Gua What?? "What is Gua Sha?" you ask. It’s one of the coolest East Asian therapies you’ve never heard of. A practitioner glides a hard-sided tool (traditionally jade) across lubricated skin to produce little red dots called transitory therapeutic petechia, or sha. This extravasation of blood, which causes no damage to the capillaries, is indicated for pain, limited range of motion, numbness/radiculopathy or illness. Bringing this blood to the surface of a painful or stiff area moves Qi and Blood, relieving stasis, which in Chinese Medicine, is the cause of pain. With regard to illness, the common cold is considered an “evil qi,” which can be categorized as hot or cold, and gua sha is used to either vent the heat or warm the cold, thus providing relief from illness. While getting relief from your neck pain or that nagging cough is reason enough to come in for some gua sha, something else pretty rad is going on. During the reabsorption of petechia, the breakdown of hemoglobin creates a cell-protective and anti-inflammatory enzyme called Hemeoxygenase-1 or HO-1. Imaging done after a gua sha session has shown HO-1 not only in the local areas treated, but in internal organ sites up to 4 days after treatment. Why is this so rad? Gua sha is a natural up-regulator of HO-1, and studies of HO-1 have shown it to be significant as therapeutic for the treatment of:
- Lung inflammation and injury
- Liver disease, Kidney inflammation/damage
- Insulin resistance and chronic inflammation in non-obese women with PCOS
- Brain degeneration/Alzheimer’s
Gua sha…it’s not just for evil qi anymore.