History of Moxibustion

“Moxibustion” is a term used to describe the combustion of an herb called moxa/mugwort in Chinese medicine. While the name might sound like it belongs in a Harry Potter novel, mugwort comes from the Artemisia Vulgaris plant – a species of chrysanthemum. Its Latin name is derived from the goddess Diana/Artemis in the Greek pantheon (the goddess of childbirth), because of its ability to cure diseases of women. Many scholars believe that moxibustion predates acupuncture and it was first adopted around the second century B.C. The earliest known record of its use in Chinese medicine, however, dates back to a piece of silk from 168 B.C. that described the use of the herb for hemorrhoid therapy. Mugwort has been used for a wide range of therapeutic purposes since that time – none more famous than its use to create the potent drug artemisin, which was developed in the 1970’s and has been used to help hundreds of millions of people suffering from malaria across the world.


Contact The Root Acupuncture Now to Book an Appointment


A Personal Story Involving Moxibustion

Before we get into the details of moxibustion and why we use it in our clinic, we think it is important to share a personal story on how this amazing treatment modality helped change our own personal lives.

When our owner and acupuncturist Erik Johnson was just finishing up his four year acupuncture program, his wife was pregnant with their first child. When she was full-term, imaging showed that their daughter presented as breech in the womb (i.e. head up instead of head down). Erik’s wife went to get a Webster adjustment from a chiropractor (a gentle adjustment to align the pelvis) and even had a manual external cephalic version (ECV) performed by two doctors (a VERY uncomfortable procedure where they dig into the abdomen and try to manually turn the baby for over 30 minutes). Both procedures were unsuccessful and the doctors suggested that a Cesarean section (aka: C-section) was the best course of action.

Erik spoke with the doctors about his profession and his desire to explore moxibustion as a breech treatment option for his wife before a c-section was deemed necessary. Although the doctors knew very little about this Chinese medicine procedure, they gave Erik two full days to try moxibustion before a final ultrasound was performed to see if it had an effect. If the moxibustion was not successful, the doctors wanted to schedule a c-section the following day. Erik immediately went home with his wife and performed moxibustion for two small five-minute sessions each day until the time of the ultrasound. In only those two short days, the ultrasound confirmed that the moxibustion was able to flip their daughter 180 degrees – saving Erik’s wife from ever having a c-section.

If it can have that profound of an effect in this instance, one can only imagine the other amazing things that this modality can do.

Frequently asked questions

We use only the best form of mugwort available on the market today and have it shipped directly from our source in Japan. The supplier in Japan has been manufacturing this world renowned moxa for over 300 years, carefully processing and aging each batch of mugwort for over 10 years before it shipped to us. Our mugwort has a very soft spongy-like texture to it, which is then transformed into thin strands by rolling the mugwort between two flat bamboo boards. From there, individual pieces (about the shape of a grain of rice) are placed directly onto the skin of the patients in precise acupuncture points. A little herbal salve is often used on the surface of the skin to hold the rice grain moxa in place while we touch the top of it with the hot end of an incense stick. This causes the rice grain mugwort to smolder down to its base before it is pinched away by our acupuncturists before it reaches the skin and causes any sensation of heat to the patient. This process is often repeated three or seven times at various acupuncture points to achieve the desired effect. The aroma of moxibustion is very pleasant and most patients describe it as one of the most relaxing portions of the treatment.

For more information about the methods and effects of moxibustion, contact The Root Acupuncture and we will be happy to answer all your questions.

Although there are centuries of effective usage of moxibustion to treat ailments in Chinese medicine, some current neuro-physiological research is able to provide us with some insight into this amazing form of medicine. Moxibustion is a form of heat therapy.  The infrared heat given off by the mugwort when it is burning above the surface of the skin creates a release of hisotoxins and a counter-irritant effect on the body. This helps the body to balance its red blood cells (including hemoglobin) and white blood cells (including its phagocytic activity). Other research has shown that moxibustion has a strong therapeutic value in helping to balance gastrointestinal issues and also aid in flipping breech babies in the womb.

These are the main things that treat with moxibustion in our clinic:

  • Abdominal pain or vomiting  – moxibustion can potentially relieve the symptoms of abdominal pain, reduce the frequency and shorten the time for suffering abdominal pain.
  • Arthritis and rheumatic pain – chronic pain, whether from injury or arthritis is debilitating.  Moxibustion can bring better blood circulation to areas where it is sorely needed.
  • Asthma and other respiratory issues – moxibustion has been shown to be equal to Seretide (one of the number one prescribed asthma and COPD medications) in the improvement of lung function, relief of symptoms and improvement of quality of life for chronic, persistent bronchial asthma and COPD. [impact of moxibustion on lung function and life quality of patients with chronic persistent bronchial asthma: a randomized controlled study – PubMed] and ( The effectiveness of Du moxibustion for chronic obstructive… : Medicine (
  • Bladder Problem Moxibustion has been proven to be effective in treating urinary system diseases. In addition, using moxibustion as an alternative therapy not only helps by avoiding the often serious side effects of western medicine and the possible risks of actual surgery, but it also costs less.
  • Cardiovascular effects – moxibustion has been shown to increase blood cell count, especially red blood cells. An increase in red blood cells causes a marked increase in plasma hemoglobin. In addition, moxa can improve blood flow, reduce blood clotting time and increase the contractile strength of the cardiovascular system.
  • Digestive issues and irregular bowel movements – moxibustion helps calm digestive issues, balance out gut flora, rebuild gastrointestinal lining, and restore regular bowel movements.  This can all lead to better digestive health.
  • Gynecological and obstetrical issues – moxibustion has been shown to help with breech presentation in babies during late term pregnancies.  In addition, clinical research on menstrual disorders combined with related practical research show that moxibustion treatment can play a beneficial role in the treatment of menstrual disorders.
  • General immune balancing – providing protection from colds/flus and assistance in reducing seasonal allergies. Moxa can produce immunogens, which stimulate and strengthen the immunological response. This increases the body’s resistance to disease and helps prevent illness.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine terms, moxa is described as being “Pure Yang”: it supplies the body with energy, warms the body’s meridians/channels, expels cold, induces flow of Qi & Blood, reduces swelling, disperses accumulation, prevents disease, treats flaccidity, and relaxes spasms.

As you can see, moxibustion is a full sensory technique that can have beneficial effects. For more information about how moxibustion can help you, contact The Root Acupuncture today.