Gua sha is a traditional Chinese medical treatment in which the skin is scraped with a stiff instrument to produce light petechiae. By simply increasing circulation and bringing blood to the surface of the body, you can fight inflammation, increase your immune system resilience, and treat a wide variety of diseases.
What Is Gua sha?
Gua sha roughly translates into English as “scraping away fever.”
Today’s researchers have found scientific explanations for gua sha’s anti-inflammatory and immune boosting effects, which may last for days and counteract a number of symptoms and diseases.
Researchers have shown that gua sha causes a dramatic increase in circulation in the soft tissues under the skin. The benefits of gua sha seem to occur after blood is brought to the surface of the body during treatment. As the body reabsorbs this blood, it breaks down hemoglobin, triggering the production and release of HO-1 and its catalysates: bilirubin, biliverdin, and carbon monoxide. These potent chemicals fight infection, inflammation, and a number of other diseases.
What Can You Expect from Your First Gua Sha Session?
A typical gua sha session may only last 10 minutes. Your practitioner will start out by palpating (touching) your skin to see if there’s any “sha” (blood stagnation) present. Then, they will lubricate your skin with an oil or cream to minimize abrasion.
Be sure to tell your gua sha therapist about any painful areas you want to treat. Remember, they may not treat this part of your body; it may be better to treat an associated meridian (body energy channel).
Some force is applied during gua sha sessions, and you should tell your practitioner if you experience too much discomfort. Red marks may appear on your skin after a session, but should go completely away within a few days. A gua sha session should leave you feeling invigorated and energized.
The Benefits of Gua sha
By boosting the immune system and reducing inflammation, gua sha practitioners help those in their care cope with various conditions, including:
Pain and stiffness
Fever and chill
Neck and back pain
Flu and bronchitis
Asthma, coughing, and wheezing
By promoting HO-1 production, gua sha also heals chronic and acute conditions involving internal organs. It can help organ transplant patients avoid rejecting their transplants and fight certain autoimmune disorders.
In 2011, researchers from Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital found even a single gua sha treatment had a positive effect on people who suffered from hepatitis B (which causes liver inflammation and degradation). Practitioners in China also use gua sha to treat hepatitis C and other viral infections.