What Is Moxa, How Is It Used, and What Are The Benefits?

Moxa (Folium Artemisiae Aagyi)

Golden Moxa

Golden Moxa

Moxibustion is a form of heat therapy that consists of burning the dried leaf on or above specific points on the body. This herb is known as mugwort, moxa, or Aì yè in Chinese medicine. It helps to warm areas of the body with the intention of stimulating circulation and lymphatic flow. It also helps to smooth the flow of Qi and blood and expel pathogenic influences. The scent of moxa is very distinct and many people find it to have a therapeutic and relaxing aroma.

Internally Ai ye is used to help stop bleeding and warm the womb. It can help stop prolonged menstrual bleeding and alleviate menstrual pain. It has been known to calm a restless fetus and turn breech position babies (Coyle 2005). This herb is bitter and acrid with warming properties and is thought to enter into the spleen, liver and kidney meridians.

But this herb is best known for its use in conjunction with acupuncture points.  Moxa therapy is used in many cultures around the globe and there are several techniques to use this powerful herb.

How is it used?

There are various forms in which moxibustion can be applied. One of my favorite forms of Moxa is direct moxa- in which the dried herb is rolled into various size cones, placed onto the skin and lit to create a more focused heat. (A lotion called Shiunko is often used a barrier to protect the skin from burns). Another technique is indirect moxa-  in which the leaf is pressed into a stick or pole, which can resemble a cigar or smaller rolls- shown in the image below. It is lit and then used above the surface of the skin to create a gentle warmth.

Moxa can be combined with substances such as salt or ginger to enhance its therapeutic properties. It also can be made into medicinal incense, topical creams/ lotions and an essential oil which all have significant beneficial impacts.

These convenient Moxa cones are used on acupuncture points and are a great way to do Moxa at home!

These convenient Moxa cones are used on acupuncture points and are a great way to do Moxa at home!

What are its benefits?

  • Pain management

  • Increases healing times of Injuries

  • Improves Arthritic pain- Especially when the pain feels better with heat and worse with cold.

  • Improvements in Headaches/ Decrease in Migraines

  • Benefits Gynecological issues/ Menstrual pain

  • Turning Breech position of fetus

  • Boosts immunity/ Protection against flus and colds

  • Improvements from digestive complaints- It is extremely effective for conditions such as abdominal pain, and diarrhea. There are specific techniques that can be used for these aliments such as salt moxa or ginger moxa. With these techniques either salt or a slice of fresh ginger is placed covering the naval and then a cone of direct moxa is burnt on top of it. Depending on the patients underlying pattern will determine which one is best to treat these conditions. These techniques of moxa help to alleviate pain and regulate the large intestines re-absorption of water. 

  • Vitality Boosting/Longevity promoting benefits- There is a robust history from ancient China and Japan that talks about the daily usage of moxibustion on an acupuncture point called Stomach 36 (Zu San Li). This point is located one hand-width below the patella within the depression on the lateral side of the bone (tibia). This simple daily self-care routine is one of Chinese Medicines’ most “famous” preventative therapies. The daily usage of indirect or direct moxa on this point helps to increase ones vitality and longevity. Some of This points’ actions and indications are known to help stimulate the immune system, enhance digestion as well as help treat diarrhea and constipation. It can also increase endurance, alleviate cramps, regulate the bodies Qi, disperse stagnation, and help alleviate pain from the legs and knees.

Pharmacological Effects of Moxa

  • Hemostatic- Both fresh and charred forms have been shown to stop bleeding

  • Antiasthmatic- Essential oil is best for this purpose

  • Antitussive/Expectorant

  • Cholagogic

  • Antibiotic

*Moxa therapy is often used during an acupuncture appointment but can also easily be done on your own at home! Make sure your practitioner goes over how to use it so you avoid any risk of burns. 


 Sources

1. Coyle ME, Smith CA, Peat B. "Cephalic Version by Moxibustion for Breech Presentation. " Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 18;(2):CD003928

2. Chen JK, Chen TT, Crampton L. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. City of Industry, CA: Art of Medicine Press; 2004.