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Moxibustion is a technique used in traditional Chinese medicine in which a stick or cone of burning mugwort , Artemesia vulgaris, is placed over an inflamed or affected area on the body. The cone is placed on an acupuncture point and burned. The cones is removed before burning the skin. The purpose is to stimulate and strengthen the blood and the life energy, or qi, of the body.


The actual Chinese character for acupuncture literally translates into "acupuncture-moxibustion." More than 3,000 years ago, during the Shang Dynasty in China, hieroglyphs of acupuncture and moxibustion were found on bones and tortoise shells, meaning the practice precedes that date. The root word, "moxa" is actually derived from the Japanese.


Moxibustion is used for people who have a cold or stagnant condition. The moxa stick is burned to warm up

the blood and qi that are not circulating well. It is particularly known for its ability to turn breech presentation babies into a normal head-down position that is considered safer during childbirth . In a 1998 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 75% of the pregnant women in the study had breech fetuses that turned in the normal position. Moxibustion significantly increases fetal movements in pregnant women. Moxibustion is also used to treat inflammations. For example, if treating a patient with tendinitis, the moxa stick is burned over the elbow area. It is also highly regarded for menstrual cramps, where the stick is waved over the abdominal area. Often, the cramps disappear immediately.

Moxa on acupuncture points is frequently done with acupuncture treatment for many kinds of ailments. The treatment brings warmth and helps strengthen the activity of the blood.


Moxibustion is the burning of mugwort over inflamed and affected areas of the body. The mugwort can come in sticks that closely resemble the circumference and length of a cigar. Moxa cones can also be burned. The mugwort, called Ai Ye in traditional Chinese medicine , is positioned over acupuncture points to stimulate the qi and blood. In breech presentation babies, the acu-point BL 67, located on the outside of the little toe, is stimulated. For menstrual cramps, the meridian called the Ren Channel, the center line of the lower abdomen, is treated. Moxibustion is almost always used in conjunction with acupuncture, as a complementary technique. In Japan, there are practitioners who are separately licensed to practice as specialists in moxibustion. It is used for a wide variety of ailments, depending on the patient's needs and history. Therefore, it is difficult to cite costs and length of the treatment. For menstrual cramps, moxibustion can be used once. For breech presentation, the turning may occur during the treatment. Similar to acupuncture, it is sometimes covered by insurance and workers' compensation. Patients can be taught how to treat themselves, and moxa sticks are easily purchased.


Because patients who undergo moxibustion treatment are also getting acupuncture, it is sometimes recommended to consult a physician prior to this therapy.


Moxibustion is specifically used for patients with a cold or stagnant constitution. Therefore, if any patient has too much heat, they should not undergo moxibustion treatment. An expert practitioner can advise patients in these matters.

Side effects

Because moxibustion often includes the burning of smoking mugwort sticks, patients who have respiratory problems should avoid the use of smoking moxa sticks. Smokeless moxa sticks are available, and patients who have respiratory difficulties may opt for this method. There is also the occasional report of external burns if the moxa stick is held too close to the patient, although this is rare.

Research & general acceptance

Moxibustion has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, and as a result, it is widely accepted in Asia. It is gaining popularity in the west, in particular, for its ability to turn breech presentation babies. Several studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association have praised the use of this therapy.

Training & certification

Although moxibustion alone does not require a particular licensing or accreditation process, because it is used with acupuncture, the practitioner must have an acupuncture license in the United States.



Cheng, Kinnong. Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion. China Books and Periodicals, 2000.

Cui Yongqiang. Test: Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion. China Publishing and Trading, 1993.

Fei, X., and M. Jianhua. Acupuncture and Moxibustion. IOS Press, 2000.

Cheng, Dan-An et al. Acupuncture and Moxibustion Formulas and Treatments. China Books and Periodicals, Blue Poppy Press, 1996.


Cardini, Francesco, and Huang Weixing. "Moxibustion for Correction of Breech Presentation: A Randomized Controlled Trial." Journal of the American Medical Association (Nov 11, 1998).


American Association of Oriental Medicine. 433 Front Street, Catasauqua, PA 18035. (888) 500-7999. [email protected]


Nanjng University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Katherine Y. Kim

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