Uses and Benefits of Moxibustion

essential oils for acupressureNote: To avoid injury, individuals should only apply the external Moxa Aroma Acu-stick for self-care. Using moxibustion should be left up to a health care professionals trained in moxibustion such as a licensed acupuncturist to avoid burns to the skin. See all cautions at the bottom of this page.

What is Moxa?

Moxa refers to a dried plant material from a plant called mugwort, or Ai Ye. It is an invasive perennial weed that grows in Asia and, as it turns out, Western North Carolina as well.

What is Moxibustion?

Moxibustion is an external healing modality used in Asian medicine where moxa is burned over the skin or on acupuncture needles to warm acupuncture channels or enhance the tonifying qualities of specific acupuncture points.

How Does Moxa Work?

Moxa penetrates the skin, tendons, deeper muscle layers, and bones to activate Qi and Blood circulation for deep healing. It warms the acupuncture channels and deeper collaterals when burned over the skin or applied as an essential oil combined with other warming essential oils.

What Conditions is Moxa Used For?

Typically, moxa is applied in the case of chronic disease or pain with indications of Deficiency and/or Stagnation such as:

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What Types of Moxibustion are Used?

Essential Oils

These are a safe alternative to moxibustion for self-care. Acupuncture practitioners also rely on moxa oils in practice as few professional buildings have ventilation for the copious amounts of smoke that moxa creates. Additionally, burning substances are frowned upon by OSHA and other governing bodies.

Essential oils used are warming in nature such as ginger essential oil and cinnamon essential oils These are combined with mugwort essential oil. Our Moxa Aroma Acu-stick® is a solid roll-up that is convenient to use and avoids the mess of oils.

Direct Moxa Types

With direct moxa, practitioners us a high-grade of mugwort herb leaf that can be formed in to cones or “rice grains” and placed directly on the skin of a patient.

  1. Cones of moxa are placed on specific points of the body and lit by an incense stick. Cones are allowed to burn about half-way down, or until the patient reports a warm sensation. The cone is removed and typically followed by several more cones depending on the condition being treated.
  2. Rice grain moxa is placed directly on to an acu-point that has been covered in garlic juice so that the moxa with stick to the intended point. It is lit and allowed to singe the skin. Several of these may be used to create a burn, blister, festering wound, and then eventually a scar. It is never applied to the face or head. This type of moxibustion is rarely performed in the West. It is a valued treatment for epidemics.

Types of Indirect Moxibustion

With indirect moxa different substances and tools can be used to insulate the skin from the burning moxa. While allowing for some protection, skin burns can still occur with indirect moxibustion.

  1. Moxa cones are sometimes placed on a thick layer of salt and burned. This is especially popular for application to the umbilicus for the collapse of Yang in the body.
  2. Moxa cones burned on ginger or garlic root slice can enhance the warming quality of the treatment. Ginger is valued for digestive issues related to Coldness in the Stomach and garlic is used in respiratory distress conditions.
  3. Moxa sticks were originally made using the bark of trees but are now widely available wrapped with paper. Sticks are lit and held over a specific point until the patient feels heat. The stick is typically held a few inches away from the skin. The stick is withdrawn for a moment when the skin becomes hot and then reapplied. The stick is sometimes moved in a clockwise circular motion above an acupoint to enhance the tonification action of the treatment.
  4. Sparrow Pecking moxibustion is when a moxa stick is quickly and rhythmically stroked close to the skin. It is thought to be more intense than simply hovering over an acu-point with the moxa stick but it’s easier to burn the skin with this method.
  5. Moxa boxes are often used to hold a moxa stick or cone in place and catch the ashes. The boxes are made from many materials from certain types of metals to bamboo and have small holes for air circulation. While allowing for some insulation from burns, ashes can still fall through the holes and burn the skin.
  6. Moxa balls are formed or purchased pre-made and placed on needles for an enhanced warming acupuncture treatment.

Where Can I Apply the Moxa Aroma Acu-stick®?

There are countless points that you can use our Moxa Aroma Acu-stick® on, but here are a few popular points:

Caution and Contraindications of Moxibustion

  • Burns and blisters are possible when using moxibustion and therefore should only be performed by a licensed acupuncturist or trained health care professional.
  • Moxa is contra-indicated typically with conditions of Yang Excess or fever.
  • Those with highly sensitive skin may not be able to tolerate the warming essential oils in the Moxa Aroma Acu-stick®; if rash develops, discontinue use and wash skin with gentle soap and water.
  • Areas of skin that have been injured or have scars are often numb; great care must be taken so not to burn and blister these areas when applying moxa in such areas.
  • Moxa is contra-indicated on the stomach and lower back of pregnant women. If one is pregnant, or may be pregnant, consult a licensed health care professional before using any natural self-care therapies.

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Shao Q, Cheng J, Li Y, Ni G. Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry-Based Plasma Metabolomics Study of the Effects of Moxibustion with Seed-Sized Moxa Cone on Hyperlipidemia. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2020 Jan 22;2020:1231357. doi: 10.1155/2020/1231357. PMID: 32047520; PMCID: PMC7001670.

Shu Q., Sun D., Wang H., et al. Differences of acupuncture and moxibustion on heart rate variability in qi-deficiency syndrome:a randomized controlled trialZhongguo Zhen Jiu2017;37(1):25–30. 

Shu Q., Wang H., Litscher D., et al. Acupuncture and moxibustion have different effects on fatigue by regulating the autonomic nervous system: a pilot controlled clinical trial. Scientific Reports2016;6(1):p. 37846. doi: 10.1038/srep37846. 

Cho S. H. Effects of moxibustion on physiological indices and autonomic nervous symptoms in adults with prehypertension. Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing2010;40(5):686–694. doi: 10.4040/jkan.2010.40.5.686.

Gao X.-y. Moxibustion penetration and its clinical application. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine2008;28(4):267–269. doi: 10.1016/s0254-6272(09)60008-x.

This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.