Fire Dragon Moxibustion 火龙灸

火龙灸 Huŏ Lóng Jiǔ
Fire Dragon Moxibustion

Traditional Chinese Medicine is now as modern as it is ancient.  In many acupuncture clinics needles are connected to electronic stimulation devices and TCM practitioners are deciding how they will treat patients based on western medical diseases rather than through traditional diagnosis.  Even Chinese herbalists are abandoning classical theory, using their medicines not for their flavors or thermal natures but for their ability to fight viruses, regulate endocrine function, reduce inflammation, and so forth.

There’s still a branch of Chinese medicine that will forever remain ancient to people, however, and that’s the jiǔ in zhēnjiǔ 針灸.  Moxibustion.  There is something special about the burning of mugwort leaves.  A sense of wonder remains in the smoke and fire that as a species we can’t help but respond to with quiet and captivated eyes.  I’ve seen the same thing in the eyes of people sitting across from me at campfires, and I’ve seen it in the reverence of acupuncturists as they set àiyè 艾叶 aflame, like they’re making an offering to that ’something bigger’ that extends up beyond the exhaust fans and shingles of the clinic, out beyond the front door and parking lot, away from the world we’ve shaped with concrete and polymers.  It reminds us of far away places, those found out in the farthest corners of remaining wild on Earth.  It also connects us to deeper place within ourselves, the deep ancestral memories that remain in our DNA from a time long before our grandfathers were birthed from our great grandmothers, when fire equated with survival.

The practice of moxibustion demands attention, and not just because it is impressive to watch.  A sense of precision and care is necessary because moxibustion is dangerous.  When performed incorrectly, patients get burned. The burning of mugwort is not for the careless.

These days we tend to see cigar-like moxa sticks being hovered over patients’ abdomens or barrel-shaped wads set aflame on the tops of needles. Some practitioners shape the herb into small cones and place them on the skin.  Others who seek a sort of mastery of this specialty practice pinch and roll rice grain size threads and skillfully place and burn them into the skin at acupuncture points like little needles of fire.

Fire dragon moxibustion is another way of using the herb, and unlike these other methods of practice, it is reserved only for specific patient presentations.  As a technique it involves the Dū Mài 督脈 (Governing Vessel), ginger, garlic, moxa floss, and fire.  Indicated for conditions that result from Cold and Deficiencies of Yang, it also is a more extreme treatment.  Like all extreme treatments, it comes not without costs.  These will be discussed further along.

Dū 督 describes a person who “oversees,” “superintends,” or “governs.”  As a channel, it’s referred to classically as ‘The Sea of Yang’ and is thought to regulate the Yang of the entire body.  Its points of access involve not just the spaces between the spinous processes of the vertebrae, those that run up and over the centerline of the skull, or that taboo spot known as Cháng Qiáng 长强 (Governing Vessel 1) that lies just inferior the tip of the tailbone.  A collateral branch arises from GV-1 and ascends along both sides of the spine which is structured by a series of 34 ‘extra points’ called the Huà Tuó Jiá Jǐ 华佗 夾脊.

This Fire Dragon treatment utilizes both the primary and collateral Dū from the base of the spine up to the neck at Dà Zhuī 大椎 and thus strongly affects the Qi of the whole body.  Though most western TCM practitioners have heard about it, few have been taught its technical application.

Below is a basic informational guide for practitioners that describes how to perform this intriguing procedure.

How to Perform Fire Dragon Moxibustion 

(Actions: Supplements Yang, Warms the Channels, Expels Cold, Expels Wind, Strengthens the Spine.)

(Caution: Because garlic is a skin irritant, varying degrees of irritation may occur including blisters.)

To perform this technique you will need to prepare several items:
Thin Medical Gauze
71% Isopropyl Alcohol
150g Ginger*
150g Garlic*
1 Bag of Loose Moxa
Food Processor
*300g garlic can be used instead of the combination of ginger and garlic for a strong treatment

In the food processor, finely chop ginger and garlic.


Cut the gauze here.


This will serve as a barrier to the skin and will make clean up easier after the treatment has been completed.


Begin to slowly and evenly spread the ginger/garlic mixture over the spine.


Starting near the base of the spine, and moving up to C7-T1


Pat down the ginger and garlic so that it is flat and even.


Once the ginger-garlic mixture is flat and even, moxa is next.


On top of the ginger and garlic mixture, begin creating a a layer of moxa. Again, start at the base of the spine.


Continue adding the moxa gently and evenly.


Once completely layered, pinch the top aspect of the moxa layer into a crest.

IMG_0331 2

Use a syringe to draw up several cc’s of 71% isopropyl alcohol.


Evenly expel the 71% isopropyl alcohol to lightly moisten the entirety of the moxa layer’s crest.


Use a lighter to immediately ignite the area moistened with alcohol.


Carefully monitor the patient for safety.


Sit with patient for the duration of the burning of the herb, this may take 20 or more minutes.


After the burnt moxa has cooled completely (You can use the dorsal aspect of your hand to check for thermal confirmation), carefully lift the gauze from it’s ends, being sure not to drop it, and place the materials into a tub or waste receptacle that contains no flammable items for later disposal.


You will notice skin redness and possible blisters.


Clean the patient’s back of loose moxa and ginger-garlic mixture.

After the treatment is completed.  Allow the patient to sit, relax, and prepare themselves to go back out into the world.  It is possible they may feel light-headed or adrift.  Encourage them to return weekly until the condition has resolved.  And that is it.  Huŏ Lóng Jiǔ 火龙灸.  Fire Dragon Moxibustion.

[These photos were taken at the Wang Ju-Yi Applied Channel Theory Research Center and Clinic, in Beijing.  Much appreciation to Dr. Wang Ju-Yi, Jonathan Chang, and other students who made this learning opportunity possible.]



5 responses to “Fire Dragon Moxibustion 火龙灸

  1. This is most remarkable, thank you for sharing it. I have been an avid user of moxa for over 30 years. I am so happy to see this available on the web. Kudos to you! I much prefer this over the more common use of camphor. susan


  2. Pingback: Relaxze - Behandelwijze: Vuur draak moxibustion - Relaxze·

  3. Do you put Vaseline on the skin first? How do you prevent burning the skin? The Vaseline would prevent the juice of the ginger getting on the skin and getting too hot. But then isn’t that part of the treatment, getting the warming effects of the ginger to penetrate the body? Would you also prevent overheating by getting the ginger to be really thick? How thick? Would love to hear your advice.


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