Hijama (Arabic: حجامة means “sucking”) is the Arabic term for wet cupping, where blood is drawn by vacuum from a small skin incision for therapeutic purposes. The practice has Greek and Persian origin and is mentioned by Hippocrates. It is reported that the prophet Muhammad ﷺ said, “Indeed the best of remedies you have is hijama, and if there was something excellent to be used as a remedy then it is hijama. (Qayyim Al-Jauziyah (2003). Abdullah, Abdul Rahman (formerly Raymond J. Manderola), ed. Healing with the Medicine of the Prophet. ISBN 978-9960892917.)
Hijama or Cupping therapy is a simple, effective, economic and time-saving treatment.
The vacuum or sucking effect can be achieved by many different methods including sucking with the mouth directly over a cut or wound (as in the case of poisonous bites), using a leech to draw blood, the use of instruments such as animal horns as was done in ancient times, or the more modern methods of using bamboo, glass or plastic “cups”, either with ﬁre or a pump mechanism. The practice of applying a partial vacuum by these means causes the tissues beneath the cup to be drawn up and swell, thereby increasing blood ﬂow to the affected area. This enhanced blood ﬂow draws impurities and toxins away from the nearby tissues and organs towards the surface for elimination via the break in the skin layer created through the incisions made prior to the application of the “cup” or similar device.
Bamboo cups were popular in Traditional Chinese Cupping before the arrival of plastic and glass cups. Many practitioners still prefer to use bamboo cups as they can be infused with an herbal decoction before application. Today it is not preferred for wet cupping as one cannot see the amount of blood being cupped and they are also impossible to sterilize.
Nowadays plastic cups are commonly used for the cupping procedure and represent a safe and affordable method of creating the vacuum needed. These cups however must be disposed of after therapy, as the valve mechanism cannot be adequately sterilized.
Leeches were also commonly used for drawing blood and have been approved by the FDA in the US for use in plastic and reconstructive surgery. These medicinal leeches are valued because while drawing blood they release natural anticoagulant and anesthetic substances and are therefore able to efﬁciently restore blood ﬂow. Some cupping clinics employ the use of medicinal leeches and while it may be unpleasant it is in fact a safer and preferred option, which also leaves less scarring.