As colds are probably the most common illness around, TCM has countless ways to prevent colds, cure colds, and stop them from becoming full blown or getting worse.  Just like anything, they don’t always work all the time on all people, hence the variety of approaches.  In my last post, I talked about using teas to stop a cold; in this one, we’ll talk about cupping 拔火罐 (bahuoguan).

I’ll let Jo from Life Behind The Wall explain, (please note, she mistakenly calls the procedure “gua sha;” she is in fact referring to cupping):

[M]y husband started feeling a little ill.  He told me he needed to go to the massage parlor for “Gua Sha”… I said .. I want to come along…I went.. and I was freaked out.. and almost had to leave.

They started pulling out these little fish bowl looking-glass things.  They would take fire and make the bowl hot then stick it on his body.  All over his body… then his skin would be sucked up into the glass bowl…. this is supposed to suck the poison out of his body through his skin.

He looked miserable.. and the hot glass bowls looked painful.. but he assured me that it did not hurt.  (I still do not believe him) … this lasted about an hour.. until they had them all over his body.. they then slowly begin to take the bowls off… and his body had large bright red circle all over…. it looked like someone had beat him with a baseball bat.

However, he got up and said he felt better… just that quick.. I was amazed and sickened at the same time.  I asked him .. if you did not feel well could you of just taken a Tylenol.. and a nap? But.. he swears that this is what makes him feel better…

[… M]y husband seemed to be getting better by the minute..After about a half hour, the guy came back in .. and declared that my honey could go home….[I was] beginning to think that it was kind of magic since my husband was almost completely back to normal.

For someone who has no experience with cupping, I think Jo’s is a good first-contact introduction.

People debate whether cupping works, if so, how and why, and on what medical conditions it works.  While I can’t say I’ve had as immediate and noticeable results at Jo’s husband, I do have cupping done quite regularly.  Many people say it helps with coughing and bronchitis and is effective at warding off cold-like illnesses.

So next time you feel a cold coming on, head to the nearest Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor or acupuncturist, or in China, most massage clinics offer it as well, and ask for cupping-bahuoguan.  If nothing else, its a great way to relax tense shoulder and back muscles.

Don’t worry about the marks, they usually go away within a week, and neither the cupping nor the after marks are painful.