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Cupping is a method of treating disease that is caused by local congestion. A partial vacuum is created in a cupping jar, usually by means of heat, which is then applied directly to the skin. The underlying tissue is drawn up into the jar forming an area of blood stasis. This appears to bruise the area, or at least turn it a bright red. The amount of dark red or even purple blood drawn to the surface indicates the degree of stagnation. Dark blood is a sign of stagnation, which in many cases in modern terms is the amount of toxins in the blood.

In ancient times, animal horns and bamboo jars were used, principally to drain pustulating sores.

Later this method was used to treat consumptive and rheumatic diseases. Today jars are made mostly out of glass to standard sizes and specifications, although bamboo jars are still occasionally used.

Cupping is generally indicated in the treatment of Arthritic pain, abdominal pain, stomach ache, indigestion, headache, hypertension, common cold, cough, low back pain, painful menstruation, insect and poisonous snake bite.


Cupping should NOT be used when there is high fever, for convulsions or cramps, allergic skin conditions, or ulcerated sores.

Cupping should only be done on the soft muscle tissue and should NOT be done where the muscle layer is thin, is not level because of bony projections or angles, on the face, or on the abdomen or lower back of pregnant women.

Cupping Method

Attach a cotton ball to a stick or forceps and dip into 90% alcohol. Avoid alcohol of lesser distillation as it won't burn hot enough to create a sufficient vacuum.

Ignite the the alcohol-soaked cotton ball and thrust into the jar. This will evacuate some of the air in the jar creating a vacuum within it.

Quickly remove the cotton ball, as you don't want to heat the jar, and very quickly thrust the jar onto the skin. Depending on the strength of the vacuum created, the muscle tissue will be sucked up into the jar. With practice this becomes a fairly simple maneuver.

Leave the jar in place for 15 - 20 minutes and then remove. Depending on the degree of toxicity in the muscle tissue treatment will result in either only a slight reddening of the skin for slight toxicity, or a rather nasty looking bruise of high toxicity. To make a better seal and to allow moving the cups around in a massage technique, a lubricant such as Olive Oil, or KY Jelly may be used.

There are other methods of creating the vacuum, such as the 'twinkling' method. In this method, a small alcohol soaked piece of paper is thrown into the jar and the jar applied to the skin. This method should be used while the patient is sitting up to avoid burning the skin.

Cupping may be combined with Acupuncture. First insert the needle in the desired point and then place the jar over the needle. Make sure you use a jar large enough to accommodate the needle.

Another method is the use of a pump apparatus. The vacuum is created simply by pumping the air out from a plastic jar. Kits are available at most suppliers. This method is preferred by some as there is no danger of burning the client.

While cupping is an extremely effective treatment for colds, flu, for a wide variety of muscle strain injuries and for drawing out toxins, it does tend to leave large areas of bruising and depending on the severity of the injury can be uncomfortable for the patient.

These bruises are not dangerous and disappear in a few days.


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