Guasha (Chinese 刮痧), Literal meaning “scraping sha-bruises”.
Guasha is a traditional Chinese medical treatment in which the skin is scraped to produce light bruising. Guasha stimulates the immune system, detoxifies and de-acidifies, promotes qi and blood circulation, regulates functions and organs, removes blockades and pain, revitalizes and regenerates life-extension, diminishes stress, fatigue and burn-out, improves and cures indirectly countless (chronic) disorders and complaints, rebalances emotions, relaxes and promotes clarity of mind…everything through ONE simple treatment — Guasha. It is “replacing” other methods like massage, connective tissue treatment, reflexology, hotstone massage, acupuncture, moxa, lymph drainage and immune therapy.
In the treatment special oil is put on a particular area of the skin whereafter the therapist starts “scraping” the area with a “scraper” (a specially designed instrument of jade or horn). Very soon the skin becomes red (sometimes it still stays pale). The amazing thing is, that on places where disorders are hidden, red spots appear IN the skin (not ON the skin) comparable to hemorrhage. Because the scraping is on the oily skin the patient will hardly feel pain – neither during nor after the treatment – the skin will not be damaged, and the red spots will fully disappear within 3 to 7 days.
Guasha was transferred into Vietnamese from China as cạo gió, and is very popular in Vietnam. This term translates roughly “to scrape wind”, as in Vietnamese culture “catching a cold” or fever is often referred to as trúng gió, “to catch wind”. The origin of this term is the Shang Han Lun, a c. 220 CE Chinese Medical text on cold induced disease — like most Asian countries, China’s medical sciences had a profound influence in Vietnam culture, especially between the 5th and 7th Centuries CE. Cạo gió is an extremely common remedy in Vietnam and for expatriate Vietnamese.
It is also used in Indonesia, and in Java it is known as kerikan (lit., “scraping technique”) or kerokan, and it is very widely used, as a form of folk medicine, upon members of individual households.
Guasha involves repeated pressured strokes over lubricated skin with a smooth-edged instrument. Skin is typically lubricated with massage oil and commonly a ceramic Chinese soup spoon was used, or a well-worn coin, even honed animal bones, water buffalo horn, or jade. A simple metal cap with a rounded edge is commonly used. In cases of fatigue from heavy work, a piece of ginger root soaked in rice wine is sometimes used to rub down the spine from top to bottom. The smooth edge is placed against the oiled skin surface, pressed down firmly, and then moved down the muscles—hence the term tribo-effleurage (i.e. friction-stroking)—or along the pathway of the acupuncture meridians, along the surface of the skin, with each stroke being about 4–6 inches long. Practitioners tend to follow the tradition they were taught to obtain sha: typically using either guasha or fire cupping. The techniques are sometimes used together.
In China, they are widely available from national and public hospitals to private massage shops. Because of local people’s deep trust to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), they are very popular.