Miami Chinese medicine has many ancient branches of healing: nutritional therapy, massage, herbal medicine, and acupuncture make up the most widely used. However, Chinese cupping therapy is fast becoming as famous as its well-known counterparts. A few years ago, you may perhaps have seen photos of Gwyneth Paltrow wearing a backless dress walking on the red carpet with cupping marks all over her back? It may sometimes take a bit of popular culture to remind us of age-old styles of healing!
Cupping therapy has been used in China for millennia. Initially, it was applied with cross sections of bamboo or cattle horns. These ‘cups’ were ignited in fire or boiled in water to generate negative pressure inside the bamboo or horn to push out the air and draw the skin into the cups. In treating boils, the cups were mostly used to draw out blood and pus. At first, cupping was used as a complementary treatment for traditional Chinese surgery. Soon, it was shown to have the power to treat other diseases; eventually, it evolved into a special healing technique.
Cupping was first mentioned in the ancient book Bo Shu, which written on silk, discovered in a tomb associated with the Han Dynasty. Many other ancient documents mentioned Chinese medicinal cupping. Hundreds of years later, the Su Sen Liang Fang, another preeminent medical document described cupping therapy as a potent treatment for chronic cough and in the fruitful treatment of venomous snake bites.
Several thousand years later, based on clinical experience amassed over the course of time, the medicinal applications of cupping have become increasingly popular. Today, this healing art is used to treat skin conditions, indigestion problems, chronic cough, the common cold, asthma, and arthritic symptoms.
There’s a saying in China: “Over half of the ills cured with cupping and acupuncture.” Over two centuries ago, a physician by the name of Shao Sue Ming, compiled a book called Ben Cong Gang Mu Zhe Yi whereby he detailed the origin and background of various form of kinds of cup shapes and cupping applications and functions.
In the Chinese mainland, the evolution of cupping therapy has been frenetic. The clinical potency of cupping was established by the co-research of acupuncturists from the former Soviet Union and China in the 1950’s. Because of this, cupping therapy was confirmed as an official healing practice in hospitals throughout China.
These day, as celebrities such as Gwyneth and other less known but nonetheless, very important people are looking to alternative therapies to address their health problems, the use of cupping and traditional Chinese medicine modalities is increasing. Most of the cupping techniques and equipment used today are exactly the same as they were thousands of years ago. Today, silicone suction cups are used as well as mechanized or electronic pumps for cupping but to a great extent, an overwhelming number of cupping practitioners still use glass, bamboo or horn cups.
With the exception of a few acupuncturists, the reason cupping procedures have stayed the same as in ancient times is because this therapy is commonly practiced in rural areas where very little or no modern medicine is available.
Cupping influences the movement of blood and Chi in the body. It extracts and removes pathogenic elements such as heat, damp, cold and wind. It also opens the pores of the skin, which facilitates the elimination of pathogens through the skin itself.
My first encounter with this treatment occurred when I was suffering from a really severe cold. I visited an acupuncturist recommended my by friend who placed cups on my back. Before the cupping procedure, my back was rubbed with massage oil and later on the cups were applied on my back while I was lying upside down. I felt the sharp edges of the cups slowly digging into my flesh. Suddenly, as my skin was sucked up from my body I experienced a smoothing warmth on the area of treatment. The acupuncturist moved the cups up and down my back once they were firmly in place. After a while, she stopped the procedure with the cups still strongly attached to my back. She told me to rest for several minutes. After 30 minutes or so, she removed the cups from my back. I felt much improved once I rose up from the table. I had purplish blue marks on my back but the heaviness in my chest disappeared. These marks didn’t bother nor hurt me at all. Two days later, they vanished along with my cold. Cupping provided me a way to get rid of my cough and cure of my cold.