Updated: May 7
Hijama comes from the Arabic word al-hajm which means sucking so hijama is the Arabic word for the ancient practice of cupping. Cupping is a technique in which a cup is applied to the skin and a vacuum is formed by using suction or fire.
Hijama or wet cupping is the practice of using cups applied to the skin by suction and then small incisions are made and then blood is drawn out from under the surface of the skin.
The incisions are superficial and heal very quickly without scarring if done correctly.
Hijama can be done with the use of the modern-day plastic suction cups and pumps. In the past many cultures including African and Asian cultures used animal horns which they would apply to the skin by sucking through a hole in the top and then closing the hole with cotton or leaf.
It is believed that this is the method that was used during the time of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ
In Chinese culture glass cups are used and applied with a flame, the cup is lit inside and applied to the skin. The vacuum created from the application to the skin causes the heat to go out.
Different Types of Cupping
Dry cupping: Dry cupping is the practice of cups being placed on the skin using heated glass cups (fire cupping) or applying suction (suction cupping).
This allows the blood to be drawn the surface of the skin. The benefits of this include increase in blood circulation, relief of muscle tension and cramping.
Moving cupping: is similar to having a massage except that the muscles are pulled upwards by the suction of the cup instead of being pushed down. It involves placing the cup on well oiled skin with a light suction so that the cup can be moved around easily. Benefits include improved circulation, pain relief, muscle tension relief and aids weight loss.
Wet cupping: is applying the cup to the skin with suction (dry cupping). Once the area has had time to encourage the blood to the surface of the skin the cup is then removed to make superficial incisions and then replaced to release the blood.
It is this method that was performed on the Prophet Muhammad and he said about it: ‘the best treatment you can use is cupping’ (Al-Bukhari: 5371)
A Brief History of Hijama Cupping Therapy
Evidence of hijama (cupping) can be found back as early as 1550 BC in ancient Egypt. Ebers Papyrus discovered in the 19th century describes bleeding by cupping in order to release bad blood.
In East Asia the earliest records of cupping were written on the ancient silk manuscript Bo Shu which was discovered in an ancient tomb of the Han Dynasty. Cupping has been used alongside acupuncture in Chinese medicine from as early as the third century BC.
The father of modern medicine Hippocrates recommended cupping for various ailments including angina, excessive menstruation and other disorders. Galen was a major advocate of cupping and presented a very sophisticated theory which remained the basis for learned medicine until the 17th century.
In England cupping was practiced by the barbers as well as physicians during the medieval period.
In Europe famous physicians such as Paracelus (1493-1541), Ambroise Pare (1509-90), William Marsden (1796-1867) and Dr Martin (1827) practiced or employed cuppers to work for them.
It was also common for women to perform cupping in Islamic society and countries such as Greece, Holland and Russia.
Cupping declined around 150 years ago due to new theories in modern medicine which regarded cupping and other natural and alternative health practices as quackery and even unsafe. The invention and use of antibiotics and other drugs also contributed to its decline as well as its practice not fitting into the interests of the new medical authority.
Cupping the Great Missing Therapy by Dr Sahbaa M Bondok
Cupping, complied by Shihab Al-Badry Yasin
The Prophetic Medicine by Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya
How does Hijama Work?
The blood taken out during hijama comes out through small capillaries in the skin. This blood is considerably more toxic than blood taken out from your veins. When hijama cupping is administered the body begins a healing process as it thinks it has been injured and so releases more white blood cells which boosts the immune system. By expelling toxins, the body is able to rebalance itself and get back to homeostatic state.
• Helps tissues release toxins
• De-acidifies tissue directly when it is applied to that area
• Enhances the blood circulation by releasing stagnant blood
• Stimulates the immune system
• Reduces stress which is a major cause in illness
• Stimulates the flow of blood and lymph in the affected area
Hijama (wet cupping) is a very safe practice although considered a minor surgery. It is very easy to learn and practice although it is advisable to go to an experienced therapist especially if it is your first time.
If you do go to have hijama from anyone make sure that they are hygiene is being practiced to a high standard. Although any infection is unlikely it is highly important to err on the side of caution.
Your practitioner should be using sterilised or single use cups, sterile single use blades, gloves at all times and working in a clean clutter free space.