Archaeologists have found evidence in China of cupping dating back to 1000 B.C. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates (c. 400 B.C.) used cupping for internal disease and structural problems. While the history of wet cupping (Hijaamah) may date back thousands of years, the first documented uses are found in the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam/Upon whom be the Peace and Blessing of God). From the ancient Greeks and Romans, through the Alexandrians and Byzantines, cupping therapy was passed on to the Muslim Arabs and Persians.
Anas (Radhiallaahu ‘anhu/May God be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad upon whom be the Peace and Blessing of God) said, ‘The best medicine is cupping.’ [Shamaa-il Tirmidhi, Chapter of Cupping].
Ibn ‘Abbaas (May God be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet of God (Muhammad upon whom be the Peace and Blessing of God) said: “Healing is to be found in three things: drinking honey, the knife of the cupper, and cauterisation of fire.” [Bukhaari, 10/136]. According to a tradition (hadeeth) narrated by Jaabir (May God be pleased with him), said: the Prophet of God (Muhammad upon whom be the Peace and Blessing of God) said “If there is any good in your medical treatments, it is in the knife of the cupper, drinking honey, or cauterization with fire, as appropriate to the cause of the illness, but I would not like to be cauterised.” [Bukhaari, 10/139].
Abu Kabsha (May God be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of God (Muhammad upon whom be the Peace and Blessing of God) used to undergo cupping on the head and between his shoulders and he used to say, ‘Whosoever removes this blood, it will not harm him that he does not take any other medical treatment.’ [Mishkat p. 389].
The Messenger of God (Muhammad upon whom be the Peace and Blessing of God) praised a person who performs cupping, saying it removes blood, lightens the back and sharpens the eyesight [Jam’ul Wasaa-il p. 179].
Cupping is now an important and popular therapeutic modality of Unani Medicine.
In the West, cupping remained an important part of medicine and therapy, both conventional, alternative, and folk-based, until the early 20th century. The surgeon Charles Kennedy wrote, in 1826:”The art of cupping has been so well-known, and the benefits arising from it so long experienced, that it is quite unnecessary to bring forward testimonials in favour of what has received not only the approbation of modern times, but also the sanction of remotest antiquity.” Cupping therapy is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, promoted by acupuncturists and other holistic healthcare practitioners. Cupping may be done either wet or dry which will further be explained.
The benefits of cupping are many, the most popular being deep relaxation and a general sense of well-being.