Cupping therapy has many uses. One beneficial use of cupping therapy is to help with detoxification. Our body performs detoxification on a daily basis. It is mostly performed by the liver, but the kidneys, skin, lungs, and the lymphatic system also play a large role in our body’s ability to remove metabolic and environmental waste. The words detox and detoxification get thrown around quite a bit in our modern lives to refer to different diets and lifestyle tacts. I’d like to demystify the concept.
Detoxification is simply the process of removing waste and other harmful material from the body. These wastes may be metabolic wastes, such as inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide, or removing lactic acid buildup in muscles from heavy exertion. Waste can can also be byproducts and filler in medications, preservatives or food coloring in processed food, environmental pollution that we have absorbed through our skin or breathed in, inflammation and cellular debris left over from chemotherapy or radiation treatments, and toxins from recreational drugs and alcohol consumption.
Our body has many excellent strategies to help remove waste, but sometimes we consume and absorb more than our body can easily manage in a day. To aid in detoxification, having diet rich in a wide variety of vegetables and fruits will ensure that our body has the tools from specific nutrients in produce to facilitate the detoxification process. It is also important to stay hydrated by drinking adequate amounts of water. Aside from supporting our body’s natural detoxification process through diet, we can aid it by doing regular activities that facilitate sweating, such as saunas and exercise. Sweating will help our skin eliminate water soluble toxins through our skin.
Finally, cupping therapy will aid in the detoxification process. Cupping therapy utilizes lymphatic drainage and, similar to a sauna, the pores of the skin to help remove metabolic waste and toxins from the body.
How does it work?
Cupping applies negative pressure to the tissues that cups are placed on. As it pulse skin, fascia, adipose tissue, and muscle up into the cup, it opens capillary beds, and lymphatic vessels. Some forms of metabolic waste and toxins will leave the capillary beds and enter the lymph system, others will be pulled completely out of the body through the pores of the skin.
This is best illustrated when I treat competitive swimmers with cupping therapy in my clinical practice. With swimmers that practice for hours a week in a chlorinated pool, when we remove the cups from their body, the smell of chlorine will fill my treatment room. It is a sign that we pulled excess chlorine out of the body all together by releasing it through the skin.
Another impactful example of cupping therapy’s ability to remove waste from the body, happened during my clinical observation rounds at the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine. I was observing a pair of clinical interns as they performed cupping on a heavy smoker. The patient reported smoking a pack a day for many years. The interns had applied cups over the back muscles that overlay the lungs. When the cups were removed, tar had seeped out of the pores. We were able to wipe it off with a paper towel and show it to the patient, who proclaimed that they wanted to attempt to quit smoking in earnest.
When to use cupping for detoxification?
You can use cupping for detoxification on a weekly basis for general health, or when you know you need help removing extra waste or toxins from the body. When I took a three day cupping seminar from the International Cupping Therapy Association in 2014, I learned a few cupping techniques from a variety of countries. One technique came from Russia and is employed with an idea similar to taking a regular sauna session. The idea is to weekly or twice a month, get a cupping treatment to help your body flush out any extra waste.
But other times where it would be useful to receive weekly cupping for detoxification is if you are performing a spring dietary cleanse, have recently finished medical treatment with radiation or chemotherapy, or know that you have been exposed to a high level of chemical pollution at work or from an accident. In these instances, cupping therapy paired with specific dietary strategies will help your body recover faster.