A survey of UK acupuncture practitioners' use of moxibustion

By Clare Trohear


Moxibustion is inseparable from acupuncture and is even part of the same Chinese character zhen jiu. Yet its practice varies from practitioner to practitioner.
This aims of this research were to examine the literature to clarify when and how moxibustion should be used, to determine the reasons why some acupuncturists choose to use it "rarely" or ""never"" and to answer the research question:

Does the use of moxibustion in clinical practice in the UK differ from that recommended in the oriental medical literature and if so, how?

The research methods used are two fold. They involve a thorough literature review of the moxibustion literature and the main findings are compared with the results of a postal survey to 210 British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) members. This involves an analytical and descriptive survey design. The results of the survey were analysed using SPSS. They were displayed as frequencies and then variables are cross-tabulated for significant relationships using chi squared (X²) tests.

The main results of the research were:

  • The literature review suggested that moxibustion can be used on most patients and with most diagnoses, yet the survey suggests that 49.6% of practitioners are not doing so.
  • The main diagnoses that moxibustion is used for are expelling cold and warming yang xu. Although most practitioners use it to expel cold, 22.8% do not use it to warm yang xu.
  • The main reasons for choosing to use moxibustion "rarely" or ""never"" are pragmatic and include ventilation, smoke irritation and lack of time. 52.9% of practitioners, who "rarely" or "never" use moxa, also don't use an alternative as suggested by the literature.
  • In certain circumstances and with no contraindications, moxibustion can be used with a diagnosis of heat. However, only 8.9% of practitioners choose to do so.
  • Those trained in Japanese methods of acupuncture are more likely to use moxibustion, use it for most diagnoses and use it with a diagnosis of heat.

The conclusion is that there does appear to be a difference between the literature and clinical practice and that many practitioners could use more moxibustion in one of its many forms or an alternative. It may even be the key to improving the therapeutics of treatment.