One of the most fascinating healing procedures that is copied from traditional Chinese medicine is the Gua Sha, and it has gained massive popularity across the globe over the years. This muscular scrapping technique is considered the magic of East Asia and it boasts several benefits. Supposedly it makes you more concentrated, ensures that you look more presentable, less stressed, healthier and even more energized. In this write up, we will delve deeper into what Gua Sha means and its benefits. Along with that, we will give a few insights on how to use the gua sha tool on different parts of the body before explaining why the gua sha tool is good for you.
Gua Sha is a Chinese word that is defined in two parts; the word ‘Gua’ means ‘scrape’, while the word ‘Sha’ means ‘sand’ or ‘redness of skin’. It is more of a healing procedure that is borrowed from traditional East Asian Medicine. Initially, it was a natural traditional therapy that mostly involved using a spatula that was made from buffalo horn to massage one’s skin.
The literal translation of gua sha is ‘to scrape petechia’, which refers to the sand-like bruising effect left behind after the treatment is complete. It originated in China and spread to Vietnam, where it became even more popular. In Vietnamese culture, it is known as ‘cạo gió’, which means ‘to scrape wind’.
According to most Chinese acupuncturists, ‘Sha’ is mostly caused by various bacteria, viruses and toxins, that break the capillaries in your body and form hyperemia areas, or mucus and spots in the skin. All this form the sand-like condensed or scattered areas. For this reason, gua sha involves scrapping of the skin and during the process tiny dots under the skin emerge. Supposedly, the tiny dots resemble pieces of sand, which explains the meaning of gua sha.
Gua Sha Benefits
According to the Chinese and most acupuncturists, gua sha can help relieve several health conditions. It can help alleviate tension headaches, neck pain, migraines, and swelling in your body and it is great treatment for musculoskeletal problems. Along with that, gua sha significantly helps with fatigue, anxiety, perimenopausal symptoms and insomnia, when done together with acupuncture. Other important benefits of gua sha are as follows;
It increases blood circulation as it lifts and firms up your skin.
It improves the flow of lymphatic fluids and breaks down tension in muscles and knots in your neck, face, or shoulders.
It significantly reduces any facial lines, and you can use it as a gently, natural face-lift that results in sharper cheekbones and less puffy eyes.
It reduces any hyperpigmentation on your skin and can make your skin much brighter.
It relieves side effects of tension headaches, migraines, breast engorgement, neck pain, Tourette syndrome, hepatitis B, and even the perimenopausal syndrome, among other conditions.
It can significantly decrease inflammation on the skin, and it is used to treat diseases such as fibromyalgia and arthritis, and any other sicknesses that may potentially trigger muscle and joint pains.
When used on the face, gua sha can give your face a much smoother complexion and more sculpted facial features.
Gua Sha History/Who invented Gua Sha?
Gua Sha is a popular Traditional Chinese Medicine practice that was used by ancient Chinese and it is considered one of the oldest healing techniques to have ever existed. Aside from being used as a clinical practice by licensed acupuncturists and in Chinese-style bodywork, it is also used as folk therapy. Back then, in the Ming Dynasty between 1368 and 1644, gua sha was part of major medical records. Even so, the practice is considered to be much older than that, but the first record of gua sha dates back to 700 years ago during the era of the famous Ming Dynasty.
Based on most historical records, the gua sha technique was present during the Paleolithic Age. Whenever people entered into a comma or fell ill, various tools such as stones, coins, hands, or tins, were used to thoroughly massage various parts of their body to help reduce any pains and other side effects of their illnesses.
In 1974, a famous doctor known as Dr. James Tin Yau So opened one of the first and most renowned acupuncture schools in the United States. It was known as the New England School of Acupuncture and it was located in Boston. Dr. James is credited with raising awareness of traditional Chinese medicine and bringing acupuncture to western society. According to most of his students, he greatly taught about acupuncture and had a bias for gua sha, and he often told everyone that these two healing techniques could help cure almost all illnesses.
Gua Sha Tool
The Gua Sha is a flat tool that is made of a semi-precious stone and it is often used to massage the face and different parts of the body. Initially, the gua sha tool was a spatula that was made from buffalo horn to massage one’s skin. As time went by, the gua sha tools has been modernized and adjusted to accommodate different uses. Currently, it is made from fine materials such as rose quartz or jade, and it is used to massage the lubricated area of the body surface in a swift and gentle manner or in upward strokes, but in a vigorously scrapping motion. The tools is said to relax stiff muscles while relieving any body tension or pain, improving blood circulation, and treating various illnesses. Unfortunately, the gua sha tool creates minor bruises on the skin, which often appear as purple or red marks, which are known as ‘petechiae’ or ‘sha’. Even so, the bruises tend to go away after a few days.
What is Gua Sha and how does it work?
Gua Sha is deeply rooted in traditional Chinese medicine and according to the fundamental principles of traditional Chinese medicine, the energy in your body (qi) should flow seamlessly throughout your body so that you can feel healthy and at your best. According to Chinese doctors, when qi/this energy is stagnant in different parts of your body, different health problems can occur and your skin can become very dull. With gua sha, an acupuncturist can use a smooth-edged tool to scrape areas of your body where there seems to be stagnant qi, pain, or inflammation to improve circulation, promote healing, and relieve any tension in those areas.
The Gua Sha technique involves repeated pressed strokes over well lubricated skin using a smooth-edged and slightly bunt gua sha tool. The acupuncturist simply lubricates your skin with massage oil or balm, and sometimes uses a well-worn coin, a ceramic Chinese soup spoon, water buffalo horn, a metal cap with a blunt rounded edge, or honed animal bones to scrape your skin. In instances where you are fatigued from heavy manual labor, the acupuncturist soaks a piece of ginger root in rice wine before rubbing down your spine.
The smooth edge of the gua sha tool is placed against the lubricated skin surface, pressed down in a firm manner, and then the acupuncturist moves it down your muscles along the pathway of the acupuncture meridians found on the surface of your skin. Sometimes, gua sha is done with fire cupping and other acupuncture methods.
When to use Gua Sha
If you want to enjoy the best results of the gua sha, you should do it once a day. However, you can still get to experience the maximum benefits of the Gua Sha healing technique if you do it about two to three times weekly. The whole idea is that gua sha is done to ease tension and increase circulation on different parts of your body and it may live a few bruises on your skin, so you do not want to overdo it.
When doing it on your face, gua sha is best done right after you have just cleansed your face and after applying facial oil or a moisturizer. In this case, gua sha simply serves as a facial massage and ensures that all the nutrients in your skin products absorb better into your skin. Along with that, you can either do it in the morning or evening, depending on your skincare routine. If you want to reduce puffiness on your face, doing it in the morning may be a great way to enjoy gua sha benefits.
How Gua Sha works
As a healing therapy and treatment in Traditional Chinese Medicine, gua sha uses a viscous solution (could be water, Vaseline, moisturizer, or face oil) and a smooth tool/material (could be metal plates, jade plates, spoons, or a specially designed gua sha tool) to stimulate a particular area of your body (could be the neck, shoulder, buttocks, leg, or face, among other body parts).
How to use Gua Sha
More often than not, licensed acupuncturists use Gua Sha, but as times go by, it is becoming a popular trend among many as we can see from multiple TikTok video. Using it is a very easy process, and here is how you can go about it;
Start by preparing your skin using lubricant to prevent skin irritation during the process. Most experts advise using water and doing the gua sha in the shower for best results, but you can consider using left over serum from a face mask, facial mist, Vaseline, or any other moisturizer.
When doing it, start from the point of pressure going in an upward or circular motion to ease any tension and improve circulation a particular area. Use gentle, upward and outward strokes while running the gua sha tool over specific body parts. When done, use short strokes in the same direction as you sweep the tool on the affected area. Ensure to press firmly if you want to relax you muscles.
Once done, you should feel lighter and much better.
How to use Gua Sha
Here is how you can use gua sha;
How to use Gua Sha Tool/Stone
To do this, you should;
Start by cleansing your face then tone it. When doing this, ensure that the gua sha tool/stone and your hands are clean to avoid tampering with the results.
Apply facial oil or any lubricant to your body or face. Oil simply helps the gua sha tool or stone glide easily. But you can always opt for a cream or water-based lotion, depending on your preference.
Perform the gua sha practice by holding the tool or stone at a 30-45 degree angle, then gently scrape/pull it across your skin. As a general rule of thumb, all movements should be upward and follow a lymphatic flow. Repeat the process about 4-5 times before moving to the next part of your skin.
Remove any excess oil for your skin and give it a rest.
Note that the process is similar for all body parts, however, we will go ahead and give a few other pointers on how to use the gua sha tool for other parts of the body.
How to use Gua Sha on Face
When using gua sha for your face, follow the steps we have mentioned above. However, you should start at the center of your forehead and divide your face into multiple sections then glide your tool/stone outwards. Scrap once, keep moving to other parts of your face and scrape again. Do this about 4-5 times until you are satisfied.
How to use Gua Sha for Double Chin
Gua Sha can be very effective in removing a double chin. All you need to do is to glide your gua sha tool/stone upwards from the center of your chine out to the ear lobe to contour the jaw and tighten the skin around the chin area. Ensure to scrape the tool/stone gently along your skin to move stagnant lymph and clear it away as stimulate circulation in the chin area.
How to use Gua Sha for Nose
Once you have lubricated your skin, start at your nose and work upwards in a gently but firm sweeping motion until you reach your cheeks and cheekbone. Slowly move outwards towards your ears and come back to the nose. Scrape once, move downwards then scrape one more time before moving downwards towards the center of the nose.
How to use Gua Sha for Eye Bugs
As mentioned earlier, gua sha can help reduce puffiness on your face and eye bags. Once your skin is lubricated, start by gliding upwards along the brow bone as you go from the inside out then move to the inner corner of your eye as you slowly glide outwards to the temple.
How to use Gua Sha for Acne
Generally, the gua sha is designed to bring fresh blood towards the surface of your skin which renews skin cells. In the process, the visibility of acne scars is reduced. If you want effective results you can consider using a Vitamin C Serum or Kumkumadi Oil.
How to use Gua Sha for Wrinkles
Gua sha boosts the elasticity of your skin and relaxes any stiff facial muscles and gives your skin an instant glow. Start with your forehead as you move towards all the other parts of your face. Repeat the process 3-5 times for best results.
Why is Gua Sha good?
According to most beauticians and acupuncturists, gua sha can help improve skin appearance and relieve several health conditions. As mentioned earlier, it actively helps alleviate tension headaches, neck pain, body swelling, and migraines, and it also a good healing procedure for musculoskeletal problems, especially the major ones, such as tightness in the back, neck, shoulders, and legs. In addition to that, gua sha significantly helps with insomnia, fatigue and anxiety, when it is done along with acupuncture. All in all, it promotes the flow of qi through your body, hence a better blood supply and seamless nerve conduction.
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