Gua sha

Gua sha
Gua Sha Massage Aftermath.jpg
Literal meaning"scraping sha-bruises"

Gua sha (Chinese: 刮痧), kerokan or coining, is part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Its practitioners use a tool to scrape people's skin to cause tissue damage in the belief this has medicinal benefit.[1][2] Gua sha is sometimes referred to as "scraping", "spooning" or "coining" by English speakers. The treatment has also been called the descriptive French name, tribo-effleurage.[3]

Any apparent benefit from gua sha is due to the placebo effect.[4]


Alternative medicine researcher Edzard Ernst has opined that clinical trials into gua sha "just show how remarkable placebo-effects can be, particularly if the treatment is exotic, impressive, involves physical touch, is slightly painful, and raises high expectations."[4] Further, Science-Based Medicine has reported that gua sha is a pseudomedicine, without good evidence that it is of any benefit: "It’s bruising from trauma".[2] As reported by a review article in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, the side effects of gua sha range from minor ones – including dermatitis, burns and hematuria – to rare major ones including cerebral hematoma and severe injuries requiring skin grafts.[1]


Gua sha was transferred to Vietnam from China as cạo gió, and is very popular in Vietnam. This term translates roughly "to scrape wind", as in Vietnamese culture "catching a cold" or fever is often referred to as trúng gió, "to catch wind". The origin of this term is the Shang Han Lun, a c. 220 CE Chinese medical text on cold induced disease—as in most Asian countries, China's medical sciences were a profound influence in Vietnam, especially between the 5th and 7th centuries CE.[5] Cạo gió is an extremely common remedy in Vietnam and for expatriate Vietnamese.

In popular culture

The 2001 movie The Gua Sha Treatment (Chinese: 刮痧; pinyin: guā shā) was made in Hong Kong and showed gua sha.[6] It is a story about cultural conflicts experienced by a Chinese family in the United States.[7]

See also


  1. ^ a b Vashi NA, Patzelt N, Wirya S, Maymone MB, Zancanaro P, Kundu RV (2018). "Dermatoses caused by cultural practices: Therapeutic cultural practices". J Am Acad Dermatol (Review). 79 (1): 1–16. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2017.06.159. PMID 29908818.
  2. ^ a b Crislip C (20 February 2015). "Traditional Chinese Pseudo-Medicine Hodgepodge". Science-Based Medicine.
  3. ^ Huard & Wong (1977), p.126. Also cited is a French romanization for the same set of two Chinese characters: koua sha.
  4. ^ a b Ernst, Edzard (11 January 2013). "Gua Sha: torture or treatment?". Edzard Ernst. Archived from the original on 17 February 2019. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  5. ^ Needham, J., Celestial Lancets, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University.
  6. ^ "EFL Movie Study Guide for: The Gua Sha Treatment". Krigline. Archived from the original on 17 February 2019. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  7. ^ "The Treatment: User Reviews". IMDB. Archived from the original on 17 February 2019. Retrieved 17 February 2019.