During moxibustion, a trained therapist burns an herb to apply heat close to the skin at specific points, which can lead to improvements in several common side effects of cancer treatments.

Safety and precautions

Moxibustion is generally safe, but should not be performed on a pregnant woman without guidance from a qualified healthcare professional. 

Some Chinese medicine practitioners use moxibustion in pregnancy for various individualized treatment regimens and more commonly for breech birth presentation.1National Health Service (NHS). Maternity Information on Moxibustion. 2012-2022. Viewed February 3, 2022; Gei, A. Obstetrics and Gynecology, Breech Presentation. Cancer Therapy Advisor. 2017. Viewed February 3, 2022. 

Side effects or adverse events

The smoke from the burning herb can cause breathing difficulties among people with asthma. Moxa that has undergone a charcoal process will produce a stick that makes less smoke, making it ideal for use at home, but it lights a little more slowly.2Kim. How to do moxibustion at home for immune system support. Constellation Acupuncture & Healing Arts.  March 29, 2020. Viewed November 3, 2021. Consult your acupuncture provider to see if this reduced smoke stick would be suitable if you have asthma or other breathing problems.  

If the mugwort is accidentally allowed to burn down to the skin, the skin may be burned or even scarred. Other side effects include fatigue and dizziness.3Zeel Editorial Staff. Moxibustion. May 18, 2020. Viewed September 18, 2021.

A survey of 84 therapists providing more than 65,000 treatments reported only 94 (0.14%) adverse events including bruising, burn injury, discomfort, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, pain, minor hemorrhage, aggravation of the condition being treated, malaise, suspected contact dermatitis, fever, and numbness in the upper extremities.4Yamashita H, Tsukayama H, Tanno Y, Nishijo K. Adverse events in acupuncture and moxibustion treatment: a six-year survey at a national clinic in Japan. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 1999 Jun;5(3):229-36.

Do not use (contraindications)

Moxibustion may cause miscarriage, especially earlier in pregnancy. For this reason it is not approved in Germany.5Zeel Editorial Staff. Moxibustion. May 18, 2020. Viewed September 18, 2021.

Keep reading about moxibustion


Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher
View profile

Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher and writer for CancerChoices and also served as the first program manager. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher

Laura Pole, MSN, RN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
View profile

Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, MSN, RN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant


Dr. Ryan served as a research associate for CancerChoices. She is a licensed and board certified naturopathic physician and acupuncturist in Oregon. Dr. Ryan is the founder of Gentle Natural Wellness, a clinic specializing in bridging classical Chinese medicine with naturopathic medicine to provide individualized, compassionate care for people in the community. A Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine and Master of Science in Oriental Medicine with honors from the National University of Natural Medicine, research in medical anthropology at the University of Hawai’i and George Mason University, language and culture programs at Obirin University (Tokyo) and Sogang University (Seoul), and studies of Chinese herbal medicine and qigong in China have provided a diverse background that has helped form a foundation for her community health and healing path.

Emily Ryan, ND, MSOM, LAc Research Associate

Last update: May 28, 2024

Last full literature review: September 2021

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

Our staff have no financial conflicts of interest to declare. We receive no funds from any manufacturers or retailers gaining financial profit by promoting or discouraging therapies mentioned on this site.

Learn more