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Gua Sha is one of the most ancient and easily applicable ways of helping people feel better. For thousands of years, people in China and across many Asian cultures have used gua sha in the home to reduce fever, relieve muscle tension, boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, and increase circulation.
“Gua” 刮 translates as “to scrape” “Sha” 痧 translates as “disease, illness, or sand”. This refers to the small red dots that can appear on the body when firm pressure is applied and is an indication of disease, stagnation, and heat leaving the body.
Cupping has a similar history to gua sha in that it may have been used for hundreds or thousands of years before it was mentioned in text. Cupping is also a traditional Chinese Medicine healing modality that can be traced back to roughly 300 AD. Cupping and gua sha are used interchangeably to treat similar conditions both in a clinical setting and as a home remedy. Cupping is a modality that is mainly used on the upper back to benefit the lungs and is perhaps best known for its benefits to the pulmonary system. Traditional fire cupping is done by inserting a flame into a cup to create suction that pulls the skin away from the muscle layer.
Cultural Tension: Gua sha and cupping marks have historically been mistaken as child abuse in western countries. Though gua sha and cupping are safe and effective folk treatments for many childhood illnesses (fever, cough, cold, and flu), Chinese families have faced painful discrimination and legal action for marks discovered on their children.
No one knows the exact roots of facial gua sha and facial cupping. One believable theory, albeit conjecture, posits that it was discovered by acupuncturists who noticed the lifting qualities of acupuncture, acupressure, and gentle gua sha and cupping on the face completely by chance. Because there the benefit to these modalities has more to do with beauty and less to do with a specific health concern, it is left out of traditional Chinese medical texts.
At Wildling, our methods have a strong foundation in traditional Chinese medicine, and have been honed by our co-founders Gianna de la Torre, licensed acupuncturist with a master’s degree in traditional Chinese medicine, and Britta Plug, our in-house esthetician who has trained with leading scientists and doctors to learn about gua sha, the lymphatic system, and their effects on holistic well-being.