Cupping is one of the oldest methods of TCM. The earliest recorded use of cupping dates to the early fourth century, when the noted herbalist Ge Hong wrote about a form of cupping in “A Handbook of Prescriptions”. Later books written during the Tang and Qing dynasties described cupping in great detail; one textbook included an entire chapter on “fire jar qi,” a type of cupping that could alleviate headaches, dizziness and abdominal pain.
In a cupping treatment, a cotton ball is soaked in alcohol and it is then light and placed under the cup – this removes the oxygen, which creates a vacuum. The cup is then quickly turned upside down so that the practitioner can place it over the specific area to be treated. The vacuum created by the lack of oxygen anchors the cup to the skin and pulls the skin upwards towards the cup.
Originally, practitioners would use hollowed-out animal horns for cups and place them over the particular points or even the channels. Today, most practitioners use cups made of thick glass or plastic, although bamboo is also commonly used.
The glass or plastic cups are the better method to use because they allow the practitioner to see the skin and evaluate the effects of the treatment.
Drawing up the skinniness up the skin’s pores, which helps to stimulate the flow of blood, breaks up obstructions, promotes the flow of Qi and creates the possibility for toxins to drawn out of the body. The cups are left in place from 5-10 mins (depending on the medical condition).
Is cupping safe? Does it hurt?
While cupping is considered safe in the hands of a qualified practitioner, it can cause some swelling and bruising on the skin. As the skin under the cup is drawn up, the blood vessels the surface of the skin expand. This may result in small, circular bruises not he areas where the cups were applied.
These bruises are usually painless and disappear within a few days of the treatment.
What is cupping used for?
Cupping is used to relieve back and neck pain, stiff muscles, anxiety, fatigue, migraines, rheumatism, and even cellulitis.
In 2012, a study by Australian and Chinese researchers was published in the journal PLoS ONE where 135 studies on cupping therapy published between 1992 and 2010 – they concluded that cupping therapy may be effective when combined with other treatments like acupuncture or medications in treating various diseases and conditions, such as: herpes zoster, acne, facial paralysis, cervical spondylosis, etc.
Here is a YouTube video where Dr. Melissa Carr (Dr. of Traditional Chinese Medicine), demonstrates part of a TCM consultation and diagnosis, acupuncture treatment, and fire cupping on host Isla on the Oprah Winfrey Network show.