COLORADO SERENITY – AUGUST 2003     What is Moxa and what are its uses?


Tracy Saraduke, RN, M.Ac. L.Ac.

3082 Evergreen Parkway, Suite 2

Evergreen, CO 80439

(303) 670-9181


      The Chinese ideogram, symbol or character for “acupuncture” is a combination of the characters for “needle” and “moxibustion.”  While many people have a concept of the needles involved in acupuncture, moxibustion is not as commonly known.  Moxibustion is the burning of small cones of mugwort herb (moxa) on or near the skin, usually at acupoints.

      Most moxa therapy has been administered by acupuncturists and moxibustionists.  But, the long history of moxibustion practiced in Japan includes folk medicine, where the local Zen monk applied moxibustion or family members treated each other.  Although Moxibustion is a clinical specialty in Japan today, it is still common to have patients apply some form of moxibustion to themselves or a family member as a form of home therapy.

      Moxibustion is often used for chronic conditions.  Chinese classic literature states, “Moxibustion tonifies (nourishes) the deficiency of the Source Chi.”  In stubborn conditions, it can be the only thing that works.

      Moxibustion is hot, but the heat can feel very good.  After a moxa treatment you feel comfortably warm and refreshed like you just took a bath. You can feel the warmth penetrating into the core of your body.

      Acupuncturists frequently use moxibustion at the end of an acupuncture treatment to increase the effectiveness of the treatment.  Most treatment protocols in Japanese Acupuncture still include the use of moxa.  Occasionally, the practitioner will limit the treatment to moxibustion, no needles.

      Moxa stimulates the immune system through the skin in a variety of ways.  Moxa cones are placed on the skin and the heat slowly penetrates into the body.  The heat first brings an inflammation response to the area. Second, a beneficial chemical contained in the moxa herb has a potent effect on increasing immune cell migration.  Third, moxibustion increases regulatory mechanisms to stimulate distant lymph tissues and organs to increase the body’s overall immune response. (If you want the details, email me and I’ll send you more info).

      Moxa stimulation activates a local cascade of effects including an increased circulation of white blood cells.  From local stimuli, the effects of moxibustion spread outward throughout the whole body.  This results in a definite immunological enhancement.

      With its calming heat, acupoint stimulation, and immune system activation, moxibustion has been successfully employed for thousands of years, and has been scientifically shown to be beneficial.