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Journal of Integrative Medicine ›› 2017, Vol. 15 ›› Issue (3): 172-181.doi: 10.1016/S2095-4964(17)60339-X

• Review • Previous Articles     Next Articles

History of cupping (Hijama): A narrative review of literature

Naseem Akhtar , Gazzaffi Ibrahim Ali, Tamer Shaban Abushanab, Ahmed Tawfik El-Olemy, Meshari Saleh Alqaed, Ibrahim S. El-Subai, Abdullah M.N. Al-Bedah   

  1. National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Ministry of Health, Riyadh 11662, Saudi Arabia
  • Received:2016-12-20 Accepted:2017-02-24 Online:2017-05-15 Published:2017-05-15
  • Contact: Naseem Akhtar Qureshi, MD, PhD; E-mail:

Cupping (Hijama in Arabic) is an ancient, holistic method for the treatment of a variety of diseases. Though the exact origin of cupping therapy is a matter of controversy, its use has been documented in early Egyptian and Chinese medical practices. Diverse human civilizations have contributed to the historical development and continuation of cupping therapy. This narrative review describes the history of cupping, historical definitions, cupping instruments and uses of cupping therapy. Electronic searches of relevant databases (PubMed, Google Scholar and OvidSP) were conducted using keywords and Boolean operators. Manual searches and references of published articles and books were also conducted. A number of articles (N = 625) were retained for extensive review, and finally 83 articles were included in this paper. The historical descriptions of cupping therapy were found in ancient human civilizations of the Eastern and Western world. There were inconsistent data concerning the origin of cupping, definitions, instruments, procedures, definite advancements and research in Hijama over centuries. Cupping therapy fell out of favor in 17th and mid-18th centuries but recovered popularity in modern medicine. Currently, cupping therapy is used for health promotion, prophylaxis and treatment of a variety of diseases around the world. Cupping therapy with a good safety profile has a checkered history and is a well-recognized traditional method for managing medical conditions. Currently, the scope of cupping therapy is expanding, and a growing body of research is providing additional evidence-based data for the further advancement of cupping therapy in the treatment of a variety of diseases.

Key words: Cupping, History, Review

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