The Origin of Cupping is still a mystery today however the earliest pictorial records were discovered in EGYPT in the 1500’s:
- According to written records, cupping has been used for over 3000 years.
- To this day, the origin of cupping has not been discovered and is still controversial, but the oldest written record is what is used today to determine the known original use of cupping.
- Many People think of the Chinese when they think of cupping, but the first written record of cupping dates back to 1500BC by the Greeks in the oldest written book of Medical Text called the “Ebers Papyrus”. In the hieroglyphics, on the walls of the temple Kom Ombo are various medical tools and instruments of the time and along with these medical tools are drawings of cups.
(which translates to “the one who comes in peace”) was known as a Chancellor to the Pharaoh and is known in the medical profession as “the first Physician” and the Greeks referred to him as their “God of medicine” and advocated the practice of cupping.
Imhotep is referred to as a teacher, polymath, poet, judge, engineer, magician, scribe, astronomer, astrologist, and especially physician.
Cupping is believed to have spread to Greece via students such as Hippocrates who was one of the Greek physicians who consulted the library of Imhotep’s temple in Egypt to study Egyptian medicine
- Greek Physician Hippocrates studied at the temple of Imhotep and adopted the use of cupping. He was known as the “father of Medicine”
- “Hippocrates was a strong advocates and user of cupping and condemned other Physicians for not using cupping
- The Greeks used cupping for musculoskeletal pains, illnesses, dysfunctions to the head, torso, gynecological region.
The art of cupping was then passed onto the Ancient Greeks:
- Greek Physicians: Hippocrates aka “The Father of Medicine” & Galen of Pergamon, “Physician, Philosopher & Surgeon” were strong advocates and users of cupping and condemned other Physicians for not using cupping
- Greek Physician Herodotus wrote about cupping in 413BC.
It was reported Herodotus viewed cupping as a remedy for almost every type of disease.
In fact, other Greek physicians used the strong suction of cupping to restore spinal alignment by reducing dislocated vertebrae from protruding inward.
From the Greeks and Romans, via the Alexandrians and Byzantines, the art of cupping was passed on to the Muslim Arabs and Persians.
- Refer to the cupping practice as “Hijama” translated to “drawing out”
- Prophet Mohammed sanctioned the use of cupping as a religious act and way to cure ailments both physical and spiritual
- Perform Wet Cupping – Believed to remove impurities by taking a scalpel and cutting an incision into the skin, placing a cup over the incision with suction and allowing the cup to fill with blood.
- Unani Medicine Important therapeutic modality today.
- Islamic healing traditions use cupping but they refer to it as Hijama in Arabic.
- Prophet Mohammed sanctioned use of cupping therapy as a religious act and a way of curing ailments, both physical and spiritual. The Muslim scientists advanced cupping techniques and now it is a popular and important Unani Medicine therapeutic modality. Other famous Arab physicians that practiced cupping includes Al- Razi (865-925) and Ibn Sina also known as Avicenna (980-1037)
- Unani medicine is ancient Greek medicine that has evolved within the Muslim world for the past 13 centuries (Unani is an Arabic spelling of Ionian, meaning Greek). Greek medicine, greatly simplified for presentation here, was based on the concept of balancing body humors.
- Other famous Arab physicians that practiced cupping includes Al- Razi (865-925) and Ibn Sina also known as Avicenna (980-1037)
- “The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine (the Neijing Suwen) ~240 B.C.
- Taoist in China, Ge Hong (281-341 A.D.) was known for herbal medicines and alchemy and practiced cupping therapy.
- Ge Hong wrote in 340 AD about cupping in his medical book “A Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies”
- This book states the use of animal horns as cups to drain pus from wounds
- Fire Cupping used to ease dizziness, headaches, and abdominal pains as mentioned in the books “Necessities of a Frontier Official” from the Tang Dynasty. Moxibustion & Acupuncture
- Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners use cupping regularly along with acupuncture needles, moxibustion and gua sha
- Cupping used to remove stagnation, pathogens, wind, cold, heat & dampness which could be affecting the life energy aka qi or chi
The Mawangdui Silk Texts, medical texts were discovered at the Mawangdui site in Changsha, Hunan, in 1973 in a tomb from the Han Dynasty which was sealed in 168BC. So this would be considered the oldest medical writings from China mentioning cupping.
In the 1800’s, the British cupper Samuel Bayfield (1839: 51-52), wrote: “Hippocrates was a minute observer, and has left us some striking remarks on the shape and application of the cups. He recommends that they should be small in diameter, conical in shape, and light in their weight, even when the disease for which they are applied is deeply seated”.
- American and European doctors widely practice cupping till the late 1800s. In the 19th century research papers were written in collaboration effort between China and the former Soviet Union to confirm the effectiveness and efficiency of cupping therapy. This lead to cupping being used as an official therapy practiced in all Chinese hospitals. However, the 20th century resulted to decline in cupping interest due to new technology, machines and drugs.
- In the mid to late 1800s, cupping popularity lessened, was discredited and criticized by the newly established model of medicine. The new model focused on making the body transparent by treating the inside, in preference to the outside. Cupping focused on surface treatment and could not fit with the new medical paradigm.
According to Bruce Bentley, World Renowned Australian Cupping Professional :
- Throughout European history, cupping was mostly performed by lay practitioners who would charge less and were more available than physicians. Cupping was available within the home.
- Women performed cupping and were known as physicians in until the 13 Century when women were excluded from the universities of study of medicine.
- By the mid to late 1800s, cupping was sharply criticized by the medical fraternity and had fallen away as a popular method.
- newly established scientific model of medicine began discrediting all other previously established traditional therapies in order to gain medical dominance
- the ‘clinical gaze’ which Foucault (1876) took to define medicine, made the body transparent and looked at and treated the inside in preference to the outside. Because cupping is a surface treatment, it was inconsistent with the new paradigm, which ‘moved away from the personal contact of the manipulative and hands-on therapies of earlier times” (Thearl, 1990:124).
- Medical Registration Act of 1858, ‘Parliament had achieved what the doctors never could – it had symbolically at least united the much-divided medical profession, by defining them over and against a common other, not to say enemy.’ (Porter, 1987: 45).
- Opposition to cupping from this time was not based on ineffectiveness, but because it no longer “fit” within the Medical Model
- This act stigmatized cupping and changed people’s attitude to many traditional practices. For a time, cupping was reduced to the curiosity shelf of the past. However over the past couple of decades the tide has turned and people are rediscovering that some practices have plenty of merit, as well as reinstate their own ability for self-care.” Bruce Bentley.
In 2004 cupping entered the limelight when actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s, back revealed fresh cupping therapy marks and hit the tabloid magazines.
- Around 2014-2015 The Boston Red Sox had multiple newspaper and video media write ups about their use of cupping for a whole season in which they praised cupping for several players improvement in stats, recovery time and overall performance.
- Michael Phelps, an American swimmer, caught everyone’s attention at the Rio Olympics Games 2016 not only for his outstanding performance, but also for the dark purple circles on his back and shoulders. According to Jessica MacLean, director of the International Cupping Therapy Association, there is a significant increase in sales of cupping equipment following Michael Phelps incident.
- Other celebrities to have gone through this technique include Justin Bieber, Serena Williams, Victoria Beckham, Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Aniston.
- Now cupping is becoming more and more mainstream within the alternative medicine or alternative treatment circles. There are many people that have never tried cupping, but more at least have heard of it or seen the cupping marks.