Nourishing Life

Cultivating the Art of Change


What is Moxibustion?  灸

Moxibustion is a botanical form of heat therapy that has been practiced for over 2000 years as both a preventative and curative medicine.  Within this therapy a smouldering herb known as ‘moxa’ is applied on or close to the skin to generate healing responses within the body.  This application of heat combined with moxa’s herbal properties induces the smooth flow of Qi and Blood within the channels, warms the tissues to expel Cold and Damp, and stimulates Wei Qi to mobilise the body’s immune response.  

The Healing Power of Mugwort  艾

The plant most used for moxa belongs to the Artemisia family; commonly known as mugwort, as ài cǎo in China, and yomogi in Japan.  Mugwort has long been a wayside friend to peoples across the Northern Hemisphere, choosing to inhabit desolate areas and and places of environmental disruption such as road cuts, landfills and overgrazed pastureland.  As such its appearance signals the renewal of life in seemingly barren terrain, reminding us of the unassuming nature of resilience.

Mugwort's uses and lore are many, but the cross-cultural consensus allies with the following:

  • its power to relieve fatigue and promote longevity
  • its ability to dispel pests, unwanted visitors and evil spirits - this in part relates to its function as an insect repellent and thus deterrent of insect-borne disease, as well its action against internal parasites
  • its uses in regulating digestion and menstruation
  • its promotion of dreams and visions
  • its invaluable use as tinder

The preparation of mugwort into moxa has been refined over millennia to provide a specific quality of heat and pungency that penetrates deep into the soft tissue with a spectrum of infrared radiation that is resonant with that emitted by the human body.  The leaf of the mugwort is refined so that only the hairs from the underside of the leaf remain.  This 'wool' is then cured for two to five years to ensure a uniform smoulder that gives a soft yet penetrating heat, and an odour of smoke that has specific medicinal qualities.

Moxibustion is commonly used to

  • maintain health by strengthening immunity and overall vitality
  • relieve pain after injury, including sprains and strains
  • reduce chronic inflammation such as arthritis and tendonitis
  • resolve breech presentation in pregnancy
  • reduce masses such as uterine fibroids
  • help to treat digestive disorders such as ulcerative colitis
  • help to treat respiratory disorders such as asthma and tuberculosis
  • reduce the symptoms of chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia

How we use moxa in clinic

As part of a Tui Na treatment we employ moxibustion for its tonification purposes; most commonly when there are signs of Deficiency, Cold and Damp, a weak immune system and old injury.  We use moxibustion methods that do not burn moxa directly on the skin:  Sticks of moxa are either suspended and moved above acupoints or areas of tissue, or moxa wool is placed on slices of ginger or salt that sit on the body.  We also use tools such as Warm Bamboo; where moxa-filled bamboo is rolled or tapped along the channels.

For longstanding results, moxibustion therapy should be conducted over a period of time - at least once every one or two days for one to six months depending on the severity of the condition.  Following treatment, we can offer our patients guidance for a self-treatment plan with moxa.