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Book Review: The Art of Cupping. Hedwig Manz

by Scott R. Smith


Paperback book, 182 pages
Thieme: 2009
Dimensions: 5x71/2"
Price: $49.95 (£39)
ISBN: 9783131486011

There is something about Hedwig Manz’s The Art of Cupping that is certain to appeal to readers. In their own words, Hedwig says the book is for …”practitioners and students…who want to be trained in cupping therapy, but also as information for readers without medical training.” This is not a TCM textbook per se; there is a heavier emphasis on biomedicine and naturopathy, however this should not dissuade a practitioner of Chinese medicine from investigating what lies within the pages of this book.

Hedwig Manz learned the benefits of cupping at a young age. It was their mother who taught that it was better to encourage the body to be self-healing rather than rely on outside assistance, such as drugs. This book is all about cupping. Gathered from the authors own clinical experience, Hedwig provides treatment protocols for illnesses that patients requested be free of “…chemical substances, medicinal side-effects, or even iatrogenic effects.”

The Art of Cupping provides a good foundation for the use of dry (bloodless) and wet (bloody) cupping to benefit conditions one is likely to encounter in the clinic ranging from disorders of the head, to cardio vascular disease to obesity and cellulitis. A discussion on technique, types of cups to use, applications for children and the elderly and contraindications of use are all clearly provided.

After a brief introduction, the author provides the basic foundations beginning with a brief historical background, dry and wet cupping definition and application, and basic therapeutic concepts. Next, the author explains the connection between the skin and viscera through nerve tracts, called segmental therapy. In relation to cupping, segmental therapy focuses on treatment at the site of illness through reflex zones or areas that correspond to the illness. They acknowledge the ancient Chinese were pioneers in the observation that areas on the skin could influence internal organs and related pathology. The author refers to the work of British neurologist Henry Head (1861-1940) whose “Head’s Zones” associate visceral disease with an increased response to stimulus on the skin or reflex paths. It is through the research of Head and other scientists that explain the importance of segmental therapy and its connection to the nervous system. This section concludes with basic understandings of the organ systems, focal disturbance, somatic nervous system, and autonomic nervous system.

Each condition includes indispensable biomedical information, which is one of this books features. Again, this book is written in the direction of naturopathy so discussion of how material relates to the Chinese medical explanation and treatment of the same clinical condition is not available. Anyone with an intermediate understanding of TCM will easily be able to translate the treatment protocols within the construct of Chinese medical philosophy.

The Art of Cupping is a concise source of information for the TCM student who is curious of the biomedical explanation of dry and wet cupping on the skin, nervous system and viscera. Hedwig provides useful information to present to patients with or without a medical background and physicians who are looking for an explanation different than ‘eliminates blood stasis’, or ‘moves qi and blood’.

One of the problems I have with textbooks is the lack of quality illustrations. This book includes black and white illustrations from the author’s practice which are very clear and show the exact placement of cups. Personally, I am a visual learner so seeing what is described tends to stick more with me than the guesswork and frustration of trying to decipher an author’s written description. With this book, I felt the illustrations spoke well for themselves. In contrast, colour illustrations would have been preferred, for the benefit of seeing the variations of hematomas (bruises) that are caused by cupping. With this the beginner would get a better understanding of what ‘normal’ bruising looks like. The author also discusses the use of a scarificator when performing wet (bloody) cupping. This not being a tool I’m familiar with I performed an internet search only to find antiques. From my own wet cupping instruction and experience, the same effect can be produced from using a lancet. I would have liked to have seen illustrations showing the scarificator in use, the model the author uses and where to purchase a new one.

Each section begins with a brief description of the disorder and common symptoms. Followed is the suggested cupping therapy and accompanied illustration. When relevant the author provides Supplemental Therapy recommendations such as psychotherapy or homeopathy followed by Alternative Therapy suggestions from neural therapy to acupuncture. This 182 page book is very user friendly especially for its ease of reference for treatments. The index is nicely organized to quickly find what you need. At 5x71/2” the compact size of the book allows students and clinicians to easily transport and access.

Overall, The Art of Cupping is a valuable book that meets its goals of detailing dry and wet cupping for 45 different disorders assisted by clear illustrations all packed into a quality, practitioner friendly format for easy reference.

Biography

Scott R. Smith is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist (Dipl. OM, NCCAOM) practicing in Rapid City, SD. He can be emailed at srsmithom@gmail.com.

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