Moxibustion The Power of Heat

Moxibustion is a traditional technique often used in combination with acupuncture or as a standalone treatment. Moxibustion has been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for more than a thousand years to help maintain health and fight disease primarily by invigorating blood, stimulating Qi and expelling cold.


Moxibustion produces heat through the burning of moxa (herbs, principally mugwort – artemisia vulgaris), the heat and the intrinsic qualities of the herbs provide the therapeutic qualities. There are many ways to administer moxa and two common methods I use regularly are ‘sparrow pecking’ and ‘needle moxibustion’.

Sparrow Pecking

A cigar like stick of moxa is lit and the end is allowed to become red hot and smouldering, this smouldering end is used to warm the treatment area, acupoint or channel. The moxa stick is held about 1cm above the treatment area and moved back and forth, like a sparrow pecking. The moxa stick may also be moved above and along the treatment area or channel but never staying in one place long enough to burn. Warming of the channels can be very effective for clearing cold obstruction such as sciatic type pains. Moxa is often used to help turn a breech baby by stimulating acupoint BL-67 of the little toe.

Needle Moxibustion

A small cone of moxa is placed on the inserted acupuncture needle and then lit and allowed to smoulder. This is quite a pleasant experience and provides very precise heating to the acupuncture point. Each cone will burn for about 5 minutes and multiple cones may be used during one treatment. Needle moxa is ideal for treating deficiency and internal cold, it can tonify the function of the Kidneys, benefit lumber pain, treat tiredness and intestinal disorders, etc.


Moxibustion is ideally administered in the clinic however I often prescribed it to be used by patients at home. It is well suited to the treatment of some childhood ailments and parents can administer treatment regularly without attending clinic each time. Joint pain and chronic tiredness are often treated at home, and many midwifes are now familiar with using or referring for moxa to be used at home to help turn breech presentations.

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