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.

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 8.49.52 AM

REUTERS/David Gray Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 8.50.26 AM

Michael Dalder / Reuters

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.


Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 2.01.44 PM

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

Winter & The Kidneys: A Chinese Medicine Prospective

“He who has health, has hope; and he who has hope has everything” Arabian proverb


The ancients understood that winter is a time of contraction and introspection, a time to evaluate your actions from the previous year and meditate on changes that you would like to institute for the future. We still embrace this concept with new years resolutions. Traditional Chinese dietary therapy is a great way to incorporate the enormous effects of the season into our personal lives and, like our lives, always keep evolving.

In Chinese Medicine, the winter is associated with the KIDNEYS, the OCEAN, SALTY foods, REPRODUCTION and the emotion of FEAR. When the KIDNEYS become out of balance people suffer from: Joint problems, Knee pain, Teeth problems, Back pain, Pre-mature graying, Reproductive imbalances, Pre-mature aging, Excessive fear or worry.

The following list of foods (from Paul Pitchford’s book, Healing with Whole Foods) help address any KIDNEY weakness and should be eaten by everyone in the winter.

Foods should be cooked longer with less water and less heat. The theory is that concentrated foods will provide longer lasting energy on those cold and dark days.
•    Soups (avoid raw foods)
•    Molasses (source of iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium)
•    Black Beans
•    Seaweeds: kelp, wakame, hijiki
•    Tuna, Sardines, Crab
•    Root vegetables: turnips, sweet potato, parsnips, beets
•    Ox Tail soup, Chicken soup-anything with marrow for the bones
•    Wheat germ
•    Spirulina
•    Pork
•    Miso
•    Soy sauce
•    Black sesame seeds
•    Millet, Buckwheat, Kasha, Barley
•    Walnuts
•    Asparagus
•    Kidney beans

Healthy Mommy, Healthy Baby


Acupuncture for Pregnant and Laboring Women

This is an article written by Bess for MommyPoppins, a popular blog for women, mommies and kiddos.

I have to admit, the science behind acupuncture mystifies me, but the art of it makes me so happy I don’t care. Plus it’s been around for thousands of year’s, so I have some built in faith. In case your brand new to acupuncture or have no idea how it might be used while your pregnant or even during labor (yes, you read right) we’ve written up a brief description of the practice and asked our friend Laurel, an acupuncturist and doula, to help explain it all.

What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture—is a part of traditional Chinese medicine practice and is based on the idea that keeping our vital energy (“qi”) flowing smoothly keeps healthy. Qi circulates through twelve energy lines (known as meridians) on the body and each is associated with a different organ system. An acupuncturists will insert needles into specified points along meridian lines to influence the restore balance to the flow of qi. Traditional Chinese medicine also uses herbs and other techniques such as meditation and massage along with acupuncture. Acupuncture has gained a lot of popularity in the U.S. and has endorsements from the NIH for certain condition and the FDA has approved needle use protocols, so there are standards of care that ensure needle safety. Many insurances now cover acupuncture, but if you find a practitioner who doesn’t take your insurance, expect prices to be  between $60-$75 for 1 hour session).

How Acupuncture Works:
There are numerous theories about how acupuncture works. Some of them are:

* acupuncture stimulates the release of pain-relieving endorphins
* acupuncture influences the release of neurotransmitters, substances that transmit nerve impulses to the brain
* acupuncture influences the autonomic nervous system
* acupuncture stimulates circulation
* acupuncture influences the electrical currents of the body

Acupuncture for Pregnant and Laboring Women
(Note: this information comes from Laurel Axen Carroll, a licensed acupuncturist ( Thank you Laurel).

Traditional Chinese medicine is a useful tool for women looking to enhance their fertility, alleviate the symptoms of pregnancy, induce labor, turn a breech baby and to nourish their body postpartum. Acupuncture has little to no side effects, and it’s safe for you and your baby. Usually during a first visit the practitioner will ask you lots of questions about your main complaint as well as questions concerning your diet, sleeping patterns, and lifestyle. As a holistic medicine there is no separation between the mind and the body, therefore everything is taken into consideration before an illness can be diagnosed and treated. A typical treatment usually lasts about an hour and most people report feeling very relaxed or energized after treatment.

I have worked with woman in all stages of pregnancy, and have found acupuncture helps address all sort of things such as: nausea, fatigue, depression, anxiety, constipation, round ligament pain, sciatica, insomnia, acid reflux, anemia, congestion, hemorrhoids and varicose veins. A pretty impressive list.

Acupuncture for Labor:
Acupuncture can be an excellent tool during labor especially if your labor is “failing to progress”, meaning that one’s labor is prolonged or not proceeding efficiently. This is usually seen when a woman has done a lot of work and has labored extensively but hasn’t dilated as much as would be expected. Specific points can help drop the baby into correct position to facilitate labor. Acupuncture can also be used effectively for pain relief. In this case the needles are stimulated quickly and removed to allow the woman to move through the contractions. For a labor that is progressing normally acupressure can be just as effective as acupuncture.

In my practice I have come to really love the pre-birth treatment that starts at 36 weeks gestation and ends with the onset of labor. I have seen so many women go into labor “on-time” avoiding medical induction. Most women come back and report smooth, efficient labors as well. I personally can remember the intensity of the last few weeks of pregnancy and enjoy communicating with women during this time. It is such a crazy precipice to be teetering on…waiting to meet your baby for the first time, the endless list of unknowns. If there is anything that I can impart to my clients during this time it is to have faith in your body. Every woman has the tools and skills to labor correctly, you just have to dig deep and trust.

Resources, Research:
A recent study showed that woman who had acupuncture sessions leading up to their labor had a 35% reduction in the number of inductions, (for first-time mothers this was a 43% reduction) and a 31% reduction in the epidural rate.  Debra Betts conducted this study on pre-birth acupuncture. She is an incredible midwife/acupuncturist from New Zealand who wrote the bible on treating pregnant women, The Essential Guide to Acupuncture in Pregnancy and Childbirth.  If you go on her website: you can find links to her studies along with a downloadable booklet on pressure points for labor. Studies include acupuncture for morning sickness, routine pre-labor, cervical ripening and breech presentation.