Moxibustion at Home

Moxibustion at Home



Moxibustion is the burning of a particular Chinese herb, moxa (mandarin = ai ye,  common name = mugwort, latin = artemesia vulgaris) directly upon or now more commonly, over the skin.  The medicinal effect of the herb itself is to increase circulation of qi and blood in the body, and to dry any pathogenic dampness.  Because of these effects, it is very useful for any type of injury.  In Mandarin, the term for acupuncture is “zhen jiu”, which means acupuncture and moxibustion.  These treatments are paired together much of the time.  This is unknown in the west as the term gets partly only partly translated, and the moxibustion part gets forgotten.  With with a little care and attention, moxa can safely be used at home, with excellent benefits.  I only suggest the use of smokeless moxa sticks at home as they are virtually smokeless, and  all smoke is harmful to the lungs!


Moxa can be used over any area where you are experiencing pain, aberrant sensation, minor infection, or have an injury you would like to heal more quickly.  It can also be used to strengthen general health as it can stimulate your body to generate more energy and blood.  Points listed below with an Asterix “*” have this strengthening effect.


Before igniting your moxa stick, fill a ceramic mug 3/4 full with uncooked rice or sand.  This will be used to   extinguish the moxa  stick when you are finished your session.  This mug will also double as your ash catcher.

Light the moxa in a candle’s flame (the hottest part of the flame is at the top of blue part).  The first time the stick is ignited, the outer rim will catch first.  Blow occasionally on the end of the stick to encourage it to ignite fully, as well as be able to identify how much has ignited.  Once the whole end is glowing red, the stick is ready to be used.  If you do not fully ignite a stick, it will put itself out within a few minutes.  When lighting a stick for succeeding sessions, ignite the moxa tip until it has an inch or so of its conical tip glowing red.  This will ensure that the moxa does not burn itself out prematurely.


Do not tap the moxa stick on the edge of the mug to knock any ash off, for this could cause fractures inside the moxa stick!  This could then fall on you, or something else as flammable!   Instead, gently roll the end of the moxa stick against the rice in your mug to allow the ash to fall off.  Use the moxa for a few minutes before removing its ash after igniting.  If you do try to remove the ash within the first couple of minutes, it may prematurely extinguish itself.


Plunge the burning stick deeply into the middle of your prepared mug to smother it.  Leave it buried in there.  You will notice any traces of smoke stop immediately.


  • Apply moxa for 15-20 seconds per point, as long as this feels pleasantly warm.  Even if the warmth still feels good after 20 seconds, still over a point, move on.  Return to the beginning treatment points  after doing moxa on your other points or areas.
  • Moxa treatments (10-30 min.) are most successful if done at least once a day.  Twice a day can be even more beneficial.
  • Moxa can also be used on large areas, rather than just specific points.  When using the moxa in this way, slowly “snake” the moxa above the skin slowly enough that you can feel the heat penetrate deeply into the skin.  It should feel good!  A deep, pleasant warmth is what you should expect to feel. Such large areas can be treated for longer periods than 20 seconds at a time.  You will know if an area is receiving too much moxa when it becomes intolerant to the moxa.  Moxa intolerance is defined as feeling too hot in 5 seconds or less, with the stick at least the thickness of the stick away from the skin.  Pay attention; do not burn your skin.  If it feels too hot, move along!
  • Apply moxa from point to point in rounds.  If a point feels too hot within 5 seconds of moxa application, that point has had enough for that session.
  • Do move away from the skin ANY time the moxa feels too hot, rather than just pleasantly warm.
  • Do not let the burning moxa get closer than an inch to the skin (the thickness of the moxa stick).



Spleen 6*  On the inside of the calf, one hand’s breadth above the inside ankle bone, and just behind it.  Functions:  regulates spleen, kidney and liver, nourishes blood & body fluids, calms the spirit & dries dampness.

Spleen 9*  On the inside of the calf, just below the knee.  Run your thumb up behind the shin bone from the ankle towards the knee: as you near the knee, the bone flares out and a depression below it will likely feel sore.  This point may be sore in a wide area, but its center is about a hand’s breadth below the level of the knee.  Functions:  major point to dry dampness.  Moxa is very useful here to dry dampness or clear infection.

Stomach 36*  On the outside of the calf, a hand’s breadth below the outside edge of the kneecap, a thumb’s width outside of the ridge of the shin.  Functions:  a major strengthening point for body energy.  Master point for the abdomen.

Du 20  On the top of the head, along the dorsal midline and where a line from ear to ear would cross that midline.  This point helps to literally elevate qi in the body.  Cover hair with a cloth before applying moxa.

Dr. Bonnie

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