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History & Background of Cupping

Heath & Nicole December 22, 2022

Cupping Definition

Cupping therapy is based on the Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) method of encouraging healing by creating negative pressure via suction. The main purpose is to enhance the circulation of blood and chi or qi.


Cupping traces its documents history from the TCM dating over 3,000 years ago (though multiple sources affirm that indigenous medicine people / shamans used versions of suction that predate TCM). In addition to Tui Na, Gua sha, acupuncture / acupressure, and herbs cupping helps comprise the basic TCM approaches to bodywork. Other cultures utilizing cupping include ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, as supported by archeological texts (both Hippocrates and Galen were proponents of cupping therapy). From ancient Greeks to Romans, cupping was then passed on to Arabs and Persians and even the prophet Mohammad sanctioned the use of cupping. In western cultures, cupping remained an integral part of conventional, alternative, and folk-based medicine until the early 20th century. An early pioneer of western surgery, Charles Kennedy wrote in 1826, “The art of cupping has been so well-known, and the benefits arising from it so long experienced, that it is quite unnecessary to bring forward testimonials in favor of what has received no only the approbation of modern times, but also the sanction of remotest antiquity.” Interestingly, although cupping fell out of favor in the early 1900s, recent inventions like the modern breast pump evolved from the use of cups for lactation difficulties. The good news is cupping is enjoying a well-deserved resurgence of popularity and likely will continue for much time to come.

Eastern & Western Theories of Cupping Efficacy

“In every culture and in every medical tradition before ours, healing was accomplished by moving energy.”

Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, Biochemist and Nobel Prize Winner

TCM asserts that the skin is like a fence, and has the ability to breathe, defend, excrete, and regulate body temperature. This fence or force field is known as “wei chi” in TCM and is responsible for encouraging our overall wellness and prevention from infection and disease. In conjunction with the wei chi, our meridians assist in heath by clearing and removing “stagnation” out of our body.

The meridians are the energetic channels that connect the inside of our body (organs, glands, blood, nerves, etc) with the outside of our body where the acupoints live. Ideally, meridians regulate, balance, and harmonize our body’s Yin Yang forces and are the networks that transport nutrients and energy to our organs. We will be healthy if stagnation from the meridians are removed.