Moxibustion (moxa) is a form of heat therapy involving the burning of the dried herb mugwort (Ai Ye) on or above acupuncture points. Moxibustion can be performed in a number of ways:

  • Moxa sticks: this method of administration involves lighting long cigar shaped sticks of dried moxa and letting them smoulder near acupuncture points or various regions of the body.
  • Moxa cones: in this technique small amounts of loose moxa are fashioned into a cone shape and burnt sitting atop a medium to protect the skin. The most common mediums used are ginger slices and salt.
  • Warm needle moxa: a small amount of moxa is placed on the end of an inserted acupuncture needle to allow the heat to penetrate into the body through the needle.
  • Rice grain moxa: tiny pieces of moxa (the size of a rice grain) are burnt over acupuncture points.


The herb used in moxibustion – mugwort – has some unique properties which underscore why it was chosen by the ancient healers for this practise. The most obvious therapeutic sphere of influence afforded by mugwort lies in it’s role as a heating therapy (similar to the therapeutic effect of a heat pack). Beyond it’s thermal effect, mugwort – when burnt – also emits far infrared light; allowing for a deeper therapeutic role than just the penetration of heat.

Moxibustion is used in Chinese medicine to:

  • Promote qi and blood circulation: to free up areas of stagnation or pain.
  • Warm the channels and dispel cold: moxibustion is often used on the lower abdomen for menstrual related pain arising from a Chinese medicine diagnosis of ‘cold’.
  • Support yang: the penetrating heat of moxibustion supports the body’s innate warming functions to address what Chinese medicine would term ‘yang deficiency’.
  • Health maintenance and cultivation: to encourage and promote vitality and vigour.

Moxibustion is typically a deeply relaxing, soothing, and enjoyable experience.