Cupping is a method of regulating the flow of Qi and Blood by creating a vacuum in a glass cup and placing it over acupoints on the body. Qi and Blood are drawn towards the surface, not only relieving areas of stagnation, but encouraging the elimination of pathogenic factors (Wind, Cold, Damp and Heat) from deeper to more superficial layers of the body's energy system, and opening the pores to eliminate pathogens through the skin itself.
Cupping can be used to move stagnant Qi, Blood, Food and Fluids, drain the lymphatic system,purify the Blood and calm the nervous system. A clinical trial conducted by Ilkay Zihni Chirali demonstrated that cupping drastically reduced the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) (a blood test used to measure levels of inflammation) in a variety of ailments.
While cupping has a systematic use supported by the theory of traditional Chinese medicine, it is an ancient form of medical treatment found in most studied civilisations, including that of Africa, where the horns of animals continue to be used to draw blood to the surface of the body and eliminate poisons. Ancient Egyptian records describe similar uses for cupping, which the Romans quickly learned to use when the Roman physician, Prosper Alipinus, visited Egypt in the 16th century.
Hippocrates and Galen in ancient Greece actively supported the use of cupping. (Hippocrates is regarded as the father of Western medicine, but if one reads his writings one finds personal, tactile descriptions of working with the energy of his patients in ways which would be quite familiar to any Chinese Qi Gong master, so he was fully aware of the world of energy medicine.)
British doctors such as Samual Bayfield were describing the 'art of cupping' in 1823, and were studying, using and paying official 'hospital cuppers' up until the 1860s. Jewish and Muslim traditions also contain rich accounts of cupping. Today cupping is still practised in Japan, Germany, Poland, Russia, Scandanavia, the Czech republic, Turkey, Greece, Brazil, Portugal, the Balkans and by many Mediterranean peoples.
Traditional Chinese medicine uses cupping to treat abdominal pain, anaemia, asthma, atrophy, back pain, sexual complaints, bed-wetting, boils and skin problems, chest pains, common colds, coughs, influenza, fevers constipation, dysmenorrhoea, hypertension, musculoskeletal pain, stroke, fatigue, and varicose or broken veins, among other ailments.
Cupping is a soothing treatment which usually relaxes patients although it can leave temporary red, circular marks on the skin, as the media noticed when following and photographing Gwyneth Paltrow, who appears to have helped popularise this method of treatment!
- Source: Chirali, Ilkay. 2007. Traditional Chinese Medicine Cupping Therapy. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone