Guess you’re curious about the mysterious Chinese Medicine. Somehow you come across the word ‘Gua Sha’ — it seems like a remote vocabulary with weird pronunciation and spelling. What is worse, Wikipedia has only two sentences on this topic, and it makes you more confused. Finally, you find guasha.org.
Everything you need to know about this nature therapy is here! Let’s dive into it!
What is Gua Sha
Gua Sha therapy is a traditional East Asian healing technique. It is guided by the theory of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). During the scraping therapy, body surface is press-stroked repeatedly with a smooth-edged scraping tool (such as spoons, coins or scraping board made of horn bone) dipped with some liquid (such as massage oil, moisturizing cream or Chinese herbal medicine liquid). This treatment intentionally raises therapeutic petechiae on part of the skin including red miliary, or dark red bleeding points and other “out of the sputum” changes. It thereby promotes blood microcirculation, relieves pain and benefits health.
Gua Sha is now widely used in clinical applications, it is suitable for both medical treatment and family health care. This therapy is popular and widely accepted with its simple, convenient, inexpensive and effective characteristics. After the treatment, some patients feel relaxed, comfortable and the symptoms of body pain disappear. The principle lies in the endorphins secreted by the human body in response to pain. Gua Sha treatment can also be used in conjunction with acupuncture, cupping, puncture and bloodletting therapy to strengthen the effect of activating blood circulation and detoxification.
From Neolithic Age
Gua Sha therapy has a history of thousands of years. However, the exact invention date and inventors are difficult to verify. In ancient times, when people were sick, they often instinctively slammed a part of the body with their hands or stones. In some cases, the diseases were alleviated.
The stone needle is acknowledged as primitive needling instrument, its shape resembles Gua Sha scraping board used today. Therefore, the prototype of Gua Sha treatment could be traced back to the Neolithic Age.
In Ancient Medical Literature
Gua Sha therapy is a precious heritage of Chinese medicine. This scraping treatment has been widely spread among the folk for thousands of years. It also had been discussed frequently by ancient physicians, and some of their literature has come down to us from thousands of years ago.
Han Dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE)
Huangdi Neijing recorded five clinical therapies including the stone needle. At the time, Gua Sha therapy was a method of treating Sha disease. Therefore, Gua Sha treatment and Sha disease developed simultaneously during this period.
Jin Dynasty (265–420)
Handy Emergency Treatment recorded Gua Sha treatment of tsutsugamushi. The scraping tool used at the time was bamboo leaves. This is the forming period of Gua Sha therapy.
Song Dynasty (960–1279) and Yuan Dynasty(1271–1368)
Prescription Record of Ye was the first book recording Sha disease. Symptoms of Sha disease included cold, headache, and nausea. In the Yuan Dynasty, the scraping tool was hemp rope. After the treatment, the purplish red petechiae appeared on the skin.
Jing Yue’s book collected cases of Gua Sha therapy, further exploring its mechanism. His research had a profound impact on the status of Gua Sha therapy in the medical world.
Physician Guo Youtao summarized three steps (scraping, discharging, medication) to treat the epidemic disease in his book. The effect is remarkable.
Gua Sha in Modern China
Gua Sha therapy had transferred from the medical profession to folk medicine, and the scraping technique had been widely developed and applied.
China had initially established a professional team of Chinese medicine. They had done a lot of documentation, including Gua Sha therapy. Meanwhile, Gua Sha treatment was spread more widely among the folks.
Preventive medicine specialist Prof. Lv Jiru from Taiwan creatively proposed the meridian scraping method. After that, Prof. Yang Jinsheng and Prof. Wang Jin from mainland China promoted and applied this method. Therefore, both the theory and practice of Gua Sha treatment had significant improvements. Gua Sha therapy was further spread to Southeast Asia.
National Policies about Gua Sha
Gua Sha therapy is one of the intangible cultural heritage of Chinese medicine. This scraping therapy is promoted by state policies on many occasions:
- in May 2009, The State Council issued the “Several Opinions of the State Council on Supporting and Promoting the Development of Traditional Chinese Medicine”;
- In September 2013, the State Council issued the “Several Opinions of the State Council on Promoting the Development of Health Service Industry”;
- In May 2015, the State Council issued the “Development of Chinese Medicine Health Service” Planning (2015-2020);
- In February 2016, the State Council issued the Outline of the Strategic Plan for the Development of Traditional Chinese Medicine (2016-2030).
These national policies point out that Chinese medicine, as a treasure of the Chinese nation, contains rich philosophical thoughts and humanistic spirits. It is an important manifestation of Chinese culture. Therefore, it is necessary to accomplish the inheritance of this intangible cultural heritage of Chinese medicine.
Theoretical Basis of Gua Sha
Gua Sha is guided by the ideology of Chinese Traditional Medicine. The theoretical foundations are the theory of Viscera Symptom and the theory of Meridians.
The outward symptom of illness manifests the pathological changes of the viscera.
The crux of the problem lies in viscera rather than the symptom.
Therefore, Gua Sha therapy targets at the meridians and acupoints associated with the viscera.
Theory of Viscera-Symptom
“Viscera” is the internal organs and viscera inside the human body.
“Symptom” is the physiological and pathological phenomena manifested outside.
The theory of Viscera Symptom studies the physiological function, pathological changes and corresponding interrelation of various viscera.
Theory of Meridians
The meridian theory studies the physiological functions and pathological changes of the human meridians and their relationship with the organs. Meridians connect viscera throughout the human body. There are 12 meridians inside the body and corresponding 12 meridian pelts on the surface of the body. The 12 meridian pelts are the main stimulation points in Gua Sha therapy.
On one hand, 12 meridian pelts locate on the superficial part of the human body and are in direct contact with the outside world. The external disease can penetrate the collaterals and meridians through the skin pelts, finally reaching the viscera, causing visceral lesions. By scraping 12 meridian pelts, the treatment is transmitted to the meridians and internal organs. Consequently treating the syndrome and opening the skin sweat hole keratosis, discharging toxic chemicals in the body. Hence the disease is cured.
On the other hand, the visceral disease can also be reflected in the skin pelts through the meridians and collaterals. As a result, it is possible to detect the internal body condition through changes in the skin. In application, Gua Sha therapy observes the condition of the sputum in the skin to assist in diagnosis. There are still few modern studies in this area, and this field needs to be further explored in the future.
Gua Sha vs. Acupuncture
Both Gua Sha and Acupuncture are based on the theory of Viscera Symptom and the theory of Meridians. Acupuncture therapy focuses on the stimulation of acupoints on meridians, while Gua Sha focuses on dredging and stimulating meridians.
Gua Sha Benefits
After a long period of development, Gua Sha therapy has been developed from a primitive method to today’s systematic treatment guided by Chinese medicine theory. Gua Sha treatment has its own operational methods and practical tools. Meanwhile, Gua Sha is applicable to a wide range of diseases. This natural therapy will make a greater contribution to the health of people around the world.
A Nature Therapy
Today, science and technology develop rapidly. When people enjoy modern civilization brought by high-tech, they also take the consequences of environmental pollution, ecological imbalance and side effects of chemical drugs. As a result, people are increasingly aware of the importance of returning to nature, seeking non-toxic side effects and non-polluting therapies. We eagerly hope that effective green therapy will become the mainstream of medical development.
Guasha is the product of both Chinese medicine and modern science. Modern industry makes the profile and surface of the scraping tool more suitable for the human body. Gua Sha therapy also promotes better operational techniques. This scraping treatment combines acupoint therapy without direct contacting, acupuncture therapy without needling, and cupping therapy without cupping device.
Nowadays, Gua Sha therapy is capable to treat more than 400 diseases, including diseases in internal medicine, gynecology, pediatrics, surgery, dermatology, ophthalmology, etc.
According to the statistics, heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and cancer have the highest fatality rate. Usually, they are caused by unhealthy lifestyles and neglect of prevention or health care. To prevent these diseases, we have to pay more attention to self-healthcare. As one of the easiest self-care methods, Gua Sha treatment is not limited by time or place.
At present, Gua Sha therapy is widely used in preventive health care and beauty industry all around the world, and have achieved remarkable results. We gradually turn from external product to internal human body environment. As a technology with profound Chinese medicine theory, Gua Sha therapy will surely show its grace in the healthcare area.