top of page
flame during Cupping therapy

The History of Cupping Therapy

Cupping history has been well documented as cupping has been practiced by many civilisations, for thousands of years. But where exactly did the history of cupping begin and how has it evolved over the centuries?  Here you can discover more about the practice of cupping therapy and it's origins

The Ebers Papyrus
Ancient Greek cupping vessels
Artwork of cupping
Chinese cupping therapy points
Cupping therapy in the 18th century
traditional cupping therapy using animal horns

Hijama wet cupping therapy is commonly believed to be a practice which is associated mainly with Islam and Muslims.

Contrary to common belief, Hijama has been in existence since many centuries before the dawn of Islam. Several different techniques were in use from as early as 3000 B.C. however systematic use of the practice arose from the Ancient Egyptians.

The Ebers Papyrus - an Egyptian medical textbook, is one of the oldest medical textbooks to have ever surfaced. It is dated approximately around 1550 B.C. and describes the birth of Hijama as well as the detailed description of bleeding via cupping for the purpose of removing foreign matter from the body.

Historic texts mention that the practice of Hijama cupping therapy was passed from the Egyptians onto the Ancient Greeks.

Hippocrates of Kos who was born around 400 B.C. is a well known Greek physician. He often used cupping as a means of combating the internal diseases and problems associated with the anatomical structure of his patients.

Another Greek physician named Herodotus, documented in 413 B.C. the following about cupping and it's benefits:
        "Scarification with cupping possess the power of evacuating offending matter from the head; of diminishing pain of the same part. Of lessening inflammation, of restoring the appetite, of strengthening the weak stomach, of removing vertigo and a tendency to faint, of drawing deep-seated offending matter towards the surface, of drying up fluxions, checking haemorrhages, promoting menstrual evacuations, arresting the tendency to putrefaction in fevers, allaying rigors, accelerating and moderating the crisis of diseases, removing a propensity to somnolence, conciliating natural repose, removing heaviness. These and many analogous maladies are relieved by the judicious application of the Cucurbits (Cups), dry or bloody."

From the Ancient Greeks and Romans, through to the Alexandrians and Byzantines, cupping therapy was passed on to the Muslim Arabs and Persians. The Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) even sanctioned the use of Hijama cupping therapy. Cupping is now an important and popular therapeutic modality of Unani Medicine. 

In the East, the Chinese have been practicing the art of cupping for at least three thousand years.  Along with Tui Na massage, acupuncture and moxibustion, cupping forms part of the traditional bodywork or physiotherapy system of TCM, or 'Traditional Chinese Medicine.'  Cupping therapy is applied to the acupuncture points to relieve the stagnation of Qi and blood, both locally and in the organ(s) activated by the point. 

In the West, it was the common norm of the general population of Europe to be treated via means of Hijama cupping therapy. Depending on social class, practitioners would either commit to home visits or treat rows of patients in special centres known as 'bleeding houses.'

As recently as the 17th and 18th centuries, Hijama resurfaced due to the increase of public steam baths and saunas where hosts were responsible for conducting Hijama therapy on their customers. Cupping remained an important part of medicine and therapy, both conventional, alternative, and folk-based, until the early 19th 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."

Despite the rise of scientific medicine and the generation of medications such as pain killers and anti-biotics, Hijama therapy continued to be practiced by medics across the board in early hospitals. 

By the mid 19th century however, the chemical industry developed rapidly and chemical drugs were introduced as the standard form of medication. As a result, the use of traditional medicine became an unfamiliar method of treatment for many people of that era.

In the modern era, cupping therapy is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, promoted by acupuncturists and other holistic healthcare practitioners.  New and exciting variations on this ancient technique, are continuing to be developed. One secret of cupping's perennial popularity is it's great ability to promote a state of profound pleasure and deep relaxation.

bottom of page