"Moxa" is one of the few Japanese words that have found their way into the English language. It is properly mogusa, a contraction of moe-kusa, that is "the burning herb,"-a name given, on account of its use, to the plant which we call "mugwort." It is employed as a cautery, fragments of it being rolled into a tiny cone, and then applied to the body and set fire to.
In the old Chinese and Japanese system of medicine, burning with the moxa was considered a panacea for almost every human ill. It was prescribed for fainting fits, nose-bleeding, rheumatism, and a hundred other ailments. A woman unable to bear the pangs of child-birth was to be relieved by having three places burnt with it on the little toe of her right foot. In addition to this, the moxa was used as a punishment for children, many being burnt-generally on the back-when more than usually naughty. This practice, which is not yet obsolete, accounts for some at least of the cicatrices on the naked backs and legs of jinrikisha-men and other coolies. There is a well-known story of a child, who, having committed arson, and rendered himself thereby liable, under the former severe law of the realm, to be burnt alive, was dragged out with impressive pomp to the place of execution, but let off at the last moment with an unusually severe application of the moxa.
Book recommended. Whitney Notes on the History of Medical Progress in Japan, published in Vol. XII. Part IV. of the "Asiatic Transactions," especially p. 289 et seq., from which some of our statements have been taken.