“Oh my god! What happened!?”
My Chinese friend has just walked through the door and is sporting a huge, purple bruise down the centre of her neck.
“What is that?” I ask.
“Heatstroke,” she says.
Heatstroke?! The only way this is heatstroke is if the sun came down from space and punched you in the throat.
(I don’t say this, of course. But it would’ve been perfectly reasonable if I had).
“No, it’s guā shā” she smiles.
What is guā shā?
Guā shā, also known as scraping, is an ancient Chinese healing therapy used to remedy to everything from muscle pain to colds and fever.
Actually, the practice is over 2000 years old (yes, this laowai has been living under a rock).
On the outside, guā shā looks like some form of medieval torture, where the
victim patient lies down on a bed and has various parts of the body repeatedly scraped with a sharp, flat hand tool.
The type of tool can vary from a coin, water buffalo horn, jade or even just a metal cap.
It also leaves frightful markings on the body, which interestingly, in some non-Asian countries, has been mistaken for bruises and raised some serious eyebrows.
What it does?
The therapy aims to pull out the cold winds from the body, the ones that causes fever and muscles to tighten. (It’s believed that the cold winds get in easily through the neck).
Guā shā literally translates to “scrape away fever” but it is also used for muscle pains and other injuries, which according to Chinese medicine, have been caused by blockages of blood and qi (energy).
Does it work?
Some Chinese people absolutely swear by it, as does Gwyneth Paltrow but don’t let that put you off.
There are numerous studies on the subject, astesting to it’s effectiveness, albiet short-term.
Most recently, the American Journal of Chinese Medicine published findings that showed improvements in those with chronic neck pain who had undergone the treatment.
So next time you have a stiff neck or feel the sniffles coming, why not give guā shā a try?