What is Moxabustion?

Raw Moxa, Pole Moxa, Stick-on Moxa

Raw Moxa, Pole Moxa, Stick-on Moxa

Moxabustion involves burning the herb atemesia vulgaris or mugwort on the skin. It is commonly called “moxa.” It is made from grinding the leaf of the mugwort plant. There are various grades of moxa. The finer the grade, the less smoke. A special smokeless moxa burns hotter than regular moxa.

Moxa comes in a variety of forms. The most common looks like a cigar and is called Pole Moxa. The end of the moxa stick is lit and held 1-2 inches above the skin. This warms the acupuncture points or areas of the body with pain (knees, joints) or vacuity (low back, abdomen).

Moxa can be burned directly on the skin in small amounts (Thread Moxa) or with Cone Moxa (the size of Hershey kisses) directly on the skin or on slices of ginger. Salt moxa burns moxa on sea salt. This strongly supplements the Kidney Yang Qi. I have used this to treat dialysis patients. One client had normal kidney function that day. Another client avoided needing dialysis.

How do the Japanese use Moxa?

Japanese treatments classically include moxa on the points.  Moxa is used in Chinese treatments and at home as well.

Kyutoshin Fire Needle

Kyutoshin Fire Needle

  • Okyu: Rice Grain Moxa (moxa the size of a grain of rice) is burned directly on the skin at the acupuncture point. Warms the point and works on a blood level.
  • Kyutoshin: Fire Needle. Moxa is burned on the end of the needle on the back to strongly warm the point and release structural tension.
  • Ibuki: Stick-on Moxa or “Lazy Man Moxa.” Different amounts of moxa are commercially prepared on a sticky back cardboard. This can be applied directly on the points.

How does Moxa Work?

Moxa works by warming and moving the Blood in the tissues. It is said needles work on a Qi level. Moxa works on a Blood level. The Chinese herb Ai Ye or moxa has properties that include warming the channels and moving Qi and Blood. Some of the herb is absorbed into the skin.

Moxa provides a deep sense of warmth. The heat increases circulation and dilates blood vessels to improve cellular function and waste removal. It helps to relieve muscle spasms and to warm aching joints. Moxa on some points of the body also increases energy.

Secret treatment for energy!

Ibuki Stick-on Moxa on Stomach 36

Zu San Li or Leg Three Mile Point is a point known as Stomach 36 to acupuncturists. It is the most powerful point on the body to increase energy. It earned its name a long time ago in China. A messenger to the Emperor ran out of energy and could not go any further. He needed to go just three more miles. He remembered his master had told him about this point. He rubbed it and went three more miles.

The functions of Stomach 36 include: Harmonize Stomach and Spleen Qi (your digestion), Nourish Blood, Strengthen Defense Qi (Wei Qi), Raise the Clear Yang and Dry Damp.

A study was done in Japan using moxa on Stomach 36 for one month with no other treatments or supplements. The red blood cell count increased significantly and the white blood count improved.


Moxa is very hot and can cause burns. See your acupuncturist for moxa treatments. Pole moxa is a dense compilation of ground up leaves. Moxa leaves will smolder all night even when you think you put it out. Smokeless moxa is even more difficult to put out.   Be careful to bury the moxa stick in sand.

See the Stomach 36 Handout in Handouts for the location of this powerful point. You can rub this point daily for energy!