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fire cupping

Name of an acupressure technique used in traditional Chinese medicine, known in Chinese as ba guan zi, which literally means ‘to pull [with] jars’ or ‘pot pulling’. In English, the practice is also simply referred to as cupping. In fire cupping, a partial vacuum is created in a cupping glass or jar, in Chinese referred to as ba guan, usually by means of heat, which is then applied directly to the skin. The underlying tissue is sucked up into the jar forming an area of blood stasis, bruising the area, turning it a bright to dark red or even purple, akin to a love bite. In ancient times, animal horns and bamboo jars were used, but today the cups are made mostly out of glass to standard sizes and specifications, although bamboo jars are still occasionally used. The method is used in the treatment of respiratory diseases, such as common cold, pneumonia and bronchitis, as well as back, neck, shoulder and other musculoskeletal pains. Though, other than the general benefits of acupressure, there is no scientific proof that supports this technique to cure any disease, yet it is widely practiced throughout Southeast Asia, including in Thailand, where it is known as kaan chai thuay dood leuad, meaning ‘to make use of cups to suck blood’. In Vietnam, the northern hill tribe people near the border with China use the practice on the forehead in order to relief headaches and for it they still use a cut-off tip of buffalo horn, which leaves them with small, round, purple marks on the forehead (fig.).