Understanding al-Hijama, the Wet Cupping

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by Dr Shabir Ahmad

In our day-to-day life, our body is exposed to a number of toxins and harmful organisms. Things we eat or drink are also not of the quality as they should be. All this deranges our body’s internal environment, as a result of which our body remains under constant stress to fight and remove these evil doers.

Preparing for the wet cupping, the al-Hijama

Besides regulating eating behaviour by taking pure and balanced diet, going for a morning walk and having routine exercise in the fresh air; one can keep his body fit and get rid of the health enemies by choosing Hijama or cupping. Here we will discuss wet cupping.

Hijama is an Arabic term which means “sucking”. It is a procedure performed by a cupping expert, in which blood is drawn out using special cups after creating a vacuum inside them. It is done both for prophylactic and therapeutic purposes, hence protects and promotes health.

Hijama therapy is well documented as a result of several thousand years of clinical experience in Unani medicine.

Its origin is found to be in Greece, Arab, Persia and China. It is mentioned by Hippocrates (father of medicine). Moreover, there are a number of Hadiths [sayings of our beloved Prophet (PBUH)]vindicating and endorsing Hijama for prophylactic as well as therapeutic purposes.

Here we mention a few: “If there is something excellent to be used as a remedy, then it is Hijama,” reported by abu Huraira (ra) [sunan ibn majjah]. “The best medicine with which you treat yourselves is Hijama”. [sahi albukhari, Hadith no: 5371].

“The best treatment is Hijama, it removes blood, lightens the back and sharpens the eyesight.” [Al–Hakim 4/212, At-Tirmidhi Hadith no: 3053]. Jaabir ibn Abdullah (ra) reported that the Messenger (PBUH) said, “Indeed in Hijama there is a cure.” [Saheeh Muslim Hadith no: 5706].

Anas ibn Maalik (r.a) reported that the Messenger (SAW) was treated with Hijama three times on the two veins at the side of the neck and the base of the neck. [Saheeh Sunan abi Dawud (3860), Sunan-Ibn-Maajah Hadith No: 3483].

Abu Hurairah (ra) reported that the Messenger (PBUH) said, “Whoever performs Hijama on the 17th, 19th or 21st day (of the Islamic/ lunar month) then it is a cure for every disease.” [Sunan Abu Dawud Hadith no: 3861].

From the above quoted prophetic sayings, it is clear that Prophet (PBUH) himself resorted to Hijama as a way of treatment and also strongly recommended it for others.

Unani system of medicine is practising and performing researches to reveal the effectiveness of Hijama in different ailments. According to Unani classical texts, Hijama is the treatment of choice for removing excess or deranged humors which, as per Hippocrates, are the actual cause of diseases.

Hijama removes morbid matters and toxins from the body which otherwise cause disease or deteriorate the health of a person.

Indications: Different diseases in which Hijama can be applied are headache, migraine, meningitis, stroke, amnesia, Parkinson’s disease, chorea, haemorrhoids, osteoarthritis, hypertension, gout, polycystic ovarian disease, amenorrhea, leucorrhoea, sciatica, lumbago, stomatitis, aphthous ulcers, conjunctivitis, otitis media, orchitis, sinusitis, metritis, proctitis, spondylitis, skin disease like acne vulgaris, urticaria, psoriasis etc. Dr Willium Osler considered as the father of modern medicine and one of the founders of Johns Hopkins hospital the US recommended cupping for bronchopneumonia and acute myelitis in the early 1900`s.

So Hijama has a wide range of applications and some of them have been even scientifically validated and more research is in progress. Some ailments where efficacy and safety of Hijama have been scientifically proven include tension headaches, cluster headaches, migraine, osteoarthritis, hypertension, sciatica and lumbago, cardiovascular diseases like hyperlipidaemia, and coronary artery disease, acne vulgaris and many more.

How it works: Medical science believes that physique or immunity of a person is the actual doctor and we provide medicine only to aid the body`s defence mechanism in order to get rid of the disease. Hijama is a natural way to achieve the goal. Researchers have unveiled the fact that Hijama activates immune system which helps to fight against diseases, increases flow of blood and oxygen to the cupping region and helps to remove noxious substances, washes off inflammatory mediators, prostaglandins, ROS, damaged cells like mast cells, and neutrophils from the affected site, which help reduce pain and swelling, brings fresh defensive cells and help in healing process. Also, it induces the production of neurotransmitters, encephalin and endorphins which act as natural pain killers. Furthermore letting out of blood decreases its viscosity and hence prevents cardiovascular diseases. To put it laconically, Hijama detoxifies body and prevents from disease or cures it.

Best time for Hijama: It would be interesting here to mention that although Hijama is done throughout the year the best time for Hijama is spring season and best dates for Hijama are those of middle of lunar month especially 17th, 19th, and 21st and best days for Hijama are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, two hours after sunrise when temperature is pleasant as mentioned in different books.

It is also important to know that there are specific points on the body where cups are applied like bregma, a nap of the neck, inter-scapular region etc. Site is selected according to need or according to disease. Further, there are different conditions of body as well as of atmosphere in which Hijama is contraindicated that can be decided by an Unani expert. Thus assessment prior to a procedure is a must.

One of the important precautionary measures is that Hijama must be performed under well aseptic conditions. So before going for the procedure either for therapeutic or prophylactic measures one should consult an Unani physician or cupping expert so that the procedure is performed properly.

Dr Shabir Ahmad

Hijama has always been favoured by the people around the world. It is a widely accepted therapy in India, Pakistan, China and different Arab countries. It has now spread to the United States and modern developed countries in Europe.

As all of us know that health is wealth, so to maintain it and keep ourselves at bay from different diseases why should not we go for the process which is quite simple, has no or negligible side effects, and provides us relief physically, mentally and spiritually.

(The author is MD scholar at Regional Research Institute of Unani Medicine, Hazratbal, Srinagar.)

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