Moxibustion, more commonly called moxa, is undoubtedly the oldest form of medical therapy in China. The Chinese word for moxa is Jiu , which means ‘burning’. Moxa stimulates the acupuncture points by burning different materials on or over the skin in order to regulate the physiological activity of the body. The herb most often used is mugwort, and is often combined with the use of other substances such as fresh ginger, salt, garlic, aconite, white pepper, and onion.
Moxa can be applied indirectly or directly. Direct moxa is where the acupuncturist burns small pieces of moxa directly on the skin. This is an invasive procedure that can damage the skin, but is very effective for treating ‘empty’ or ‘cold’ conditions such as lumbar pain, diarrhea, abdominal pain, impotence, asthma, and tuberculosis.
Indirect Moxa is less invasive, where moxa is placed such that the heat is not touching the skin directly, often with some other medicinal substance placed between the moxa and the skin. This type of moxa is suitable to treat chronic diseases, and infections and ulceration of the skin.
References to the indications for moxibustions can be found in the ancient texts.
“ …cold in the organs gives rise to diseases of repletion. These should be treated with moxa.”
“When Yang energy is weak in the Interior, manifesting in a weak pulse, the physician should use moxa.”
“Cold causes a blockage in the flow of blood and can be eliminated by heating with moxa.”
“For problapse or loss of energy use moxa.”
“When a disease cannot be treated by needling it should be treated with moxa.”