Moxibustion is a form of Chinese medicine that’s been around for thousands of years. Yet, many people may not be as familiar with moxibustion as they are with acupuncture, despite it’ co-administration with the needling treatment. If a client is already using moxibustion, it’s good to have some background to understand what they’re doing. As a form of alternative medicine, it’s helpful for trainers to be aware of options for our clients. While we can’t recommend medical treatment, we can offer helpful suggestions and ideas when situations arise.

What is it?

Moxibustion uses heat and smoke in an attempt to treat a variety of maladies. Moxa sticks look like a large cigar wrapped in white or light-colored paper. The diameter varies with the brand, but they can usually be cut down in size. The sticks are filled with mugwort (Artemesia argyi), which is an herbal plant grown in Asia and Europe. Some moxa sticks may contain other ingredients and fillers, although pure moxa is usually exclusively mugwort.

How is moxibustion used?

The sticks (or in some cases cones) are burned and the smoke is held over the area (for approximately 20-30 minutes) to be healed. In some cases, acupuncture points are targeted. The stick is held close to the skin without directly touching it. Either end can be ignited or both depending on how it’s being used and what it’s treating. It’s usually necessary to blow on the lighted part to get the stick lit evenly and to tap the ashes off periodically to keep the stick going. The process is known as moxibustion. Smoke and warmth combine for potential healing benefits. Practitioners purport that the heat stimulates the qi (energy) along the body’s energy meridians promoting a healing process.

A Chinese medicine practitioner may perform the procedure, or you can do it yourself. The sticks are a little hard to light, so having a long lighter or torch lighter helps. They are also hard to extinguish, so it’s helpful to have some type of ashtray with sand or gravel to help put it out. Or cut them in smaller sizes to burn completely.

What does it treat?

There are a lot of ailments and chronic conditions that moxibustion is used to treat (note: there continues to be mixed reviews and information).
• Arthritis
Stress and anxiety
• Breech births
• Breast nodules
• Digestive issues and nausea
• Bone spurs
Muscle aches
• Itching

A side benefit: the smoke is also believed to repel insects. Even though the results are inconclusive in many cases, some people feel it’s worth a try.

Where can you get moxibustion?

Pure moxa sticks are available through acupuncturists and other traditional Chinese medicine practitioners. It’s available online from numerous sites, including Amazon.

Mugwort is available as an essential oil to be used for aromatherapy. It also comes as a lotion/cream for skincare with anti-inflammatory and hydration benefits. The oil and lotion can be ordered online.

Any Additional Precautions?

Because a burning moxa stick is used, there is a risk of burning your skin.
Some people could be allergic to the smoke, specifically those with ragweed allergies.
It’s generally not recommended for children. If used by pregnant women, it’s recommended that a health professional be consulted.
Discoloration of the skin can occur where the moxa stick is directed. The discoloration usually washes off with gentle scrubbing.
The smoke is lingering, so it’s a good idea to use it outdoors. The smokey smell has a tendency to stick to clothing and hair, especially if used indoors.

As with any treatment, continue to stay abreast of news and research so you can be ready to answer questions about moxibustion should your clients ask.



Kim Becknell Williams

Kim Becknell Williams is a freelance writer with more than ten years of personal training experience. Certified through NFPT, she is a Functional Training Specialist and holds a Master Trainer level certificate for resistance, endurance and sports nutrition. Kim has written two books including Gym Etiquette 101. She enjoys writing a variety of lifestyle articles and fitness blogs.