Traditional Roots of Cupping

The ancient tradition of cupping has been getting a lot of press since the start of the summer 2016 Olympics, as many athletes including Michael Phleps and Natalie Coughlin, have been seen donning circular marks on their backs and shoulders.

Cupping has been around for thousands of years and have been used by numerous traditions to support healing. Cupping reduces inflammation, reduce toxins and improves circulation. It also promotes a feeling a calmness and reduced anxiety. Many feel this is because it helps regulate the autonomic nervous system and reduce the “flight or fight” sensation that many people experience on a daily basis.

The earliest records of cupping date back to the Ebers Papyrus (1550 BC), one of the oldest living medical documents preserved today. Even Hippocrates mentions cupping in medical literature from 400 BC. Cupping has roots in the Middle East, Asia, Northern & Eastern Europe and North American traditional peoples. Cups can be made from glass, bamboo, animal horns and shells.

Cups are applied to the skin using a flame to create a vacuum, this is referred to as Fire Cupping. Cups can also be applied with a pump like suction that draws the air out of the cup. The skin literally draws up into the cup creating tightness.

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Reduce Toxins:

Cupping is known to draw out toxins and purify the body. Some theorize that cupping promotes health by facilitating the removal of toxins. The cupping action draws toxins to the surface of the skin where the immune system is better able to eliminate them.

Others theorize that cupping helps reset the fascia that lies under the muscle and helps keep the shape of the muscle. Tension and stagnation can alter the tone of the muscle and fascia and create “knots” and trigger points. Cupping helps disperse this stagnation.

Regulate Qi flow:

Others believe that cupping works with the Traditional Chinese Medicine notion of Qi flow. Typically cups are applied along the Yang Channels of the back such as the Gallbladder, Urinary Bladder and Small Intestine channels. These channels are often tense and hold a lot of stagnation.  Cups along the channel can help improve the Qi flow and reduce pain.

There are many Cupping Techniques that can be utilized.

Tonifying Cupping: Cups are applied for approximately 10 minutes and then removed.

Draining Cupping: Cups are applied for up to 20 minutes and then removed.

Flash Cupping: Cups are applied and then removed immediately.

Sliding Cups: Cups are applied over oil and slid across the muscle or acupuncture channel.

Bleeding Cupping or Wet Cupping (Hajimah or Haracat): The skin is pierced and then cups are applied. This is no longer legal in the USA but is widely used in Turkey and Islamic countries. 3 slices are placed on the skin, to represent Allah, and bled for 3-8 minutes.


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Finnish Traditions also utilizes wet cutting as was seen on Anthony Bourdain’s  No Reservations where Mr. Bourdain gets a wet cupping session in a sauna. Mr. Bourdain dubbed Helsinki a “dark and morbid city” which couldn’t have been more apropos for the wet cupping visual. Mr. Bourdain’s skin was pierced with a sharp lancet and dozens of cups were placed along his back. Check out the video if you have a strong stomach!

I stick to sliding cups or flash cupping. Typically, I place an oil on the back and then apply the cups using fire to create the vacuum. I usually work with four cups and slide them along the channels to create a deep massage. People often feel very relaxed afterwards. In keeping with the ancients I avoid cupping if a woman is menstruating or if someone is weak or recovering from an illness. I also avoid cupping if someone has plans to drink excessively that evening as it could make people more susceptible to catching a cold.

Cupping is an extraordinary, sacred tradition that has withstood the test of time. Check it out for yourself!


you can also check out my blog post on here

Pediatric Massage

Simple pediatric massage can have great benefits. Children respond well to meridian stimulation – and you can see immediate results. Additionally, massaging your own children will expedite their healing. You can use these techniques for treating the common cold, immune support, fever reduction and many other conditions. Please check in with your pediatrician as well.

Seed Cycling for Menstrual Regulation

Seed Cycling is a natural way to support female reproductive hormones. This is great if you are not cycling (amenorrhea) or if you are having irregular cycles & PMS.

If you are not cycling at all – or having extremely irregular cycles – use the Lunar phases as a guide for regulating your own flow.

The New moon will be Day 1 of your cycle. This will be your Follicular Phase, which is dominated by the hormone estrogen. Take 1 tbsp. daily of crushed Flax seeds and Pumpkin seeds (also known as Pepita seeds).

At the Full Moon switch to the Luteal Phase. The Luteal phase is dominated by the hormone progesterone, which is secreted from the corpus luteam of the egg after ovulation. To support progesterone take 1Tbsp. daily of crushed sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. Do this until the New Moon.

This make take a few months but stick with it! It really helps 🙂

Treating Bell’s Palsy with Moxibustion

Bell’s Palsy is a sudden and temporary facial paralysis that causes half of the face to droop. It can be very alarming, but is usually a temporary condition. Once you get the diagnosis it is important to treat with immediately with acupuncture, acupressure and moxibustion. Although the causes of Bell’s Palsy are not completely known, stress is considered a major factor.

Check out this video on how to use Moxibustion to treat Bell’s Palsy.

Gua Sha

Gua Sha is a traditional healing technique in East Asian medicine. It is used widely in Vietnamese, Indian and Indonesian cultures as well as in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The name Gua Sha is taken from the classical text, The Shang Han Lun, 220 CE and translates to “scraping – bruises”.

In a typical Gua Sha treatment the surface of the body is pressed and stroked with a smooth edged instrument, like a spoon, coin, or egg, to raise therapeutic petechiae. Petechiae, or bruising, appears as small red or purple spots on the skin which is a result of minor bleeding due to broken capillary blood vessels.

Practitioners use Gua Sha to release stagnation, pain and heat that is trapped in the body. By scraping the muscle or meridian, blood flow increases and toxins and heat are released. The amount of bruising or sha present after a treatment clues the practitioner in to how much stagnation is released.

I utilize gua sha therapy in the clinic to reduce pain, increase well-being and reduce stress. At home I use gua sha on my children if they have a fever or are tense in their shoulders (they are always doing gymnastics and jiu jitsu).

Even this past week I had the opportunity to use gua sha to treat my 9 year-old who was suffering from a headache and 104 degree fever. I typically try to avoid NSAIDS and let their fevers run their course.

My treatment included starting with a warm bath and then slowly added cooler water so the temperature dropped slowly as not to give her the shivers. I avoided wetting the hair. After she was dry and clothed I laid her down on the living room floor and had her pull up her shirt to expose her back and neck.

I applied some light oil – I like to use aromatic oils to reduce fevers – like something with a hint of mint or eucalyptus – to her upper back.

Occasionally I use castor oil too which, has immune boosting properties. I then took the lid off of a jelly jar and began doing Gua Sha to her upper back. I held the lid in my right hand and applied short and quick strokes along her upper back.

I spent a lot of time at the area right at the base of her spine scraping the cutaneous skin. In Traditional Chinese medicine the spot below C-7 called Daizhu or DU 14, because of its fever reducing property.

Because she is young I kept the pressure very light and avoided getting a lot of sha or bruising. I spent about 10-minutes on her back and then covered her quickly with a towel and then had her get dressed immediately to avoid catching chill.

Her temperature lowered significantly and her pain was markedly reduced. Her color returned to her face. She reported feeling really calm and relaxed and asked me to do it again!

We continued this treatment 2 x over the next two days until she was back doing cartwheels instead of walking.


Chili Peppers: Euphoria or Torture?

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Chilis are a diverse fruit that bloom on the nightshade family of plants. Not only do chilis enhance the flavor of food, they also have a dual function of nurturing life by treating pain as well as halting humans in riot control. In this sense, chilis embody the the Daoist nature of the Yin Yang symbol where opposites are intrinsically connected.

Chilis are also a natural and safe way to protect crops from vermin, dogs and even elephants by adding it to feed or lining the perimeter of fields with chilis. This diverse fruit boasts a variety of macabre names and grow in numerous grades of intensity and shades of greens to red. From topical salves for arthritis to euphoria inducing salsas to legendary 90’s rock band, chili peppers attract millions of people worldwide.


Chili peppers have been a part of the human diet in the Americas since at least 7500 BC. Some historians credit Chrisopher Colombus for “stumbling” upon peppers in the Caribbean and disseminating them throughout Europe and the East through trade routes. Others believe that the Spanish missionaries were drawn to the chilis wdiely used in Mexico and South Americans. Today chilies are at the core of many cuisines worldwide, namely Asian and South American cuisines.


The hottest portion of the chili pepper is the white membrane, or placenta, that surrounds the seeds. This protective sheath keeps mammals from destroying the seeds in the wild whilst they do not affect birds at all, which helps spread the seed. The placental portion contains capsaicin that has been identified as a compound that elevates the body temperature, produces sweating and increases heart rate. It is an irritant for mammals, including humans, and produces a sensation of burning in any tissue with which it comes into contact. Capsaicin in the eyes and nose produces extreme discomfort, which is what makes it effective for crowd control.

Chilis are so hot that they are graded on an international scale called the Scoville Scale. The Scoville number refers to how much dilution would be needed to render the heat imperceptible. Currently Wikipedia lists the world’s hottest chili peppers as:

  • Carolina Reaper: 2.2M SHU
  • Trinidad Moruga Scorpion: 2.0M SHU
  • Bhut Jolokia: 1.58M SHU
  • Trinidad Scorpion Butch: 1.463M SHU
  • Naga Viper: 1.4M SHU

    Many sources credit the Bhut Jolokia as the hottest pepper on earth. It is also known as the “Ghost Pepper” because presumably one “gives up the ghost” after consuming it.Just to put this into perspective, the Jalapeno measures 2,500 – 8,000 SHU.

    In other words, the Jalapeno could be pulverized and used as baby food compared to the aforementioned chilis. These peppers listed above are pure gut wrenching, havoc-wreaking torture that create legends (or ER patients) at chili eating contests worldwide. Alternatively, these peppers are used as non-lethal weaponry such as the Bhut Jolokia grenades used by India’s Defense Ministry against protesters in Kashmir.

Medicinal uses:

When capsaicin touches the skin it creates a numbing effect, which is why it is used in topical ointments, dermal patches and nasal spray to temporarily relieve pain. This can be used to treat arthritis, psoriasis, muscle strain and peripheral neuropathy. Internally capsaicin increases blood flow and promotes sweating.

In Traditional Chinese medicine chilies are considered Yang in nature because they are hot and stimulate heat within the body. Taken internally peppers are effective for the treatment of “exterior” conditions such as the common cold. Cayenne pepper has been traditionally used to create a sweat at the onset of a cold. An early sweat can help release the pathogen and prevent the cold from settling in.

Additionally, chilies and spicy food in general is considered tonifying for people who tend to be cold, sluggish, phlegmy…chilies eaten can stoke the digestive fire and increase metabolism.


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The Calabrese region of Italy boasts the Calabrian pepper, affectionately dubbed the Devil’s Kiss, which has been appropriated into a pendant called a “cornicello”. Some people consider the “cornicello” to be a horn and others a calabrian pepper. Either way, the pepper is used a kind of talisman to ward off evil spirits.

This is one of my favorite Italian American symbols, as a kid growing up in the Bronx in the late 80’s Red peppers dangled from the rearview mirrors of cars…(mostly IROCs or cars of a similar nature). Of Italian American decent myself, I began donning a pepper in high school and have been wearing one on and off ever since. The pepper is a big part of my life both past and present.

To eat a great meal and sense both pleasure and pain in one dish is what some people (myself included) consider real gastronomic pleasure. When my mouth feels like it will ignite into flames…as my heart rate increases and I start sucking air through pursed lips and beads of sweat accumulate on my forehead, I think “aaah…I’m alive”. I can’t help but enjoy the little bit of torture, it’s that little bit of reality that sharpens my focus and helps me remain on my toes. Since adrenalin rich sports have taken a back burner in my life, habanero-rich meals help keep the day-to-day a little more dicey.



The Power of Ginger

photo (9)Ginger is the root of the plant Zingiber officinale and is a spice used for seasoning food as well as a powerful Medicinal that has been used in many cultures for thousands of years. Originating in China and then disseminating across the trade routes, ginger is one of the most widely used spices today. 

Ginger is popular in Traditional Chinese Medicine and is often added to herbal formulas. Ginger therapeutic functions are to aid digestion and systemically warm the body. Moxibustion can be burned directly over ginger slices on the abdomen to “warm the digestive fire” for indigestion, diarrhea and nausea.

Ginger makes you sweat…

Sweat it out:
The easiest place for a pathogen to enter is the nape of the neck. This point is called Fang Chi, or Wind Pool, and lies where the head and neck meet. This point is often tender on palpation. This is why it is so important to keep your neck covered to avoid catching a chill.

If you catch a slight chill and feel that you are coming down with a cold the best thing to do is to generate a light sweat and then get under the covers.

Making a Ginger Root Tea is one of the most effective ways to promote a light sweat as well as reduce phlegm.

Making Ginger Root Tea:

1) Buy a root of Ginger (preferably organic or local)

2) Wash well

3) Break into pieces, or chop and pulverize with water in blender. Combine chopped ginger and water with more water to a pot.

4) Boil for 20 minutes and then simmer for at least 20 more. Strain or drink as is…Raw honey is a nice addition too, especially if your throat is sore.