As the ‘Jiu’ part of the inseparable chinese character phrase ‘Zhen Jiu’ the therapy and craft of moxabustion is an essential part of acupuncture therapy.

acupuncture moxabustion chinese characters

The Chinese characters ‘Zhen Jiu’ – acupuncture moxabustion therapy

Moxabustion refers to the application of heat on or very near to the skin in order to stimulate local micro-circulation and more profoundly,by using moxa on influential acupuncture points, to  initiate greater circulations throughout the body. We all know the profound and relaxing feeling of heat and its effect on our body and mind. Moxabustion simply takes that basic response and applies it in a focussed and systematic way.

Traditionally the dried leaf mugwort – artemesia vulgaris – was used, applied either directly to the skin or pressed onto the handle of the needle to send the heat deep into the body. This herb has special qualities:

  • when dried it can be refined into a fine fluffy form
  • the fluffiness of the ball makes it easy to shape and work with on application
  • it lights very easily and burns smoothly; not too fast or too slow
  • mugwort has a very pleasant and soothing aroma; an important factor in the therapeutic process

The slides below show just some of the products available:

Variations in the application of moxabustion:

moxa on the needle

On the needle: either loose moxa is pressed into a ball on the needle handle or a pre-shaped cone or cylinder is attached. When the moxa burns heat is delivered through the shaft of the needle directly to the muscle tissue at the location of the acupoint. This profoundly influences the microcirculations both locally and throughout the associated acupuncture meridian.

direct moxa application

Direct: moxa is applied directly on the skin. In Japanese style acupuncture a thin layer of paste is applied to the skin to which a tiny rice grain sized cone of moxa is rested. The moxa is lit using a thin incense stick and removed immediately the patient feels the heat sensation. Another technique is the application of small premade stick-on cylinders moxa. Again these are removed as the sensation of heat increases for the patient.

moxa stick application

Moxa stick: like a cigar of moxa it is lit and then held close to the skin so that the patient feels a strong but pleasant sense of warmth spreading and relaxing the area.

moxa box applied to the back

Moxa box: sections of moxa stick or large quantities of coarser moxa punk are lit inside the box which placed, usually on the back, where there is pain, tightness and a diagnosis of cold obstruction in the muscles and soft tissue. The patient feels a deep and strong spreading of heat in the whole area. The skin absorbs not only the raw heat but also the fragrant molecules from the moxa smoke.


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