A needle with burning moxa on its end.

What is Moxibustion?

A needle with moxa burning on its end.

When we talk about acupuncture in the United States, most people think that it only involves the use of needles. This is actually quite wrong. Acupuncturists in China or most other East Asian countries are trained in multiple modalities and often mix these methods together to get the best results for their patients. We have already discussed cupping, and another valuable treatment method is moxibustion.

Moxibustion is the burning of herbs for their heat value and also to cause the essential oils from the herb to absorb into the skin. Moxibustion is a very common addition to acupuncture treatments – so common that the actual Chinese term for acupuncture is zhen jiu – literally meaning “needle fire”. Any herb can be used, though typically mugwort is chosen for its specific heating properties. The herb is ground up and burned near or on the skin to allow the heat from the burning to seep into the body’s tissues. Some ways that mugwort is used in our practice are:

  • Rolled into a ball and placed on the head of an acupuncture needle (shown in the image)
  • Rolled into very small threads and burned on the skin with an incense stick (the ember is snuffed out before it burns the patient)
  • Shaped into sticks and burned an inch or two away from the patient, to allow the patient to get radiant heat into a trouble area

Moxibustion has many benefits that aid acupuncture. Here are just a few:

  • Moxibustion promotes lymphatic flow. Heat can help reduce swelling when applied between a swollen area and the center of the body. This helps control inflammation and speeds recovery time.
  • Moxibustion helps break up stuck fascia. We’ve talked about fascia and how it works. When fascia begins to stiffen and adhere, heat is a great way to loosen it up and help the body move easier.
  • Moxibustion strengthens the immune system. This effect is not limited to moxibusion alone (acupuncture also does this), but it can help boost the ability of acupuncture to strengthen & regulate immune system markers for a more balanced immune response.

If you’re wondering if moxibustion can help you, call or schedule your consultation today!