Facial Gua Sha

  What is Gua Sha?

Gua Sha (刮 痧) is a Chinese healing method that is based on the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory.  

Gua- 刮 means scrape and Sha - 痧 means petechia  but actually refers to a syndrome that includes different symptoms such as headache, fever, heat stroke, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, poisoning, and GI issues.  When administering Gua Sha, practitioners would use a smooth-edged tool to massage and scrap along energetic pathways in the body to release blockages, promote blood circulation, and relieve tension. 

By scraping, tiny rash-like spots called petechiae would show under the skin as a sign of dispelled heat and toxins from the body.

Gua Sha Petechiae

Historically, gua sha was performed using a variety of tools, including stones, ropes, coins, spoons, and even animal bones.

Bone Gua Sha

Early Origins of Gua Sha

The origins of Gua Sha are somewhat unclear, but it is believed to have been used in ancient China as far back as the Palaeolithic Age.  Archaeologists found tools made with Bian stone, in excavated cave dwellings.  These tools were used for healing, warming therapy, and even prehistoric surgery to treat the likes of poisoned wounds and abscesses.

It’s important to briefly discuss Bian therapy - the precursor of acupuncture and Gua Sha therapies as it influenced the development and evolution of what we know of Gua Sha today.  Bian therapy was one of the 6 ancient healing modalities in TCM and it involved the use of Bian stones to perform massage, surgery, and bloodletting.  However once the bronze age came around, Bian therapy fell out of favor and was almost forgotten until recent years. 

The practice of Gua Sha has been documented in various medical texts throughout Chinese history, including the Huang Di Nei Jing - Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine, which dates back to the third century BCE. It was also mentioned in the Ming dynasty text, the Ben Cao Gang Mu, which described gua sha as a treatment for various conditions, such as fever, cough, headaches, menstrual and digestive issues.

Qing Dynasty

During the Qing dynasty (1644-1912), gua sha therapy continued to evolve and gain popularity in China. The technique became more refined, with practitioners using more specialized tools made from materials such as jade, porcelain, and buffalo horn.

One notable development during the Qing dynasty was the integration of gua sha into the practice of tuina, a form of Chinese massage therapy. Tuina practitioners began incorporating gua sha into their treatments to help release tension and promote healing.

Qing Dynasty Gua Sha Illustration

Another significant development was the use of gua sha as a treatment for smallpox. At the time, smallpox was a major epidemic in China, and gua sha was seen as an effective way to treat the disease. Practitioners would use gua sha to stimulate the immune system and help the body fight off the infection.

During the Qing dynasty, gua sha also began to spread to other parts of Asia, including Japan and Korea. In these countries, it was adapted to fit local customs and practices, leading to the development of unique variations of the technique.

Overall, the Qing dynasty was a period of significant growth and development for gua sha therapy, as it became more widely recognized and integrated into traditional Chinese medicine.

Today, it is still used by many practitioners of Chinese medicine, as well as by some Western healthcare practitioners who have adopted the technique as a form of complementary therapy