Moxibustion- Theory


"Chen" and "Chiu" in Chinese mean "Needle" and "Moxibustion." Today, these two treatment methods are referred to together as "Acupuncture." The burning of a special herb (ai) on or near the skin is called Moxibustion. The material is called "Wormwood" or "ai" in Chinese and "moxi" in Japanese. Moxa is the aged dried leaves form the Wormwood plants that usually grow in the hillside areas and near the rice fields. The Wormwood leaves can also be used in herbal medicine and sometimes in cooking. Aged moxa is yellowish-brown in color, with a typical, wooly aroma. It burns very slowly so that the heat can penetrate deep down to the acupuncture point.

There are two kinds of moxibustion, namely direct and indirect moxibustion.
During direct moxibustion, small (approximately 2-3mm) cone-shaped moxa leaves are placed on the skin's surface to burn. The skin will become red, and a blister may appear. After healing, a small permanent scar is left. This method is seldom practiced in North America, but it is very popularly used in China and Japan.
Indirect moxibustion includes placement of a thin insulation layer on the skin surface, such as a slice of ginger, before the burning. Usually a moxa-roll is used to apply the heat about 3-7cm above the skin, which will become red and warm. Regular moxa-rolls create a lot of smoke and a ventilation fan is necessary during treatment. A newer product called smokeless moxa rolls is now available.


different forms of moxa
(different forms of moxa: moxa sticks and mini moxa pads)


Commonly used stick of moxa
(A commonly used stick form of moxa.)


Moxa Cone in indirect moxibustion
(Indirect Moxibustion)

The Therapeutic Functions of Moxibustion

  1. Adjusts the Central Nervous System functions (i.e. activation and sedation).
  2. Promotes the metabolic functions of the body.
  3. Activates the phagocytic actions of some white blood cells, which will also increase in certain among to fight against infections.
  4. Stimulates the production of Erythrocytes (Red Blood Cells)
  5. Increases the Immune system's functions.
  6. Improves the local circulation of Qi and blood flow.

When the affected site receives a better supply of oxygen and nutrients, the pain and numbness will disappear; inflammation and waste materials from old injuries can also be removed by the phagocytic actions of the white blood cells.


  1. Fever
  2. High blood pressure
  3. Open or burned skin areas
  4. Extremely weak individuals
  5. Certain skin diseases, especially those with acute inflammation and swelling
  6. Sensitive areas such as eyes, face, genitals and the abdomen of pregnant women.


  1. Smokeless moxa stick (Wuyan Jiutiao) or smokeless hand moxa tubes with insulated pad (sticky mini moxa).
  2. A tall (approximately 8 inch), wide mouth bottle with lid (after treatment is finished, place the burning moxa stick into the bottle to extinguish the burning)
  3. A pair of tweezers for removal of the sticky mini moxa from the skin when it is too hot.
  4. A candle is used to light up the moxa roll, and it usually takes about 3-5 minutes to get it burning.
  5. A wooden tongue depressor is used to remove extra ash. An ashtray for the ash.
  6. Matches