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Healing through Suction
Cupping, called Hijama by the Muslims, is the application of suction cups to the skin to draw out stagnant, congested blood and Vital Force, as well as other stagnant or morbid humors. Usually, the cups are made of glass, but they can also be made of bamboo, bone, horn or metal.
The classical method for creating suction in the cup is to use fire to consume the air within it. But more recently, squeezable cups with a rubber top, or cups drained by suction pumps are also used.
Cupping may be done either wet or dry. Dry cupping is simply placing the suction cups on the skin. Wet cupping, or Scarification and Cupping, is a form of bloodletting that involves first making an incision on the skin, then applying the suction cups to suck out small amounts of blood.
History of Cupping
Cupping therapy is an incredibly ancient and universal practice that spans both East and West. In the primitive shamanistic practices of all the world’s indigenous peoples, there were certain shamans who specialized in the sucking out of illness and infirmity from the body.
In the West, cupping therapy had its birth in Egypt. The Ebers Papyrus, written around 1550 B.C.E., states that bleeding by wet cupping removes foreign matter from the body. In cupping, the ancient Egyptians saw the remedy for just about every disorder.
The ancient Egyptians passed the art of cupping on to the ancient Greeks. Both Hippocrates and Galen were staunch advocates and users of cupping therapy. Galen once condemned Erasistratus, a noted physician in Alexandria, for not using cupping.
How Cupping Works
Traditional healers have long recognized the association between pain and conditions of congestion, stagnation and blockage. An old Chinese medical maxim states: Where there’s stagnation, there will be pain. Remove the stagnation, and you remove the pain.
Not only pain, but the vast majority of all illness and disease comes from stagnation, congestion and blockage – of energy, like the Vital Force, or of vital fluids or humors, like blood, phlegm or lymph. The suction applied by cupping sucks out and breaks up that congestion, stagnation, or blockage, restoring a free flow to the vital energies and humors of the organs.
Actually, pain is the essence of disease. Suffering, or dis-ease, is experienced when things aren’t flowing right, when there’s some difficulty or obstruction to the natural flow and functioning of the body. This is what Galen meant when he spole of disease as being the state contrary to Nature.
In addition to dispersing and breaking up stagnation and congestion in the flow of the Vital Force, blood and other humors, cupping also disperses pathogenic heat, toxins and inflammation by bringing them to the surface for release. Pathogenic heat and toxins can fester and eat away at the organism when they’re submerged and under pressure, but they find release at the surface. Cupping can even be instrumental in mitigating or relieving fevers in the acute crisis stage, and in mitigating and reducing the putrefaction of blood and other humors, a common cause of fevers.
By drawing congested energy, blood, or other humors to the surface, cupping is a form of derivation therapy. Derivation means the drawing away or diversion of vital energies or substances away from the site of blockage and obstruction in order to relieve congestion and restore health and patency to the organs.
Toxins, morbid humors and other congested offending matter can do more harm when they’re deep within the organism, obstructing the functioning of the vital organs at the body’s core. The organism, whenever it can, will try to peripheralize such morbid matter by sending it to the service in the form of various cysts, boils or eruptions, even though they nay be unsightly.
Cupping is a way of activating this peripheralization and relieving pathogenic congestion to the internal organs, thus averting or preventing more serious disorders.
By improving the circulation of blood, lymph and other vital fluids and breaking up and dispersing blockages and congestions of offending waste matter, toxins and morbid humors, cupping improves the eliminative functions and the evacuation of wastes from the organism. In Greek Medicine, the proper and timely evacuation of wastes from the body forms an important aspect of hygiene. Whether it be constipation, urinary retention, or even suppressed menses, the undue retention of anything that should be expelled is a major cause of morbidity and disease.
The Benefits of Cupping
The benefits of cupping are many. On a general, systemic level, cupping improves the circulation of blood and lymph. It also regulates and improves the functioning of the autonomic nervous system.
Locally, the most obvious benefit of cupping are a relief of pain and a relaxation and increased suppleness of stiff tendons and muscles. Cupping increases the cleansing flow of lymph, while removing congested blood from the muscles. If cupping is applied to the joints, the blood flow to the joint is increased and there’s an increased secretion of synoivial fluid into the joint cavity.
Cupping’s effect on the digestive organs is to increase their digestive secretions and enhance their peristaltic movement. Cupping can awaken the appetite, strengthen the stomach and digestion, improve the bile flow and metabolism, relieve constipation and promote regularity of the bowels.
Cupping has a dramatic detoxifying effect on the skin and circulatory system. By increasing the flow of blood and plasma through the veins and arteries, cupping enhances the cleansing and removal of toxins. This detoxification may not be observable after just one treatment, but after about three to five sessions, there will be a noticeable improvement in the color of one’s complexion.
Cupping is beneficial and indicated for multiple disorders affecting multiple organ systems:
- Digestive system: constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Vital, Metabolic: low energy, fatigue, anemia, atrophy of the tissues, cellulite, emaciation, weight gain – normalizes body weight.
- Nervous system: headaches, depression, emotional problems – balances the nervous system.
- Gynecological: menstrual pain, suppressed or irregular menses and menopausal symptoms.
- Musculoskeletal: Local application, as appropriate, for back pain, arthritis, traumatic injuries, lumbago, sciatica, tennis elbow and frozen shoulder.
- Respiratory & Circulatory: asthma, bronchitis, common cold and flu, high blood pressure. Increased blood flow to the skin is therapeutic for many different skin disorders.