Cupping was practiced in ancient and traditional medicines including Greek, Egyptian, Chinese and Arab, and it continues to be used in alternative medicine and holistic therapies.
During dry cupping, heat or pumps are used to create suction within small cups. The cups are placed over the patient’s skin – the location depends on the treatment – and the vacuum effect of the suction draws the skin up into the cup. The resulting pressure is not painful, but it’s strong enough to bring blood, toxins and impurities to the surface of the skin.
Wet Cupping or Hijamah
Wet cupping combines dry cupping with bloodletting. After suction from the dry cupping is released, tiny incisions are made in the patient’s skin where the blood has collected beneath the surface. New cupping is done over the same area – often several times – to draw impure blood out through the incisions and into the cups.
Holistic Benefits of Cupping Therapy and Bloodletting (Phlebotomy)
Cupping is used both as a holistic therapy and treatment in alternative medicine. Practitioners claim that dry cupping therapy is beneficial in treating pain, muscular and joint problems, circulatory problems, colds, indigestion, arthritis, congestion in the throat and lungs, headaches, fever, and more. In traditional Chinese medicine, cupping is believed to restore energy balance.
Bloodletting offers the added benefits of removing toxins, excess iron and excess red blood cells from the body. Modern medical theories about bloodletting suggest that a drop in iron might help “starve” microbes and other germs, while a six-year-long study by U.S. researchers shows that regular bloodletting (phlebotomy) can help reduce the risk of death, stroke and heart attacks by half.
Up until the 20th century, leeches were widely used for bloodletting in America and Europe. Bloodletting lost much of its popularity with the advent of conventional medicine, but some doctors still find phlebotomy helpful in treating certain blood disorders and in relieving venous pressure.
Hijamah in Islamic Tradition and Hadith
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught that cupping was both a cure and a blessing. Early Muslims used bloodletting to treat numerous afflictions including headaches, stomach problems, poison, magic, bruising, pain, skin sores and more. Hijamah continues to be practiced by Muslims today.
Many Islamic narrations (hadith) cite the importance of hijamah, including:
- “Healing is in three things: in the incision of the cupper, in drinking honey, and in cauterizing with fire, but I forbid my nation from cauterization with fire.” ~ Saheeh al-Bukhaaree
- “Cupping (hijamah) on an empty stomach is best. In it is a cure and a blessing. It improves the intellect and the memory.” ~ Saheeh Sunan ibn Maajah
- “Indeed the best of remedies you have is cupping (hijamah).” ~ Saheeh al-Bukhaaree
Muslims therefore regard hijamah as an important and effective treatment for a variety of conditions. However, credit for any cure must go to Allah (God), as He enables a treatment to work. In the Qur’an, Allah says:”And if Allah tests you with affliction, there is none who can remove it but He.” (Qur’an 10:107)
* Muslims invoke Allah’s blessings on the Prophet Muhammad whenever his name is mentioned.
- “Cupping Therapy: Al Hijamah,” Healthmeanswealth.co.uk
- “To Bleed or Not to Bleed” by Aisha El-Awady (July 2004), Islamonline.net
- “The Cupping Cure” by Lara Endreszl (March 8, 2009), Healthnews.com
- “One from (and for!) the Heart” By Lauren Dzubow, The Oprah Magazine