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Sometimes you just need a little warmth

The smell of smoke at your acupuncture clinic is most likely not because they are a smoker (or using illegal medicinal plants!). It is most likely that they are using a traditional treatment called moxibustion.


Moxibustion is a warming technique that is commonly used by acupuncturists. It developed alongside acupuncture thousands of years ago, and continues to be an integral part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Moxibustion involves burning a dried or charcoaled form of the herb Artemisia Argyi or Artemisia Vulgaris, more commonly known as Chinese mugwort. It can be used in conjunction with acupuncture or on its own. For some conditions, moxibustion is considered superior to acupuncture.

How is it used?

A practitioner will select where to do moxibustion in the same way as acupuncture points are chosen. The practitioner may choose points that are known to have systemic effects on the body, or they may focus on the local problem area, or they may use both approaches.


There are a number of different ways to apply moxibustion. One frequently used technique is to light a 'cigar' of the herb (either charcoaled or dried leaves) and hold it approximately an inch away from the skin, thereby creating a pleasant warm sensation for anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes. Another common technique is to apply a ball of dried moxa to an acupuncture needle, which is then lit, warming the needle and local area.

When is moxa recommended?

Your practitioner may recommend moxa for a variety of conditions, including:


  • Loose bowel motions, bloating and tiredness

  • Tendency to cold hands, feet or generally feeling uncomfortable in the cold

  • Joint or muscle aches or stiffness that are worse in cold environments

  • Tendency to put on weight easily

  • Poor immunity and tendency to colds, influenza and other viral infections

  • Infertility


If you have not had successful results with acupuncture alone, this can be a great adjunct to treatment. Ask your practitioner if it’s right for you. They can train you in this procedure and you can also continue it at home. 



Charcoal moxa stick 

  1. Have a long glass jar and lid ready that you can scrape ash and safely store the moxa in to extinguish.

  2. Light the end of one side, either with a lighter or burning candle. This takes 1-2 minutes. 

  3. Aim to get the end burning a little orange with heat.

  4.  As ash develops, gently scrape in off using the top of the glass jar. Do not bang it as this can crack the charcoal, which risks it being less stable when over your skin

  5. Hold the moxa as instructed over a particular site or acupuncture point. Usually this is 2-4cm away, depending on your own sensitivity to heat. 5- 10 mins medium heat per point should be sufficient.

  6. When finished, place immediately in air tight jar

  7. To use again, light the same end you lit previously. You may wish to break the charcoal flat again before lighting to maximize surface area of heat. (simply apply pressure to the cone part at end to break it off)


Stick on Moxa pieces

1. Set yourself up in a comfortable and well ventilated room. You will need tweezers, a jar and a lighter. 

2. Take one moxa piece and peel off the bottom sticker, then light the dried herbal end. Avoid touching the burning side, stick the moxa piece to your skin.

2. Stay still and sense any heat coming though. 

3. The moxa is designed to get very warm locally, but not to burn. If you get any sense that it is too hot, immediately remove by pulling off the skin gently with tweezers. Place immediately in a jar. 

4. If not much heat, reapply to area close by, otherwise move to next point. 

5. We recommend you have no more than 2 pieces on you at any time. 


Do not use over sites that lack sensation

Do not use over open wounds/infections or delicate areas such as the eyes

Use in well ventilated area, especially if smoke can trigger allergies


Using anything that can burn carries some risk. Only do when of sound mind and not hurried. 

Apply cold tap water for 20 minutes if you burn yourself

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