Smudging, Moxibustion, Cupping, & Gua Sha
Fire is the element associated with heat and summer. It is nature at its peak of growth. It warms the body and it dances with enthusiasm. Fire’s motion is upward; it is passionate and energetic. The color associated with fire is red and its corresponding emotion is joy. In the body, its function relates to the peak moment of maximum activity, right before there is a decline back to rest. It is also associated with the heart and circulation. Fire represents the direction South and is symbolized by the vermillion bird or red pheasant.
The modalities listed here are associated with fire due to the incorporation or release of heat that occurs when performing them.
Smudging is a ritual practice performed by Indigenous people of North America. It involves the burning of sacred herbs such as white desert sage, sweet grass, or cedar as part of a healing ceremony. A lot of care is put into the gathering of herbs for ceremonial use.
It is believed that these herbs have the ability to cleanse the space and individual of negative energies or spirits, and they invite positive energy, spirits, and ancestors into the space.
Modern research has shown that these herbs also have antimicrobial properties, which means the air is also cleansed of viruses and bacteria when smudging is performed.
Moxibustion involves burning the herb mugwort (艾叶 ài yè) close to and sometimes on an acupuncture point or meridian. This technique introduces warmth to the body to help promote the circulation of qi and blood. It also helps to nourish and support various systems in the body.
Moxibustion can be used to treat pain, arthritis, digestive problems, menstrual health, breeched pregnancies, and immune support. Due to smoke from burning the herb, it may not be suitable for individuals with respiratory concerns. However, there are smokeless versions available if smoke and/or smell is a concern. When performed directly on the skin, a burn cream is often applied prior to moxibustion as a safety precaution.
Cupping is a vacuum therapy often used to treat chronic and acute musculoskeletal pain and tension. Bringing blood flow to the muscle brings fresh oxygen and releases toxins from the tissue, which are important for healing. The suction created by cupping also helps to separate the various tissue layers, breaking up adhesions and fascial restrictions.
Cupping can also be used to help with immune support, asthma support, and help relieve menstrual cramps and other types of pain.
Due to the suction from cupping, red marks may be left on the skin after treatments which typically go away within 3-7 days. Strong forms of cupping is not recommended for individuals who are on blood thinners or have thinning skin.
Similar to the Graston technique used by Physical Therapists, Gua Sha is a TCM approach to breaking up scar tissue and stagnation within the body. Gua Sha is another great approach to relieving chronic tension and bringing circulation to the tissue.
It is often used to treat musculoskeletal pain, tension, and immune support. Similar to cupping, Gua Sha can leave red marks on the skin due to the increased circulation to the tissue. Strong forms of gua sha is not recommended for individuals who are on blood thinners or have thinning skin.
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