Cupping therapy is an ancient form of healing that is practiced in both East and West.
For at least three thousand years, the Chinese have been practicing this technique. Combined with moxibustion, acupuncture, and Tui Na massage, cupping is part of the traditional physiotherapy or bodywork system of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). This procedure is administered on the acupuncture points to alleviate blood and chi (energy) stagnation, in the organs stimulated by the acupoint in localized areas of the body.
Cupping therapy in the West traces its origins in Egypt. Around 1550 B.C., the Ebers Papyrus was written and states that treatment via wet cupping eliminates foreign matter from the body. The ancient Sumerians and Egyptians considered cupping as a cure for just about every illness.
The art of cupping was passed on by the ancient Egyptians to the ancient Greeks. Both Galen and Hippocrates were ardent users and promoters of this therapy.
Cupping therapy was passed on to the Muslim Persians and Arabs and from the Greeks and Romans of ancient times. Its use was even sanctioned by the Prophet Mohammed. It is now a popular and important therapeutic modality of Unani Medicine.
Cupping, until the early 20th century, remained an essential component of therapy and medicine in the West, both folk based, alternative, and conventional. In 1826, Charles Kennedy, a US surgeon wrote:
“Cupping therapy has been so popular, and the benefits so long experienced, that no one is required to bring forward endorsements in favor of what it has given only apart from the praise of modern times, as well as the sanction of the most ancient antiquity.”
In the modern age, after being abandoned as a popular form of medicine there is now a resurgence in the use of cupping, which is advocated by acupuncturists and other holistic therapists. Exciting and novel techniques of this ancient art, such as cupping massage, are also being developed.
Cupping’s tremendous ability to promote a state of profound relaxation and deep pleasure is why it’s a very popular treatment used by people throughout the world.
How Does Cupping Work?
Naturopaths have acknowledged the relationship between conditions of blockage, congestion, stagnation, and pain.
And aside from pain, an overwhelming number of diseases and illnesses are caused by blockage, congestion and stagnation of lymph, phlegm, blood, vital fluids, and Chi (vital energy). The sucking effect produced by cupping breaks up and draws out blockage, stagnation, or congestion, bringing to the person free circulation of the humors and vital energies within his body.
Pain is actually, the essence of dis-ease. Dis-ease or suffering is felt when the fluids and chi in the body aren’t circulating well, when the natural functioning and flow of the body has some kind of obstruction or difficulty. Galen, the ancient Greek physician was referring to this when he spoke of disease as being the state antagonistic to nature.
Aside from breaking up and dispersing congestion and stagnation in the circulation of humors, blood and life force, cupping also expels inflammation, toxins, and pathogenic heat by drawing these negative factors to the skin surface for release. Toxins and pathogenic heat can eat away and rot the body when they’re under pressure or submerged, unless they’re sucked out and released from the body. One can even use cupping to alleviate and reduce fevers in the acute phase, and in lessening and reducing the decay of humors and blood, a frequent cause of fevers.
Cupping can be a type of derivation therapy when it’s used to draw out congested humors, blood, and energy to the skin surface. By derivation, we mean the diversion or drawing out of substances or vital energies away from the area of obstruction and blockage in order to restore patency and health to the body and to ameliorate congestion.
When they’re deep within the body, blocked offending matter, morbid humors, black bile, and toxins can inflict serious injury, blocking at the core of the body the functioning of the vital organs. Whenever it can, the body will attempt to marginalize such offending matter by dispatching it to the service in the form of various eruptions, boils, or cysts, regardless if they appear unsightly. Cupping is a modality that stimulates this process and relieves pathogenic blockage to the internal organs, thus preventing or avoiding even worse conditions.
By boosting the movement of vital fluids such as lymph and blood and clearing and breaking up congestions and obstruction of toxins and injurious waste matter, cupping enhances the expelling of wastes and the cleansing abilities of the body. Ancient Greek doctors believe well-timed and appropriate expelling of waste material is an indispensible feature of hygiene. A significant cause of disease and morbidity is the unhealthy build up of anything that should be removed whether it be inhibited menstruation, urinary retention, and constipation.
The Advantages of Cupping Therapy
Cupping therapy has a myriad of advantages or benefits. It enhances flow of lymph and blood in the body and improves and normalizes autonomic nervous system function as well. However, its most common benefits are for the reduction of pain, increased flexibility of muscles and tendons, and instilling a profound sense of relaxation in a person. While clearing congested blood from the muscles, cupping also strengthens the detoxifying flow of lymph. When it’s used on the joints, the therapy bolsters the circulation of blood to the joint and increases into the joint cavity the discharge of synovial fluid.
The impact of cupping on the digestive system is designed to enhance peristalsis and the flow of digestive secretions. Cupping can reinforce digestion and the abdomen, treat constipation, facilitate bowel movement regularity, boost metabolism and the movement of bile, and perk the appetite.
On the circulatory system and the skin, cupping can have a stunning cleansing effect. It facilitates the movement of plasma and blood through the arteries and veins thus enhancing the elimination and filtering of toxins. This cleansing effect may be subtle after just a single session of therapy, but after four or more sessions, the patient may notice an improvement in his or her skin complexion.