When it comes to treating common cold, cough and fever, guāshā really shines. For many reasons. To begin with, you can do it yourself. Without leaving your home. Furthermore, you can start as soon as you begin to sense the first signs of something coming on, however subtle those symptoms might be. The sooner the better. Third, you can get instant results, in stopping the illness all together, or at least hinder it from getting worse.
Guāshā is an ancient method where you scrape your skin with a round edged tool, like an obsidian stone, jar lid, or soup spoon. The purpose lies in moving blood and Qi, as well as creating a temporary inflammation and heat, to battle either an underlying chronic inflammation that doesn’t seem to heal, or to fight a more acute external invader trying to enter the body, like a virus, heat, cold, and wind.
Guāshā to Interrupt and Break Off the Cold
Typical symptoms of common cold usually begins at energy channels around your neck and spine, in the form of neck tension and headache. These are the places you´d want to scrape immediately, to stop the external pathogen (virus, climatic factors) to travel deeper into the body through the energy channels. The sooner you scrape, the better, creating a strong barrier of Wei qi, so the pathogen cannot be able to reach all the way into our organs.
Another place to scrape straightaway, is the chest. This to support your Lungs, which in Chinese medicine are viewed as in control of the qi circulation throughout the whole body, and linked strongly to Wei qi, which roughly and simplified can be viewed as the immune system in Chinese medicine.
It´s All About Expelling Wind
Treatment of common cold in Chinese medicine is based on pattern differentiation, and common cold is considered as an exterior syndrome, which can be further divided into the wind-cold type, the wind-heat type and the summer heat dampness type. It means you´ll get different treatments depending on your symptoms if you go for an acupuncture treatment, or get prescribed a herbal formula. However, the treatment will have one strong thing in common, which is expelling wind.
Wind is part of the external climates in Chinese philosophical principle, present in all seasons. It´s considered as the backbone of many diseases in Chinese medicine, affecting the body in the same way as leaves on a tree affect the tree, producing change and acceleration, causing things to appear quickly. When it attacks the body, it can penetrate the skin and pores. Wind rarely appears alone, usually accompanied by another external influence, such as damp or cold weather, hence wind-heat type, wind-cold type, etc.
The Huangdi Neijing says: “disease develop from wind”, and “the damage inflicted by wind affects primarily the top”. Meaning wind is thought to initially attack and manifest in the highest parts of the body, and the most external parts, first. This means the skin, face, and Lungs. And when the body is invaded from outside, the defensive capabilities of Wei qi are weakened, leading to symptoms such as headaches, nasal obstruction, throat pain and itching, and perspiration. So, wind attacks the upper body first, and that´s why we use guāshā on the upper body at the first sign of any of those symptoms.
Wind is called Fēng, in Chinese, and at the base of your skull you have points like Gallbladder 20, Fēngchí, meaning wind pool, DU 16, Fēngfǔ, meaning palace of wind, and on either side of your spine at the second thoracic vertebra, you have Bladder 12, Fēngmén, meaning wind gate. These are all points scraped for common cold, flu, cough, etc. A procedure centered around the chest area for the Lungs, and the base of the skull and upper back. Areas reachable when performing guāshā therapy on oneself.
Hold your guāshā tool in one hand, with a 45-degree angle as you stroke, in one direction, with hand-width lengths.
Don’t forget to use some type of oil that works for your skin.
Start by scraping downwards along the front of your chest bone (sternum), the long flat bone located in the central part of the chest. Then stroke along the gaps of your rib cage outwards toward the sides, above the breast tissue.
Gently scrape down (or up) along the base of your skull, from ear to ear. Then scrape the trapezius muscles of your neck, starting from the base of your skull and down and outwards in the direction of your shoulders. You can gradually increase the pressure, but keep it gentle with pressure that feels good for your body.
Around 5-15 minutes is usually enough for this whole guāshā sequence.
If red spots arise on your skin, it’s a sign of shā (toxin) called petechiae, and it means you can stop scraping the area. This is part of the proceedure. If no shā appears, and only warmth and redness, it means there’s not stagnation of blood, and you’ll only feel a nice circulation. You don´t have to continue scraping to force petechiae.
For a longer sequence that includes scraping and acupressure for the Lungs and a strong immune system, that works as a preventative sequence as well, learn in my online course.
Care Consideration: Just a reminder that the above information is not a substitute for medical care and is not a substitute for medical advice or recommendations from a healthcare provider. This information is not intended to treat, mitigate or cure any disease. That said, we encourage you to connect with an Acupuncturist in your community to learn more about this and other Traditional Chinese Medicine options. If you’ve got questions about Chinese herbal medicine or getting started with an Acupuncturist, feel free to connect with us on firstname.lastname@example.org.