Moxa – a key part of acupuncture.  In fact the word “acupuncture” means needles and moxibustion. Therapeutic use of heat has been used for many years, in many different ways, so here’s a quick guide to how acupuncturists use heat in the treatment room.


Moxa is the herb artemisia (mugwort). It’s soft and slightly woolly.  To use in an acupuncture treatment, it is dried, rolled and then burnt – either in little hand rolled cones on the skin, or as a large cigar-like stick.   As per this useful photo:

moxa cone

As the cone smoulders, heat is generated. When a patient feels a sensation of warmth, I remove the cone. An acupuncturist will also sometimes put a ball of moxa on the end of a needle, or use a moxa stick – again to bring warmth to the area.

Er… why?

The ancient texts recommend wide use of moxa – on a par with using needles.  It affects the flow of qi (energy), brings energy to the area and reinforces it, warming the acupuncture point before I needle it.    As well as warming the cold, it is thought to reinforce the immune system.

It can also be used near certain points on the feet of a pregnant woman when a baby is breech.  Although there is more research to be done on this, anecdotally, people report good results: babies often turn of their own accord following treatment.

The use of moxa is contraindicated in certain patients.  All BAcC practitioners are fully trained in how to use (and when not to use) it – if you don’t happen to live in East Sussex, you can find one here.

Returning patients tell me how much they like moxa – and remember the comforting smell.

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