Fire cupping is an ancient form of medicine that has foundation in many cultures around the world, dating back for centuries. In essence, it is a form of acupressure and bloodletting ritual combined.
Hot Cupping for Health Benefits?
A cup or bell-shaped vessel is warmed by the flame of a candle or small flaming torch and quickly applied to a flat region of the human body, generally the back, shoulders and neck regions. A healthful benefit is said to be the intended goal.
As the hot air in the cup vessel cools, it contracts and creates a vacuum which drawsthe fleshy skin, supposedly extracting toxins of the body such as blood, phlegm, yellow and black bile.
It is not uncommon for this homeopathic remedy to leave circular bruising marks as we will see.
This traditional practice is dated to as far ago as 3000 B.C., is mentioned in Egyptian texts in 1550 B.C. and even in Greek medicine by Hippocrates. The practice exists in multiple forms in both Asian and European civilization and has ties to the traditions of blood-letting with similar stated benefits to health.
Wet Cupping and Blood-letting
In the case of what is called ‘wet-cupping,’ a small incision is made in the patient’s skin at the target location and the hot vacuum cup is applied. The negative pressure created by hot-cupping increases the blood flow through the incision.
In oriental practice, hot-cupping is often performed over an applied acupuncture needle as well, which alleges to enhance the beneficial effect.
As with traditional blood-letting practices (such as medicinal leeches,) the intended purpose of wet-cupping is ‘…to remove excess blood and bodily toxins to improve health.’ It was widely maintained that improved health and relief from just about any malady of the human body was remedied by blood-letting, even if in actual blood-letting practice often patient died anyway.
My western mind scoffs at blood-letting for what it is and to a certain degree, even hot-cupping as a treatment as performed here, where the stated goals are for cold and pneumonia relief. These are stated to be curable by or effect of greatly reduced from application of this procedure. Patients claim that there is a benefit to these treatments yet modern medical science does not support these allegations
Unquantitative claims of ‘improved relaxation‘ and ‘invigoration’ are also often cited as the end result of hot cupping and wet cupping alike.
Seeing images such as these do more to scare me than convince me that hot cupping is anything more than apocryphal fallacy rooted in superstition and cultural beliefs. Practiced differently by region and culture with different physical effects, but all claiming to be effective? That is like aspirin being accepted and proven to be effective for bodily pain relief in one culture if taken with a glass of water, while [sic] in another culture aspirin also being effective for pain relief but only if applied directly to the skin
How can an ‘effective remedy’ be practiced so differently, with such differing results and still be reputed to have similar positive effects? My mind says that it cannot.
Furthermore, it suggests that the effects are in the mind of the patient due to unwavering trust in the practitioner. -You have to believe that it will work for it to be effective.
Hot Cupping Leaves Unsightly Temporary Visible Marks
Varying widely by region, it is not uncommon for hot-cupping to leave visible marks upon the soft tissues where applied. In some cultures it is expected and deemed to be not effectual unless exit wounds (bruises, etc.) are created. In others, this is stated to occur because it was ‘over-used‘ or ‘used incorrectly.’ Such dichotomy in an effectual medicinal practice really shouldn’t exist for the beneficial effects of one are the abuse of another thus, become mutualy exclusive. They are either both correct, or both wrong. It cannot be one or the other.
In other cultures, it is said to be done incorrectly if bruising occurs. Either way, the procedure should not be painful and if the patient complains of discomfort or actual pain, the procedure should be halted.
I might subscribe to the stated relaxation of hot stones applied topically to my bare back or even ear wax candling, but hot cupping? I am even more unsure about the benefits of this than ever now that I’ve seen the visible effects of negative-pressure bruising upon the skin.
Who wants a dozen welts and hickeys on their back, neck and chest all in the name and pursuit of some nebulous improvement of health?’
I’ll think I will have to pass on this.