Our Skin as a barrier and how Cupping & Gua Sha can bolster our Immunity

Our skin is an unsung hero of the body! We know that it protects sensitive inner tissues and organs from the outside world, but in addition to its work as a physical barrier our skin is itself an organ of our immune system. Western medicine (WM) has more recently recognized what Chinese medicine (CM) has known for many generations – the intimate connection between the skin and the immune system as a whole. In CM, the skin is a common site of invasion by, and protection from, external pathogens.

While the concept of illnesses as due to climatic factors (wind, heat, fire, cold, dryness, or dampness) is unfamiliar to us in the West, they are the cause of the same illnesses and symptoms we recognize from every respiratory virus season: fever, chills, body aches, cough, sore throat, sinus congestion, runny nose, digestive upset. These climatic pathogens find their way to deeper regions of the body by entering through vulnerable areas in the most superficial channels as they circulate on the surface of the skin. 

Keeping your head, neck, lower back, and ankles covered is a good first step toward protecting yourself, but what else can you do to keep seasonal sickness at bay? Come and get cupping and gua sha at Heart & Hands! Both cupping and gua sha stimulate the flow of new blood and Qi (vital energy) to the tissues, which helps to activate the immune cells that operate in and around dermal cells. These therapies promote the flow of any waste products resulting from the immune system’s protective actions out of the cells and into the lymphatic vessels. In CM we see this as stimulating and tonifying the flow of Wei (protective) Qi in the superficial channels.

By building your Wei Qi, we provide less open space for pathogens to invade. Strong Wei Qi will fend off the pathogenic influences. In WM terms, studies have shown an increase in the activity and presence of immune modulating proteins and enzymes, as well as flow in the lymphatic system, with the application of cupping and gua sha to the skin. 

But what about if you feel run down and like you might be getting sick, or you were recently ill and have some symptoms hanging around? In addition to building a barrier of protection, cupping and gua sha can also help open the superficial channels, and drive out lingering pathogens. When working the skin, these manual therapies warm and open the channels that traverse the surface of our bodies. With our channels open, the tonification of protective Qi pushes pathogens out to the surface, allowing them to be expelled.

Alongside your community acupuncture sessions and all your other cold and flu season go-to’s like soup and rest, cupping and gua sha are great tools for staying well and protected this Winter! If you are curious about whether cupping and gua sha can help with what ails you, contact us . 

I look forward to seeing you at Heart & Hands!
Jaay (Jade) Kulhawy-Bartlett, R.Ac.

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