Gua sha

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Skin blemishing resulting from gua sha
Gua sha
Gua sha (Chinese characters).svg
"Gua sha" in Chinese characters
Literal meaning"scraping sha-bruises"

Gua sha (Chinese: 刮痧), kerokan or coining, is a form of pseudomedicine in which practitioners use a sharp object to scrape people's skin to cause tissue damage, in the belief this has medicinal benefit.[1][2] There is no good evidence it has any medical benefit; instead the procedure is actively harmful.[2][1]

Gua sha is a practice within traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Proponents believe that Gua sha releases unhealthy bodily matter from blood stasis within sore, tired, stiff or injured muscle areas to stimulate new oxygenated blood flow to the areas, thus promoting metabolic cell repair, regeneration, healing and recovery. Gua sha is sometimes referred to as "scraping", "spooning" or "coining" by English speakers. The treatment has also been called the descriptive French name, tribo-effleurage.[3]

Safety and effectiveness[edit]

Gua Sha is a pseudomedicine and there is no good evidence that it is of any benefit.[2] The practice is actively harmful, causing tissue damage when used.[2]

Side effects of gua sha range from minor ones – including dermatitis, burns and hematuria – to rare major ones including cerebral hematoma and severe injuries requiring a skin graft.[1] The injuries from gua skin resemble those from child abuse and familes have been prosecuted for using gua sha.[1]

In popular culture[edit]

The 2001 movie The Gua Sha Treatment (Chinese: 刮痧; pinyin: guā shā) was made in Hong Kong showing gua sha among other things. The movie starred Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Jiang Wenli, and Zhu Xu. It can also be seen in the 1995 Vietnamese movie Cyclo.


Gua sha was transferred to Vietnam 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 was a profound influence in Vietnam, especially between the 5th and 7th Centuries CE.[4] Cạo gió is an extremely common remedy in Vietnam and for expatriate Vietnamese.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Vashi NA, Patzelt N, Wirya S, Maymone MBC, Zancanaro P, Kundu RV (2018). "Dermatoses caused by cultural practices: Therapeutic cultural practices". J Am Acad Dermatol (Review). 79 (1): 1–16. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2017.06.159. PMID 29908818.
  2. ^ a b c d Crislip C (20 February 2015). "Traditional Chinese Pseudo-Medicine Hodgepodge". Science-Based Medicine.
  3. ^ Huard & Wong (1977), p.126. Also cited is a French romanization for the same set of two Chinese characters: koua sha.
  4. ^ Needham, J., Celestial Lancets, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University.