Health And Wellness

What Is Cupping & What Are The Benefits? + 12 Products To Use At Home

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What Is Cupping & What Are The Benefits? + 12 Products To Use At Home

You may recall the 2008 Beijing Olympics when many of the swimmers had their cupping marks exposed at competition, leaving Westerners saying things like, “What is that, a bruise?” “Have they been tortured?” “Oh, that look like it hurts!” 

Actually, these marks aren't from anything nefarious; instead, it's something called cupping therapy.

What is cupping?

“Cupping has a rich history of treating disease and imbalances in the physical, mental, and emotional human bodies. Since 2008, it has gained a rapid following for receivers and givers alike,” says Liz Aigner, LMT, and Vice President of Education for Color Up.

But cupping has been used long before 2008.

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Traditional Fire Cupping has evidence dating back to 1,000 BC, with Egyptian and Chinese cultures performing cupping using bamboo, animal horns, or brass.

“Archeologists have also found evidence of cupping from the Middle East, Greece, and other parts of Europe dating back 3,000 years. There is no history of cupping in the West until the 19th century. It seems us Americans are always last to come full circle back to our holistic roots,” Aigner adds.

Cupping is generally a manual therapy that involves the use of glass cups. How does this work?

“A vacuum is created using fire, and cups are applied to the body to create a vacuum suction. This technique brings circulation to the area, reduces inflammation, helps facilitate lymph drainage, and can remove the lactic acid build-up that occurs in sore muscles after an injury or working out,” says Elizabeth Martin, a licensed acupuncturist.

Various techniques of cupping can be applied for those seeking treatment, including:

  • Stationary or static cupping: This is when the cup is placed on a certain acupuncture point or points, and it stays put during the remainder of the session. 
  • Sliding cupping: This technique can sometimes be compared to a backward massage where oil is applied to the skin and the cups are moved along an area, most commonly the back, but can be applied to various body parts to achieve a different effect. 
  • Wet cupping: This happens when a lancet is used to puncture the skin and draw blood, and a cup is applied to create a suction to draw out and detoxify the blood. 

What are the benefits of cupping?

Cupping is really popular to help speed recovery in athletes, particularly for runners, weight lifters, and endurance athletes. It helps improve energy and prevents sore and tight muscles. Most of my patients compare the slide cupping to a deep tissue massage. 

Cupping is also known to treat a cold or asthma by breaking up phlegm in the lungs. Says Martin, “It may leave marks on the body, but not to worry. This is part of a detoxification process, bringing any stagnation or injury to the surface to be released and will accelerate healing.”

Not only is cupping used for health, but for beauty as well.

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According to Martin, "Facial cupping can be used for reducing wrinkles, improving collagen in the face, and reducing aging when coupled with facial rejuvenation acupuncture.”

Traditionally, cupping is practiced using glass cups with fire, which creates the suction and are placed on acupressure points. Though this is the most effective when performed by a Chinese medicine practitioner, for those looking to try this at home, there are certain products to use.

You can even add essential oils like lavender, geranium and rose to further enhance the skin. 

Here are the best cupping sets and products to get you started.

1. The Guide to Modern Cupping Therapy: Your Step-by-Step Source for Vacuum Therapy 

Shannon Gilmartin is a licensed and nationally certified massage therapist. This book shares all her extraordinary professional and hands-on experience, so everyone can experience the benefits of cupping. It includes nearly 200 step-by-step photos and full color pages.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

2. Cupping Therapy for Muscles and Joints: An Easy-to-Understand Guide for Relieving Pain, Reducing Inflammation and Healing Injury

This book serves as a great 101 for cupping starters. Discover what cupping is, how it works, and which cupping techniques are best for you. Plus, you'll learn the science behind the suction, and the many conditions and ailments it can alleviate.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

3. NOW Solutions Grapeseed Oil

Use grapeseed oil before applying the cup so you can easily slide it. This oil also has amazing benefits for your skin, and can improve elasticity and softness.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

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4. Handcraft Blends Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender is great to use after cupping because it can help lighten skin and reduce wrinkles. Lavender also serves as a great way to calm and soothe you.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

5. Gya Labs Rose Geranium Essential Oil

Both rose and geranium oils are beneficial to skin after cupping. They can act as an anti-inflammatory to tighten skin, and help with the regeneration of new skin cells.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

6. Kangzhu 24-Cup Biomagnetic Chinese Cupping Therapy Set

This kit includes 24 different sized cups and a pump with easy-to-use pressure release valves. You'll be able to relax your muscles from the comfort of home.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

7. LURE Essentials Advanced Cupping Therapy Set

These cups are designed to be longer lasting, made from medical grade silicone. You can even use them in the shower with this set!

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

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8. ELERA Massage Cupping Therapy Set

This set is made with high quality transparent platinum cured medical grade silicone. It's durable and elastic, perfect for you.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

9. Care Me Acupuncture Cupping Therapy Set

While other brands charge extra for the extended tube, this set offers the tube free. It comes with a vacuum gun to adjust the degree of suction, plus 10 magnet needles for magnetic cupping.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

10. Hansol Cupping Therapy Equipment Set

These cups have done away with traditional firing, improving efficacy and simplifying therapy. They are easier to handle and safer for massage at home.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

11. RockTape Rockpods Cupping Set

This cupping set includes cups in two different sizes to target certain areas. Also included is an EVA carrying case.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

12. Cupping Warehouse Clear Silicone Massage Cupping Therapy Set

These Supreme Deep Pro Cups come with high-grade medical liquid silicone, cured with platinum. Not only are they strong, but also incredibly soft and gentle for suction.

(Check prices and reviews on Amazon)

RELATED: I Got My Face Cupped (And It Was The Best Thing Ever)

Aly Walansky is a NY-based lifestyles writer who focuses on health, wellness, and relationships. Her work appears in dozens of digital and print publications regularly. Visit her on Twitter or email her.

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