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What is Moxabustion and how does it work?

Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) therapy that involves the burning of dried mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) on or near specific acupuncture points on the body. This therapy is based on the concept that stimulating these points with moxibustion can promote the flow of Qi (vital energy) and blood, balance Yin and Yang energies, and support the body's natural healing processes. Approaches vary from classical Chinese perspectives to Western scientific perspectives. 

Classical Chinese Perspective:

Here's how moxibustion works from a TCM perspective:

  • Warming and Expelling Cold: Moxa is believed to have a warming and invigorating quality. In TCM, cold is considered a pathogenic factor that can lead to stagnation and blockages in the body. Moxibustion is used to warm the body and expel cold, thereby promoting the smooth flow of Qi and Blood.

  • Strengthening Yang Energy: Moxibustion is often applied to points associated with Yang energy in the body. Yang represents warmth, activity, and vitality. By applying moxa to these points, practitioners aim to strengthen the Yang energy, which can be weakened due to various factors.

  • Dispelling Dampness and Phlegm: In cases where dampness and phlegm are prevalent, moxibustion can be used to help dispel these pathogenic factors. Dampness and phlegm are considered to be heavy, stagnating influences that can lead to various health issues.

  • Enhancing Blood Circulation: Moxibustion can improve blood circulation in the body, aiding in the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to tissues. This can be especially beneficial for conditions involving poor circulation or blood stagnation.

moxa acupuncture at hawks hill

Western Scientific Perspective:

While the effects of moxibustion are well-documented in traditional Chinese medicine, Western scientific explanations are still evolving. Some proposed mechanisms for moxibustion include:

  • Heat Stimulation: Moxibustion generates heat, which can stimulate the peripheral nerves and increase local blood flow. This warming effect may help relax muscles, reduce pain, and promote tissue healing.

  • Release of Chemicals: Heat generated during moxibustion could trigger the release of certain chemicals, such as endorphins and serotonin. These neurochemicals have pain-relieving and mood-enhancing effects.

  • Local Inflammatory Response: Controlled inflammation at the moxibustion site might stimulate the body's natural healing processes and enhance the immune response.

  • Nerve Activation: Moxibustion may activate specific nerves, influencing the autonomic nervous system and possibly promoting relaxation and reducing stress.

  • Warming of Acupuncture Points: The specific choice of acupuncture points for moxibustion is based on TCM theory. From a Western perspective, heating these points could influence local and systemic physiological responses.


It's important to note that while there is some scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of moxibustion for certain conditions, further research is needed to fully understand its mechanisms of action. Moxibustion is generally considered safe when administered by a trained practitioner, but it should be used with caution in certain situations, such as during pregnancy or in individuals with certain medical conditions. Consult with qualified practitioners like Justin for moxibustion treatments.

Is moxibustion for me? Does it hurt?

When practicing acupuncture, Justin will determine if moxibustion is appropriate for your treatment. Moxibustion is pain-free and generally produces a warm, comforting sensation. For a comprehensive, working list of conditions and concerns that Justin treats, as well as additional commonly asked questions, visit our FAQs page.

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