Moxa really has a lot of Moxi!

acupuncturist Jennifer Larsen applying moxibustion to a patient taken by Jo Johnson of www.jojohnson.caWhile Moxibustion (aka Moxa) may not get as much recognition as acupuncture or some other Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatments, it is a truly soothing treatment packed full of health benefits – especially when used in conjunction with acupuncture. There is a well-known quote from a popular, but ancient Chinese medical text that states, “A disease that may not be treated by acupuncture may be treated by moxibustion” and today, the same holds true. Patients who have not responded to drug treatments or regular acupuncture often find themselves responding to Moxa.

So, is Moxa the right kind of treatment for you? Your acupuncturist will be the best person to make that call, but we can at least give you the low down on what Moxibustion is and how it works so you’ll be better able to understand how it heals.

What is moxibustion and how does it work?

Firstly, it’s an herb derived from Mugwort that is burned close to or directly on the skin and, like all TCM treatments, is used to balance the body and get qi (your life energy) flowing freely and consistently again. It’s a natural diuretic, a moderate stimulant, and it increases blood flow, especially in the uterus. Moxa can be used to stimulate sluggish or stagnant qi, either in conjunction with acupuncture or on its own and it isn’t painful and doesn’t burn your skin. It just causes a pleasantly warm sensation.

Types of Moxibustion

1. Direct

There are two direct Moxa applications. Either the practitioner lights a Moxa stick and holds it close to the necessary acupoints until they warm sufficiently or they place the stick on a thin buffer and place it directly on the points. When redness appears, the practitioner knows that the meridians are open and the heat from the Moxa is entering the body. This creates biochemical changes in the body such as production of red and white blood cells and also creates an impulse from nerve endings in the skin which causes a dilation of capillaries (small vessels) to increase blood and lymph circulation. The patient also starts to feel warm, relaxed and sleepy.

2. Indirect

The practitioner adds a small ball of Moxa onto the end of one or two acupuncture needles and lights it. This allows the heat to travel down the needle and into the acupuncture point, which enhances the acupuncture. Many patients report a warm, soothing sensation during and even after a session of acu-moxibustion.

If you have any cold stagnation (yin) issues going on in your body (such as sluggish digestion, sensitivity to cold, edema, hypothyroidism, immunity issues, joint pain, or sadness and depression, etc.), Moxa could be very beneficial.

As an aside, one of the most compelling aspects of Moxa treatments is its use in turning breach babies before birth. A really high percentage (something like 90%) of breech babies necessitate birth via C-Section, but recent studies have shown that Moxa, when combined with specific positions and/or acupuncture, can turn babies over so that they are in a better position for natural birth. It’s not known exactly why it works, but more and more practitioners are trying it before sending their patients off to get a C-Section.

Moxibustion has a fairly long track record (you know, thousands of years) of being an effective holistic treatment. It’s a safe and non-invasive way to help your body heal, and it’s also really pleasant and smells fantastic. If you’re interested in chatting about it or coming in for a consult, give us a call at (250) 376-3070 or email us at

black and white photo of moxibustion in action taken by Autumn Stankay of SkySight Photography Acupuncturist Chelsea Gimby applying moxibustion to a patient taken by Jo Johnson of

Written by

Jo, a "multipotentialite" by nature, has been writing in a professional and personal capacity for nearly 20 years. When she's not blogging for herself or others, she's shooting people...with her camera, editing novels for independent authors, and kicking ass at social media for a few of her favorite businesses in the Okanagan and Kamloops regions of BC.

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