TCM: Cupping, Scraping, Ginger Therapy, Medicinal Leeches.

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Traditional Chinese anti-inflammatory therapies include Cupping therapy, Scraping (Chinese Gua-sha), and Dipping feet in ginger water.

Cupping. (Traditional Chinese therapy)

This short article briefly reviews some prevalent treatment methods in traditional Chinese medicine today. (Except for leech treatment, which I have not experienced.) I have rich experience in all of these anti-inflammatory therapies. These anti-inflammatory methods are part of traditional Chinese medicine; they are effective in mild cases and simple to apply without significant side effects.


Cupping Therapy.

Cupping therapy. (Anti-inflammatory)

Cupping and Scraping (Gua-sha) therapies are often performed in sequence. 

Link: Cupping Therapy (Wikipedia)

From my extensive experience in Chinese medicine, I can attest that combining cupping and scraping (after lubrication) is beneficial. Although the explanations I received did not link the treatment to the energetic side of life energy, in my estimation, the combination also treats acupressure points.

Cupping and scraping therapies are standard in traditional Chinese hospitals and massage places. (Gua-sha is done first when combined)

  • I performed cup therapy over two hundred times. (The specialist suggested that it be done after acupuncture.) My (Chinese) wife cups and scrapes my skin whenever I feel faint, fever or cold, and even to prevent the severe symptoms of COVID-19.
  • The suction creates light burns on the skin that are circular. It does not have as strong an effect as acupuncture, but I think it may relieve some symptoms, like flu.
  • The spots (light burns) on the body are not equal. Some are red-purple. Others show almost nothing. It is not random and is not explained by the technique.)
  • Cupping Therapy diverts inflammation from other body parts to the skin. (The burns "suck out inflammation.")

The main risk is having a superficial infection of the irritated area.


Scraping anti-inflammatory Therapy. (Authentic image from China)

The scraping therapy is unpleasant but usually not very painful; the scraping seems particularly violent. This is not the case! 

Scraping anti-inflammatory Therapy. (Authentic image from China)

Scraping anti-inflammatory Therapy. (Chinese Gua Sha)

The scraping technique (Gua sha) is often used in Chinese traditional medicine hospitals, clinics, and many massage places.

  • The treatment involves scrubbing the skin using an animal horn or polished, smooth, hard stone. Frequently, it is combined with cupping.
  • The scrubbing operation is usually performed on the back, limbs, and chest. The therapist lubricates the area (to prevent friction wounds) and performs controlled pressure operations with elongated movements. The treatment is unpleasant and sometimes involves slight pain.
  • I have performed the scraping treatment dozens of times with no side effects; the signs usually disappear that day or the next day.
  • According to the explanations I received, this treatment has no side effects.

The purpose of treatment (according to the Chinese version) is to strengthen the immune system by removing excess moisture.

  • To my understanding, scrubbing and scraping the skin over large areas creates slight surface bleeding. Scraping diverts inflammations (like cupping) from essential internal organs to the skin surface, thus helping them heal faster.


Ginger root has anti-inflammatory properties.

Ginger root has anti-inflammatory properties.

A simple and inexpensive anti-inflammatory recipe based on dipping feet in ginger water.

This traditional Chinese recipe is very suitable for all types of flu and, in fact, for many inflammatory diseases.


  • Rinse a generous amount of ginger root, cut it into thin strips, and add one tablespoon of salt and a small vinegar. Boil the ginger in a large pot with a large amount of water. (Preferably in a pressure cooker) After boiling, the water has an orange-brown color. The boiling water should be poured into a large bucket; the water can be filtered, optional. You can leave a small amount to use for drinking. (Without the salt)
Application: Be careful! Great care is required when handling boiling water.
  • When the water is still boiling, put your feet on the edge of the bucket without contacting the boiling water. Put a large, dry towel on your feet. At this point, you absorb only the ginger vapor.
  • When the water cools to the level where you can dip your feet, soak them for about 20 minutes; when you are done, dry them thoroughly.

Ginger root has powerful antioxidants absorbed through the skin and conveyed immediately through the bloodstream. 


Medicinal leeches. 

Medical leeches. (Not a Chinese therapy)

Medical leeches may significantly improve the healing of wounds originating from pressure and necrosis wounds.

Medical leeches can be very effective in healing external wounds. (Can be effective in patients with type 2 diabetes)

  • The leeches release potent enzymes that prevent blood clotting in the affected area. Sucking the blood improves blood and lymph circulation, removes toxins accumulated in the contaminated area, and thus helps the area's recovery. 
  • This is the only treatment I have not experienced; all the treatments are listed on this site. In my opinion, treating medical leeches is ineffective in systemic and internal diseases. However, leeches have no significant side effects. (Except maybe disgusted)

Medical leeches are still considered an effective treatment in some cases. The main risk is infection by parasitic pathogens.


These anti-inflammatory methods may look like home remedies but have health benefits.

Frequently asked questions and answers:
Are the mentioned methods still used today in China?
The mentioned methods are widely used in China. These methods can be applied without medical supervision and are available in almost every business dealing with massage and traditional Chinese medicine.
In your experience, have these traditional Chinese techniques had a positive effect?
I have many years of experience in Chinese medicine, I have performed these techniques hundreds of times, and I feel a change for the better. The mechanism of action of these techniques makes sense, being anti-inflammatory.
As in the photo, doesn't the action of scraping the skin cause severe damage and bleeding?
The scraping action seemed at first very aggressive to me. It is unpleasant but not painful because the therapist applies oil to the back. The bleeding is subcutaneous that does not damage vital organs. The bleeding passes after one to two days, without side effects.
If cupping and skin scraping are practical techniques, why aren't they used in the West?
I guess traditional Chinese medicine has an image of something old and outdated. But its principles make sense.
Is the principle of redirecting inflammation to the skin of the back, a non-problematic position, a valid principle?
The (undeclared) principle of the method on which the methods of cupping and skin scrubbing are based are effective temporary solutions for relieving transient symptoms. This is not a miraculous solution for chronic diseases.
What is the use of medical leeches intended for?
The use of medical leeches is intended mainly for external wounds, such as pressure sores or wounds of acute diabetics, when the skin layers cannot rehabilitate themselves. Medicinal leeches are prevalent in China as part of traditional Chinese medicine.
Challenge Yourself, Your Knowledge and Intuition:
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TCM: Cupping, Scraping, Ginger Therapy, and Medicinal Leeches.
1. Do Cupping and Scraping (Chinese Gua-Sha) have proven benefits?
Traditional Chinese anti-inflammatory therapies include Cupping therapy, Scraping (Chinese Gua-sha), and Dipping feet in ginger water.
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A more detailed explanation:
1. The most suitable answer is answer number 3.
These anti-inflammatory methods may look like home remedies but have health benefits.
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