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The Little Giant Encyclopedia of Natural Healing defines cupping as a “method of heat stimulation in which small warm cups, bowls, or drums are placed on the skin in order to increase local blood supply.”
There are two types of cupping: dry cupping, in which the cups are heated, left in place and then removed, and wet cupping, in which shallow cuts are made in the raised skin and cups applied to draw blood into them. Early practitioners believed that poisons would be drawn out of the body in this way, along with the blood.
Cupping has been used since ancient times and was a popular practice in both Western and Eastern medicine.
The Ebers Papyrus, one of the oldest medical textbooks in the world, describes the systematic use of cupping by the early Egyptians, as far back as 1,550 B.C.
The famous Taoist alchemist and herbalist, Ge Hong (281–341 A.D.), described this method in his book A Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies. The cups were actually animal horns, used for draining pustules.
Today, cupping is used by some alternative practitioners, usually from the disciplines of acupuncture or shiatsu.
Cups are made from glass or bamboo. Typically, cups are round vessels, 1" to 3" in diameter.
Heated cups are placed on the patient’s skin and as it cools creates a partial vacuum which draws flesh into the cup. Blood flow increases in the area within the cups, which are left in place for 5-10 minutes according to the type of condition being treated. Sometimes the process is repeated on different parts of the body within the same treatment.
During a cupping treatment, the patient experiences a mild pulling sensation, which calms the sympathetic nerves and allows a deep relaxation to move through the whole body. It is not unusual for someone to fall asleep during the treatment, waking up afterwards feeling relaxed and refreshed.
The cups are removed by pressing the skin around them.
After cupping, there is a blood stasis or bruise at the local area. Generally, it will disappear several days later. Small blisters occurring on the skin will absorb naturally several days later. If the blisters are severe, draw out the liquid by a sterile syringe, apply gentian violet and cover them with gauze to prevent infection.
It was believed in the West that the increased blood flow caused by cupping helps remove impurities from nearby tissues and organs.
The Chinese believe that cupping draws unwanted Qi life energy to the body’s surface, where it is dispersed.
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