A technique of TCM, used to apply pressure to the skin by creating a vacuum using heated glass, bamboo or plastic cups. Used to treat a variety of disorders.

Traditional Roots of Cupping

Cupping has many names, expressions, and incarnations. Cupping has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years having been recorded on the Ebers Papyrus (1550 BC), one of the oldest living medical documents preserved today. Even Hippocrates mentions cupping in the medical literature from 400 BC.


Cupping involves numerous different techniques. These include suction cup therapy, flash-fire cupping, gliding cupping and alcohol-fire cupping. The TCM practitioner will choose a different technique according to the patient’s condition and complaints.

Suction cup therapy

It uses a small cotton ball soaked in 95% alcohol. The cotton ball is lit, and then inserted into the glass cup to create the vacuum, the cotton ball is then removed and the cup is inverted and quickly applied to the area of skin or acu-point. A few cups are used within a single treatment.

Gliding cupping

It is when the cup may be moved while the suction on the skin is active, causing a regional pulling of the skin and muscle.

Alcohol-fire cupping

A small amount alcohol is put into the cup and lit; the cup is then rapidly applied to the skin and left for 5-10 minutes.

Flash-fire cupping

The glass cups are depressurized by providing some fire in the cup to heat up the air within just prior to placement.  For example, a forceps is used to hold a cotton ball and the cotton ball is then dipped in alcohol.  After that the cotton ball is ignited and held in the cup for few second, then rapidly applied to the skin and the process is repeated a few times, until the skin has acquired a red colour.

Cupping is a safe, non-invasive, and inexpensive technique. It is used by practitioners of Chinese medicine to treat:


  • Cold
  • Flu
  • Lung diseases (especially chronic cough and asthma)
  • Lung infections
  • Pain relief
  • Muscle and joint pain and spasms, particularly on the back
  • Paralysis


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