Moxibustion: Pure or Smokeless?


Moxibustion is considered a safe and ancient method of Traditional Chinese Medicine that is still regularly practised around the world. Moxibustion utilises burning moxa, a soft substance obtained from a plant called Chinese mugwort (Ai Ye), on a patients acupuncture points and is extremely effective for those suffering from ‘cold conditions’. This external heat therapy intends to invigorate the flow of Qi and Xue (blood), whilst also eliminating any pathogenic signs.

Moxibustion is a form of heating specific acupuncture points by burning moxa close to the skin. It is not uncommon for patients treated with moxibustion to feel an abrupt sensation of warmth radiating their body. This is, in fact, a good result as it indicates the arrival of free-flowing Qi and Xue.

While the mugwort produced for moxibustion is called moxa, the loose herb is known as moxa punk. Unburned moxa punk has a very light herbal scent and can easily be made into moxa rolls, which can either be used whole or split into smaller pieces.

Moxibustion has been traditionally used with acupuncture for thousands of years. The acupuncture needle is inserted into a point and a small ball of moxa is placed on the needle and then lit. As it slowly burns, the needle gradually heats up, which warms the body without causing any harm.

NOTE: Moxibustion should never be applied on an open wound or skin that is tender to the touch.

Pure or Smokeless?

Both pure moxa rolls and smokeless moxa sticks are equally effective in external heat therapy and can be incorporated into acupuncture.



Moxa is tightly compacted into a pure moxa roll Moxa is charcoaled and sold in a solid stick
Pure moxa rolls are softer and can easily be incorporated into acupuncture therapy Smokeless moxa sticks are solid but there are products specifically designed for use with acupuncture.
Perfect for both heat and smoke therapy Ideal for smoke-free environments
When burning, it releases a light herb fragrance Smokeless moxa is odourless
Beneficial for patients who are interested in indirect moxibustion Suitable for patients who are interested in performing moxibustion at home
Ash will not need to be collected Ash will regularly need to be knocked off into a container
Pure moxa rolls are very soft and very light Charcoaled moxa is tightly compacted and is heavier


Traditionally, pure moxa is compressed and rolled to imitate the appearance of a cigar. Moxa rolls can be either held over the treatment area or they can be cut to smaller pieces to use alongside acupuncture.

Pre-cut moxa rolls are cut into smaller pieces, which can be easily placed on the head of a needle or used in a moxa box.

Stick-on moxa cones are applied by sticking the base onto a patient’s acupuncture point. This can be used with acupuncture as the cones are hollow. The moxa is lit and slowly burns to release essential oils and smoke.


Most smokeless moxa comes in the form of charcoaled sticks. Traditional smokeless moxa sticks can be held over the patient’s treatment area, just like the pure moxa sticks. Thinner smokeless moxa sticks are also available.

Stick-on smokeless moxa cones can be utilised with acupuncture therapy as they also have a hollow centre for the needle. These cones can be stuck onto a patient’s skin and slowly burned.

For use with acupuncture, the Japanese Ondan smokeless needle moxa can easily sit on top of an acupuncture needle head.  

We offer a wide range of moxibustion products in our online shop. For more information, please contact us on 01245 350822 or


What do you think?

2 Replies to “Moxibustion: Pure or Smokeless?

  1. after charcoaled sticks, may the treatment not as effective???? just a guess . or there is a correct answer to it. thanks

    1. Hi Nancy,

      Thank you for your answer. Yes, some experts would agree that smokeless moxa is less effective than pure moxa. This is because some of the essential oils from the Ai Ye have already been burned away. However, as fire safety is key in a clinic setting, smokeless moxa can be a better option. We recommend that practitioners evaluate the pros and cons of using different types of moxa to ensure utmost safety of their patients.

      Kind regards,


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