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Behind Olympic Cupping, a Story Rooted in Ancient Religions
While cupping hit the mainstream thanks to Olympic athletes, the practice has a religious history in Islam.
At the Rio Olympics, photos of circular purple hickeys decorating American swimmers were featured worldwide. Commentary from Olympians was overwhelmingly positive: cupping was said to help recovery time and pain management. In most outlets this was repeated verbatim. America had another alternative therapy du jour.
Does this meaning cupping works? Probably not.
While most commentators point to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as the originator of cupping, where it is heated and believed to shift the body’s energetic field, it has actually been used by a variety of cultures for at least 5,000 years. Egyptians were sticking suction cups on each other over 3,500 years ago, while Hippocrates was known to get his cup on.
Most interestingly, though, is the religious reverence given to wet cupping in Islam. Muhammad prescribed this version, which involves creating a small incision in the skin before suctioning, as recorded in the hadith.
Otherwise known as hijama, this ‘drawing out’ removes the jinn, or evil spirit, from the possessed. Along with the jinn being booted, any black spells associated with the spirit were also dissolved. Depending on the fanaticism level, hijama is a ‘cure for every disease’ or ‘certain diseases,’ although which ones are not elaborated upon. Instead, it is recommended on the ‘odd days of the Lunar calendar,’ and, obviously, is best on an empty stomach.
As with many such ‘sciences’ bloodletting is purported to remove toxins from the blood. That is the liver’s role, but I suppose since you’re discarding actual blood from your body, anything in it will, by default, leave as well.
A practitioner pricks the patient's skin with a needle during a blood cupping session in Singapore. Cupping therapy dates back to ancient Chinese, Egyptian and Middle Eastern cultures and is used to treat a variety of medical conditions ranging from skin problems, blood disorders, fertility disorders and stroke. (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)
Support for cupping in the scientific literature does not bode well. Most evidence in favor of cupping comes from studies conducted by TCM practitioners, while most conclude that ‘more research is needed.’
One paper found cupping ‘not significantly convincing.’ A particularly disturbing paper documents patients in Rome and Mekele, Ethiopia. Researchers found lesions thought to be caused by trauma or violence to be cupping-related. One of the more unique endorsements of hijama comes from Pakistan:
ACT [Asif cupping therapy; the author’s first name is Asif] is novel quantum based energy model that successfully gives details that CT [cupping therapy] is a meaningful route based on electrical connectivity of deeper structure with quantum orifices present over the skin and application of negative vacuum and bloodletting facilitates the therapeutic expulsion of stagnated and intoxicated energy.
The main problem with such explanations is that energy has a definition, and it is measurable. Cupping, which has its most well known roots in TCM, is said to work by shifting the body’s qi, a mystical energy field that cannot currently be measured by Western standards—the exact response I’ve seen over and again anytime practices like acupuncture, cupping, and other TCM practices are questioned.
Western medicine, the nebulously employed term used when criticizing Euro-American medical approaches, is not perfect. The double-blind study is not without faults. Nearly unregulated pharmaceutical companies raking in billions of dollars on what should be generic prescriptions is heartbreaking and unsettling. An avoided conversation about diet being at the root of our diseases of affluence is tragic. No sane person would argue against these points.
Yet turning back to millennium-old hadith or a system that believes tiger penis offers aphrodisiac powers with no consistent evidence is equally boggling. As medical doctor Harriet Hall notes regarding acupuncture and cupping, “It can’t be stressed often enough that the plural of anecdote is not data.”
Religion requires a certain suspension of disbelief for it to be effective. Applying this mindset to medicine is dangerous. If future studies prove the efficacy of cupping related to specific conditions that would be a wonderful, non-invasive advance to be celebrated. That time has yet to come.
The process involves pricking the skin with needles before immediately applying a cup on top to draw congealed blood. Although the treatment is used widely throughout Asia and the Middle East, western medical groups remain sceptical of the health claims made by supporters and practitioners of the therapy. (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)
Derek Beres is working on his new book, Whole Motion: Training Your Brain and Body For Optimal Health (Carrel/Skyhorse, Spring 2017). He is based in Los Angeles. Stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.
- Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
- The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
- The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Cosmic death beams: Understanding gamma ray bursts<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cu2knVEk" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c6cfd20fdf31c82cb206ade8ce21ba3f"> <div id="botr_cu2knVEk_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cu2knVEk-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Researchers dramatically improve the accuracy of a number that connects fundamental forces.
- A team of physicists carried out experiments to determine the precise value of the fine-structure constant.
- This pure number describes the strength of the electromagnetic forces between elementary particles.
- The scientists improved the accuracy of this measurement by 2.5 times.
The process for measuring the fine-structure constant involved a beam of light from a laser that caused an atom to recoil. The red and blue colors indicate the light wave's peaks and troughs, respectively.
Scientists at Washington University are patenting a new electrolyzer designed for frigid Martian water.
- Mars explorers will need more oxygen and hydrogen than they can carry to the Red Planet.
- Martian water may be able to provide these elements, but it is extremely salty water.
- The new method can pull oxygen and hydrogen for breathing and fuel from Martian brine.