Part Four: Fire Cupping, say what?!

Another somewhat tame Traditional Chinese Medicine practice, albeit one step more adventurous that a foot massage, is cupping. Glass cups are heated and suctioned onto one’s back, drawing the skin up into the cup, and left in place for about 15 minutes.

fire cupping marks

If you are hesitant about experiencing TCM, think about how TCM has existed for thousands of years. Cupping dates back in China as far back as 1000 B.C., and also has long history present in other regions as Greece and Egypt. In comparison to prescription drugs which are foreign objects that your body does not recognize, cupping is an all-natural experience that is not invasive to your body. Since most prescription drugs have only been around for just a couple of years, the long-term effects are unknown. Of course, like anything, moderation is the key, and both Western and Eastern medicine can be used in harmony; there is time and room for both.

Photo credit: Psit

Photo credit: Psit

After 6 months of a horribly deep cough, I decided to make a visit to a TCM shop. After having exhausted Western solutions—antibiotics and cough medicine—and taking extra care of my body with sleeping and drinking tea, I looked to Eastern ones, after all I was in China. Why I hadn’t thought of cupping earlier, I have no idea, but thank goodness I finally found it! Within 3 days my cough had completely subsided. Besides the intense and ugly marks on my back, there were no negative side effects.

Cupping is a must-do experience in China, even without the presence of a nasty cough. Cupping is good for overall health, including improved circulation and respiratory health. If nothing else, consider it a deep-tissue massage. Outside of China, you can find the practice both in Chinese shops and Western high-end spas. Both will have the same positive benefits, but I recommend going the Chinese-route, as cupping originated in China. The more high-end spas can be quite expensive (~$75/session), where as the Chinese spas are more reasonable, at about $20-30/session. Nothing can beat the price in China however, where you can get a cupping session for less than $5.

拔火罐 (báhuǒguàn): Fire cupping