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Gua sha

Scraping the skin for the good of your qi.

By Zeel Editorial Staff, Last updated: August 9, 2016

Gua sha is an East Asian body treatment used to treat fever, headache, sunstroke and a myriad of other issues. The main treatment technique is the dragging of a smooth, round object against the oiled skin, often a smooth coin or a spoon, or sometimes a specially designed jade or horn tool. In theory, the scraping allows blocked qi to flow and fever to escape.

The origins of gua sha: Gua sha is practiced under many names in East Asia, from China to Indonesia to Vietnam to Laos. Traditionally, the skin was oiled with peanut oil and scraped with a spoon, coin or slice of buffalo horn. Hence, the practice is also sometimes called spooning or coining.

Today, other oils are used, or even Vick's Vapo-Rub. Gua Sha treats chronic and temporary ailments, like headache, asthma, heatstroke, fever and the common cold.

Benefits Of Gua Sha

Gua sha is normally used on the yang parts of the body, which include the back, neck, shoulders, extremities and buttocks. The basic theory is that by scraping the skin, sha, or fever, escapes the body. It is used to treat ailments like fever, asthma, flu, colds and heatstroke, though it can also be used preventatively.

The scraping of the skin is considered to be both healing and diagnostic. During gua sha, the scraping device is drawn firmly against oiled skin at about a 30 degree angle. The purpose of the scraping is to allow slow blood and blocked qi to flow. When small red dots appear, it means that sha (fever or illness) is freed and that qi now flows freely again. If the area is unblocked, then the skin will turn pink but no dots will appear.

What To Expect

During a typical gua sha session, you will lie on your stomach and remove your clothing. The gua sha practitioner will oil your skin and then scrape the skin of the back, neck, shoulders, legs, arms and buttocks with a smooth semi-circular tool. The sensation is not painful, though it can be uncomfortable at times. A typical gua sha session takes aabout half an hour.

Recommended sessions: Between one to three gua sha sessions are typically recommended.

Preparation: Make sure the skin in the area to be treated has no open wounds or active skin infections. Let the practitioner know about your specific ailments.


Gua sha should not be performed on moles, scars or open or healing wounds to avoid skin damage and scarring.

Who wouldn't benefit: Gua sha is meant to be performed on "yang" parts of the body, so it may not be suitable for stomach issues, for example. The treatment leaves raised red marks on the skin that can last for up to a week, so don't opt for gua sha if you plan to wear a strapless gown the next day.

Celebrity Devotees

Dapper Hong Kong actor Tony Leung appeared in a movie called Gua Sha, during which he received the treatment.

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