What is Ventosa or Cupping Therapy?
Cupping Therapy is a form of alternative medicine in which cups are placed on the skin to create suction. The cups can be made of a variety of materials, including:
Supporters of cupping therapy believe the suction of the cups mobilizes blood flow to promote the healing of a broad range of medical ailments.
Cupping therapy dates back to ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cultures. One of the oldest medical textbooks in the world, the Ebers Papyrus, describes how the ancient Egyptians were using cupping therapy in 1,550 B.C.
But a 2012 study published in the journal PLoS ONE suggests that cupping therapy may have more than a placebo effect. Australian and Chinese researchers reviewed 135 studies on cupping therapy published between 1992 and 2010. They concluded that cupping therapy may be effective when combined with other treatments like acupuncture or medications in treating various diseases and conditions, such as:
- Herpes zoster
- Facial paralysis
- Cervical spondylosis
Types of Cupping Therapy
There are various types of cupping therapy, including:
- Dry cupping (suction only)
- Wet cupping (combination of suction and controlled medicinal bleeding)
During both types of cupping, a flammable substance such as alcohol, herbs, or paper is placed in a cup and set on fire. As the fire goes out, the cup is placed upside down on the patient’s skin.
As the air inside the cup cools, it creates a vacuum. This causes the skin to rise and redden as blood vessels expand. The cup is generally left in place for five to 10 minutes.
A more modern version of cupping uses a rubber pump to create the vacuum inside the cup. Sometimes practitioners use medical-grade silicone cups. These are pliable enough to be moved from place to place on the skin and produce a massage-like effect.
Benefits of Cupping Therapy
The British Cupping Society says cupping therapy can treat a variety of conditions. This has not been backed up by studies. But the organization says cupping therapy is used to treat:
- Blood disorders such as anemia and hemophilia
- Rheumatic diseases such as arthritis and fibromyalgia
- Fertility and gynecological disorders
- Skin problems such as eczema and acne
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Anxiety and depression
- Bronchial congestion caused by allergies and asthma
- Varicose veins
Supporters also believe that cupping therapy can reduce pain and inflammation throughout the body. And they say it can promote mental and physical relaxation and well-being.
According to the British Cupping Society, cupping therapy should be avoided by the following groups:
- Pregnant or menstruating women
- People with metastatic cancer (cancer that has spread from one part of the body to another)
- People with bone fractures or muscle spasms