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Moxibustion (moxa)

In Chinese Medicine you might have come across a therapy called moxibustion.  It doesn't get much attention as not all clinics use this modality due to the smoke it creates, but there are clinics with exhaust fans and versions of smokeless moxa which are available.  It is indicated for use with more stubborn pain and health issues for patients with medication sensitivity or in conjunction with Acupuncture to make treatments more effective and shorten healing time. 

What is Moxibustion?

There are many different types of moxibustion and applications used with patients. It is a healing practice as old as Acupuncture itself and is believed to have originated in China over 2,500 years ago, though likely it may actually predate Acupuncture.

The goal of moxibustion is to bring the body into balance and promote a continual flow of qi through the channels and organ systems. Moxibustion is an herb called Mugwart (artemesia vulgaris). In different forms it is burned either directly or indirectly on the body through different forms and applications. When it is placed on the body its properties are such that it is able to penetrate through all layers of tissue and balance the pH of the blood. 


It has been known to help with pain, reduce inflammation and dampness as it acts like a diuretic. It also aids in digestion, eases anxiety, turns breech babies and initiates labor at 40 wks of gestation. It also is very helpful for menstrual irregularities and skin rashes.  It is considered a therapeutic heat and amplifies the effects of Acupuncture and herbs and alleviates chronic stagnation. 

Who should consider Moxibustion?

Because fire is its central element, moxibustion is most often used to dispel cold stagnation and the conditions that arise as a result. Common problems from a Western medicine perspective can be associated with  this:

  • Hypothyroidism

  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)

  • Sluggish Digestion

  • Oversensitivity to cold

  • Fluid retention

  • Lowered immunity

  • Joint pain and osteo arthritis

  • Depression and low moods 

Gradually, research has started to support that moxa effectively treats these ailments. In one placebo-controlled clinical trial, moxa was shown to be highly beneficial for those with osteo arthritis.


Researchers had this to say:

"Moxibustion treatment is simple, easy to perform and cost-effective. This modality is also more easily replicable than Acupuncture, which is subject to variation caused by the different needling techniques of individual practitioners. Our findings suggest that traditional moxibustion is a safe, effective and easy to use therapy that can be a useful adjunct to conventional medicine for alleviating pain and improving function in patients with osteoarthitis."

There are also several other studies published regarding the wonderful results of moxa.  

Final Thoughts 

Like Acupuncture, the healing properties of moxibustion have been supported by a good amount of clinical research to date. I believe with increased awareness of this ancient therapy more studies will be conducted into its uses and mechanisms. 

Moxibustion may be especially useful for people who haven't seen adequate results with other treatments.  It is recommended for those who still suffer from health issues after trying both conventional and alternative therapies. I often provide patients with moxa rolls and smokeless moxa sticks and demonstrate how to use them to treat themselves at home.  Like with many Traditional Chinese treatments, consistent, sustained application is key. 

As always, I suggest looking for experienced practitioners of Chinese Medicine who are willing to work with the wide array of modalities at their disposal, including moxibustion. 

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