Cupping Therapy (Hijamah)

Watch Video: What is Hijamah in the light of Sunnah & Medical Sciences by Dr. Iftikhar Ahmad Saifi

Hijama (Arabic: حجامة‎ lit. “sucking”) is the Arabic traditional medicine for wet cupping, where blood is drawn by vacuum from a small skin incision for therapeutic purposes. It is reported that Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, “Indeed the best of remedies you have is hijama, and if there was something excellent to be used as a remedy then it is hijama.”


Hijama can be performed almost anywhere on the body, often at the site of an ache or pain in order to ease or alleviate it. A more conservative approach warns against over use of cupping and suggests only that few optimal points on the body are all that is required to “clean” the entire cardiovascular system. The location is first shaved, if necessary, to ensure a tight seal with the cup. The mouth of a cup (metal, glass and plastic cups are generally used, although traditionally horns were used) is placed on the skin at the site chosen for hijamah. Then a tight seal is created. The cup is left to cling to the skin for a few minutes, then it is lifted off and several very small incisions are made in the skin. The cup is then put back as it was before if needed. Hijamah is considered a form of energy medicine because it has been claimed to unclog the meridians in the body, and is viewed by some practitioners as a cure that can alleviate black magic and possession.

Scientific Studies

Many scientific studies have been conducted and systematic reviews analyzed for the effectiveness of wet cupping (hijamah) and they were quite promising. 

A study by Ahmed and colleagues was carried out in order to evaluate the efficiency of cupping [hijama] therapy in management of rheumatoid arthritis. To sum up they concluded cupping (hijamah) combined with conventional medical therapy has several advantages. It significantly reduces the laboratory markers of disease activity and it modulates the immune cellular conditions particularly of innate immune response NK cell % and adaptive cellular immune response SIL-20 (Ahmed, Madbouly, Maklad $ Abu-Shady, 2005)

Using a pre-post research design, 70 patients with chronic tension or migraine headache were treated with wet-cupping. Three primary outcome measures were considered at the baseline and 3 months following treatment: headache severity, days of headache per month, and use of medication. Results suggest that, compared to the baseline, mean headache severity decreased by 66% following wet-cupping treatment. Treated patients also experienced the equivalent of 12.6 fewer days of headache per month. We conclude that wet-cupping leads to clinical relevant benefits for primary care patients with headache. Possible mechanisms of wet-cupping’s efficacy, as well as directions for future research are discussed.

There is evidence that wet-cupping is effective in the treatment of nonspecific low back pain as well. Studies have also shown some evidence that it may be effective in the treatment of post-herpetic neuralgia. 

Bloodletting Comparison

While often used interchangeably, hijamah and bloodletting are not similar techniques. Bloodletting opens veins and bleeds patients, whereas hijamah draws blood to a specific location with suction and extracts it by perforating the skin. “A study by Bilal and colleagues was aimed by comparing and analyzing the difference between the compositions of blood samples, obtained through cupping (hijamah) technique versus blood drawn intravenously. There was a significant change in almost all parameters tested as compared to the venous blood samples to scientifically evaluate the efficacy of the techniques used in cupping (hijamah) i.e. suction and removal of blood.” (Bilal, ALam Khan, Ahmed & Afroz, 2011)


Cupping might have few major side effects aside from the pain of skin cuts. One potentially serious risk is infection. Other possible minor side effects that may occur is feeling of slight light headedness post therapy, this is similar to the sensation one feels after having blood taken when donating blood. Cupping (hijamah) encourages blood flow to the cupped region (hyperemia), one may therefore feel warmer and hotter as a result of vasodilatation taking place and slight sweating may occur. Pregnant women or menstruating women, cancer (metastatic) patients and patients with bone fractures or muscle spasms are also believed to be contra-indicated. Some practitioners suggest that a low risk of blood clotting is possible and therefore walking and staying awake after a procedure is advisable.