer).

When used with acupuncture, moxibustion may induce negative effects if practitioners do not remove needles. Among these adverse effects are:

  • Bleeding
  • Abnormal collection of blood outside of a blood vessel, or hematoma
  • Dizziness
  • Pain

In general, Moxibustion is generally safe when qualified practitioners perform the procedure.




Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese medicine-based external therapy. A practitioner will burn the herb moxa on or above the skin to trigger certain acupressure points. Moxibustion is used by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners to stimulate the blood, increase the flow of qi, and preserve general health. They say that it may also be useful in the treatment of painful disorders. Traditional moxibustion is the most commonly used treatment in both modern and ancient moxibustion clinics; it is marked by the use of moxa as a burning substance and is categorized into direct or indirect moxibustion.

Pharmacological moxibustion heals ailments by covering the surface of acupoints with irritants and producing local skin flushing and blistering. Modern moxibustions imitate conventional moxibustion stimulation features in order to achieve moxibustion's therapeutic advantages.

Moxibustion has a dual effect of tonification and purgation. this dual effect is based on two aspects: the actions of the meridian system and the actions of moxa and fire. There are twelve typical channels, the inner ones feeding viscera and the outside ones feeding limbs.  The meridian system, which is important in physiological and pathological processes, enables organs and limbs to communicate and function.

Breech infants, diarrhea, and inflammation of the colon are the most common acceptable reasons for moxibustion therapy; the next most common indications are knee osteoarthritis, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, and soft tissue injury. Moxibustion can also be used to treat fatigue, weakness, and other aging-related disorders. Moxibustion is typically harmless, but it might result in burns, allergic reactions, or infections. Doctors may also advise against use for those who have current skin infections, lymphedema, or low white blood cell or platelet counts. Before pursuing moxibustion therapy, anybody seeking it should visit a doctor.