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What is Gua Sha

What is Gua Sha

The art of the ancient Chinese healing treatment, Gua Sha…

Ancient Chinese healing methods are well documented throughout history, but not all of these practices were adopted by the rest of the world. Herbal remedies and healing techniques such as acupuncture and fire cupping have made a small but firm base in western cultures, however there are still many other techniques, such as Gua Sha, that remain relatively unused and perhaps unknown.

The word Gua Sha is derived from two Chinese characters; Gua, meaning to scrape; and Sha, meaning sand. In English, Gua Sha basically means, “to scrape away fever,” but could be more figuratively translated as, “to scrape away illness by allowing the disease to escape as sandy-looking objects through the skin.”

gua sha skin rash 550x412 What is Gua Sha

Gua Shaw Marks

The ‘sandy objects’ in the skin refer to this blemish, or rash, that forms following the treatment. While not painful, these rashes and marks are testament to why the technique never gained popularity in the west.

Also known as spooning, Gua Sha is carried out by applying repeated pressured strokes over lubricated skin.
Gua Sha healing promotes the flow of Qi (energy) and blood throughout the body, and is used to treat:

  • Fever.
  • Fatigue caused by exposure to heat (often used to treat heat-stroke) or cold.
  • Cough and dyspnea: bronchitis, asthma, emphysema.
  • Muscle and tendon injuries.
  • Push sluggish circulation, fibromyalgia.
  • Headache.
  • Sunstrokes / heat syncope and nausea.
  • Stiffness, pain, immobility.
  • Digestive disorders.
  • Urinary, gynecological disorders.
  • Food poisoning.

To perform the technique, a Gua Sha oil is applied to the affected area. Gua Sha oil is specifically blended with herbs or essential oils that promote the release of toxins that block Qi and healthy blood flow.

The practitioner will then use a tool to scrape 4-6 inch strokes along the length of the affected muscle or along acupuncture meridians. Several different tools such as a well worn coin, metal cap, animal bone, buffalo horn; or more traditionally a ceramic Chinese spoon, can be used to scrape the skin.

gua sha tools 550x347 What is Gua Sha

Gua Sha Tools

The strokes will create sufficient friction to raise the Sha – the toxins that flood to the skin’s surface.

Applying pressure on the muscles and the acupuncture meridians causes the extravasation of blood from the peripheral capillaries (petechiae), this results in cutaneous blemishing that take 2-4 days to subside. Despite the discoloration of the skin, Gua Sha does not represent capillary rupture like a bruise.

The type of rash that forms determines the type of negative Qi being released. Red spots indicate the release of toxins. Very old and stagnant blood raises purple coloration. Dark green signifies stagnant blood and toxic Qi. A green glow that turns red is a symptom of pain or stagnant Qi. These negative conditions being released are signs of healing.

The technique is said to offer an immediate sense of relief and change, which continues for several days as the body continues to release toxins and replace them with healthy oxygen-rich blood and fluids.


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