Along with acupuncture, the application of moxibustion is also used for treatment. Moxa is the dried form of a herb more commonly known as mugwort, whose botanical name is Artemisia vulgaris. When applied to the acupoints, its warming and invigorating properties penetrate the Skin and activate the channels. It was discovered after our ancestors discovered fire. At first they used heated rocks or hot sand, wrapped in animal skins or tree bark to form hot compresses. They then learned to ignite branches or had to warm and parts of the body that were afflicted. This progressed to the various methods of moxibustion that we use today, from applying burning moxa directly to the skin to placing mediators between the moxa and the skin, to burning it on the handle of the acupuncture needle itself. A common form of moxa used today is the moxa stick, where the compressed moxa leaf is fashioned into the shape of a cigar. The end is lit and held above the skin to warm the acupuncture point or applied directly to the needle to help the body remove blockages of energy. Both acupuncture and moxibustion have a similar effect in removing blockages in the meridian pathways.


Recordings of acupuncture and moxibustion were seen as early as the Han Dynasty (202 BC-AD 220) in Chinese history. In an ancient tomb of that era, two silk scrolls describe the earliest outlook on the theory of meridians and collaterals (called “Jing Luo” in traditional Chinese medicine). The earliest known book on traditional Chinese medicine, The Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Internal Medicine, is believed to have been compiled approximately 3,000 years ago. This book records the discussion of traditional Chinese medicine between the Yellow Emperor, who was one of China’s most legendary rulers, reigning from 2696—2598 BC, and his minister, Qi Bo. It comprises two parts: Simple Questions and Miraculous Pivot. In Miraculous Pivot, acupuncture and moxibustion are systematically described in such detail that The Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion.

Throughout the centuries, studies of the theories and methods of acupuncture and moxibustion have continued to evolve. The AB Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion was written by Huang Pu Mi of the Jin Dynasty in the year AD 265. He recorded the location, indications, needling and manipulation techniques, contra-indications and cautions of 349 acupuncture points. He also recorded methods of treatment for common diseases using acupuncture and moxibustion.

Several hundred years later, these acupuncture points were further verified and illustrated. In AD 1026, during the Sung Dynasty, two life-size bronze figures were created for the education and examination of acupuncturists. Copies of the bronze figures can still be found on display at many acupuncture clinics and schools, but today live models and more detailed and accurate illustrations are also used.

During the sixth century, acupuncture was introduced to Korea and Japan, and during the seventeenth century, it was introduced to Europe. However, it was not until the 1950s and 1960s that these practices were brought to Africa, and in 1975 it became legal to practice it in the United States. Just recently, due to the public’s awareness of the benefits of acupuncture and the accelerating costs of healthcare in the US, more people are looking to this very different approach to medicine, which has withstood the trials of clinical practice for thousands of years. Interest in these practices and their results is attracting medical scientists and medical practitioners from all over the world. Modern science and technology are giving new life to this ancient form of treatment, and, as a result, more people will be able to benefit from its wisdom.