History of Hijama

Cupping Therapy is a therapeutic, naturopathic, holistic treatment that originated from ancient Egypt. The first documented medical text was found in 1550 BC. Vacuum therapy has been around for thousands of years. It is trending now again thanks to many winning Olympians like Michael Phelps. Hijama is believed to have started in Egypt, then spread all over the Middle East, then Asia and Europe. Immigrant carried Hijama tools along with them to the USA. American doctors carried cupping sets into the early 20th century. The breast pump developed from this era.

Distinctively Muslims over the centuries have preserved and developed the science of Hijama after it has almost vanished worldwide. The reason they are keen on preserving Hijama is that the Final Messenger Prophet of God, Muhammed, received Hijama therapy himself. He was commanded by the Angels to get Hijama therapy and to command Muslims to seek Hijama therapy. Prophet Muhammad stated “Hijama is the best of your therapies”. Hijama Cupping is a holistic form of preventative and curative therapy that has no adverse effect on the body. Hijama stood out because it provides Healing without medicine. Among historic celebrities who received Hijama therapy on a consistent basis are Sultan Abdul Hamid II of Turkey and Napoleon Bonaparte of France.






Meaning of “Hijama”

“Hijama” literally means “Suction” in the Arabic language. Hijama is pronounced /ˈhēʒæmə/. Hijama is referred to as “Wet Cupping”. The term “Cupping” comes from the word “Cup”, which comes from Latin Cuppa, Cuppa is derived from the Arabic word “كوب” [kūb] which means “Cup”. The reason why the phrase “Wet Cupping” is used instead of “Blood Cupping” for example, is because it is not only blood that comes out; sometimes it is pus, lymph fluid, interstitial fluid etc and also because the amount of blood withdrawn is so minimal.

Picture of Hijama Equipment designed and manufactured in the USA by George Tiemann & Co. in their 1870-80’s Instruments Catalogue.

The term “Hijama” has traditionally been used as a more technical and definitive form of wet cupping. Hijama, when compared to Wet Cupping, emphasizes a healing combination of the soul and body. It refers to refined therapeutic standards that are not solely profit oriented. It references the fact that healing comes only from Allah, but yet we seek therapy because God commanded us to do so.

What is Hijama?

Hijama, aka, Wet Cupping is a safe, non operative, non-invasive and economic way to create a therapeutic trauma accompanied by a controlled cutaneous inflammation via means of Myofascial Decompression and Scarification. Blood and lymph, among other fluids, are drawn via means of vacuum though the superficial skin scratches. The body then automatically activates its natural defense mechanism (Hemostasis), which stops the bleeding. 

Hijama is performed using single-use disposable cups and a single-use sterile surgical blade. The incisions made in an aseptic condition and are characterized by being shallow, superficial, and non-invasive. They look more like a scratch or a paper cut. The negative pressure applied by Hijama ruptures weak capillaries that have lost elasticity and deteriorated, in cases beyond repair. Capillary cells have the ability to regenerate from pre-existing blood vessels; this process is called angiogenesis. Angiogenesis occurs to heal the body, and restore blood flow to affected tissues. Endothelial cell mend themselves and create a new capillaries. The activated endothelial cells produce enzymes and growth factors that triggers the healthy multiplication of more endothelial cells and release them into the surrounding tissue. The result is newly formed capillaries and an increase in the vascular network.

The negative pressure under the cup has up to a 4-inch effect on deep tissues, which stimulates the body to remove unhealthy toxins as they trickle out in the cup and cleanse the targeted points. Most Hijama treatment plan will typically include the upper back, around (T3 & T4), Rhomboids and Trapezius muscles. Due to the anatomical nature of these areas, they tend trap more toxins and debris than anywhere else on the body.

Before the beginning of the Hijama session, Hijama practitioners check vitals and then sanitize the skin. The sessions starts by applying cups according to predetermined Accu-Hijama plan. The strength of suction is applied at these three levels 1- Stimulation Strength, 2- Tonifying Strength, 3- Drainage (Detox) Strength. Certain points will need to be charged, others will need to be discharged, depending on whether this point has developed hot or cold ecchymosis. The amount of blood the comes out of Hijama is always variable. It changes every session even for the same client. It also changes from one person to another and from point to another. Many factors play a role like room temperature, mood, diet, supplements, life style, blood pressure and disease states. The benefit of Hijama is never measured by the amount of blood in the cup.

The number of Hijama cups is dependent on many factors like: The reason why Hijama is requested, Disease state, Age, Blood values like hemoglobin levels, Time since last Hijama, Weight and Height.

“Early civilizations may have been inspired by seeing bats remove blood from animals, hippos scratching on trees until they bled, and other animals scratching at diseased body parts for relief.” Dr. Douglas Arbittier, M.D.

How does Hijama work?  

A lot of people consider Hijama because they are experiencing pain. Hijama is reconstructive and regenerative, yet it is minimally invasive. It does not just mask the pain, it rather gently heal the body on a cellular level. It does not cut arteries, veins, nerves or muscles. In order to understand part of the mechanism action involved in Hijama we have to understand a little bit about Nitric Oxide gas. NO is a chemical compound with the formula N2O. When Ferid Murad and Robert Furchgott discovered NO gas, they were awarded jointly the Noble Prize in medicine in 1998 for their discoveries concerning nitric oxide as a signaling molecule in the cardiovascular system. Endothelium-derived relaxing factors such as Nitric Oxide (NO) are released from the endothelial cells due to the therapeutic trauma created during and after Hijama.

Nitric Oxide Gas is a vasodilator, muscles relaxer (helps with spasms) and anti-thrombotic. it decreases inflammation, prevents vascular stenosis, as NO inhibits the proliferation of blood vessel walls, Inhibits the aggregation of platelets, reduces smooth muscles proliferation (play important roles in atherosclerosis throughout all stages of the disease) and decreases vascular resistance. It also contributes to the immune response because it controls neurotransmission. The negative pressure created inside the cup stretches both nerves and muscles which reduces adhesions and neural tension. Efficacy of Hijama is dependent on factors that include identifying: When to do Hijama, Where to place the cups, Order of the cups, Strength of the negative pressure (Suction), Duration of negative pressure, Style of incisions, Number of sessions… etc.

Hijama versus Massage:

Massage pushes down, compresses, vibrates.. Hijama creates a vacuum effect that pulls up the tissues, muscles, blood vessels, nerves, tendons and ligaments toward the outside surface of the body. Thus, it loosens, separates, detaches and stretches stiff tissues and sore muscles, within tolerance, to restore their original elasticity and function. Yet, Hijama does not create a congestive build up in the underlying structure as it proceeds through the incisions to drain the underneath buildup.

Hijama versus dry cupping:

Hijama is clinically superior to dry cupping as it removes Causative Pathological Substances CPS, in order to restore healthy physiology. Dry cupping therapy depends on dilution and redistribution of CPS to new sites before the body can finally remove it in a limited capacity.

Hijama versus Acupuncture:

After Dr. Ilkay Zihni Chirali studied acupuncture. He experimented by performing Hijama on the same points he would traditionally use for acupuncture. He found that Hijama is 10 times more effective than acupuncture. He also found that Hijama is much safer than acupuncture. If the acupuncturist miss the point by a few millimeters, the needle could go into another meridian, which could void the effectiveness of the needle and in some cases, It could cause medical complications. In a case study, when an acupuncture needle was inserted in an area that had Hematoma, the needle was not effective. It did not increase or decrease energy in this point. So they had to do Hijama first. Yet, After they did Hijama, the hematoma was resolved and there was no need for acupuncture in the first place at that time.

Why isn’t Hijama popular despite being safe, affordable and effective?

Unfortunately, in the USA, little or no attention is given to Hijama to the point that it is not even recognized officially. Scientific research and development does not invest in Hijama because it is not financially rewarding. Spending Millions or Billions of Dollars on Hijama experiments, trials and research will never lead to a patent, or in other words, profit, since Hijama costs less than $200 on average. Majority of physicians have absolutely no idea what Hijama is as they have never studied it in Medical Schools. When Hijama is discussed, everyone is quick to jump into the benefits of Hijama but not the Mechanism of Action, which renders the argument lacking of scientific evidence. Health care providers are quick to dismiss the benefits of Hijama as they ignorantly compare it blood donation or blood letting.

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