Acupuncture And Moxibustion Moxibustion Therapy

The use of acupuncture and moxibustion together is a common practice. Moxibustion is the burning of moxa (“moxa” means a plant used in moxibustion; it is usually the herb mugwort) near or on the skin for the purpose of stimulating healing. The heat causes the skin to become slightly red and is believed in traditional Chinese medicine to increase local blood flow.

Types of Moxibustion Therapy

Moxibustion can be implemented in three ways:

  • Direct moxibustion places the burning moxa directly on the skin on the acupuncture point. If the moxa is left long enough to burn the skin, it can cause blistering, burn marks and scarring. This practice is common in Japan, but not in the United States. In a non-scarring form of direct moxibustion, practitioners place moxa on the acupuncture point, light it, and then remove it before it can burn the skin.
  • Indirect moxibustion is the burning of moxa an inch or two away from the skin, usually around the inserted acupuncture needles.
  • Needle moxa technique involves placing a tiny bit of burning moxa on the top tip of the needle after it’s been inserted. The needle conducts very little heat and the effect is supposedly similar to indirect moxibustion.

Moxibustion Indications and Contraindications

In Chinese acupuncture, moxibustion therapy is typically used for people with a cold constitution, something more common today than it was in ancient China, partly due to the consumption of refrigerated and frozen foods and iced beverages. Other causes of cold constitutions include pharmaceutical drugs, eating a lot of fruits and raw vegetables and high stress levels.

You should not receive moxibustion if you:

  • Have a condition involving poor circulation or a weak immune system
  • Have decreased sensitivity to pain
  • Have diabetes
  • Take certain medications, such as prednisone.

Burning moxa creates lots of smoke and a pungent odor that smells similar to marijuana smoke. Smokeless moxa sticks are also available, and may be a better choice if you have respiratory problems.

Moxibustion for a Breech Baby

One possible use of acupuncture and moxibustion is to help turn a breech baby. Some evidence indicates that moxibustion may help turn a breech baby by burning a moxa stick near the “bladder 67 acupuncture point” on the small toe.


Acupuncture Today. (n.d.). Moxibustion. Retrieved March 9, 2011, from

Tanaka, T.H. (n.d.). Moxibustion: An ancient fire acupuncture therapy. Retrieved March 9, 2011, from

Li, X., Hu, J., Wang, X., Zhang, H., and Liu, J. (2009). Moxibustion and other acupuncture point stimulation methods to treat breech presentation: a systematic review of clinical trials. Retrieved March 9, 2011, from