Hijama, which is a derivation of hajm, the Arab term for sucking, is a traditional medical practice that uses the application of cups to the skin via the removal of air. The practice is also commonly known as cupping. It is believed that the suction created by the cups on the skin works to move the blood to specific points in the body in order to improve health.
There are three common types of hijama: dry cupping, dry massage cupping, and wet cupping. The dry procedures can be done either by a professional or at home. As the wet version involves drawing blood, it is typically performed only by professionals.
During the dry cupping version of hijama, cups are attached to the skin in order to draw the blood to specific areas. Dry massage cupping is nearly the same, but the skin is first rubbed with olive oil so that the cups can be glided across the skin when their position is being changed. Wet cupping is the process of using the cups to remove small amounts of what is believed to be impure blood from the body via a tiny, scratch-like incision. Aside from the incision, it is essentially the same process as dry cupping.
Traditional hijama was performed with vessels made of horn. Now most modern cupping is done with glass, plastic, or metal cups. Suction was originally attained by burning a small amount of material in the cup after it had been placed on the skin, thus removing oxygen and pulling the skin into the cup. There are now machines which serve the same purpose without fire, but many practitioners still believe the fire method is the best. For the wet method, the cup is attached to the skin, removed so that the incisions can be made, and then reattached.
Hijama is most widely practiced in Islamic culture. It is believed that the practice is most effective when performed on the 17th, 19th, or 21st day of the month on the Islamic calendar. Traditionally, it was thought that performing Hijama on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday would be detrimental to the health.
Some of the ailments that hijama is claimed to treat include general aches and pains, particularly back problems and migraines. It has been used for overall detoxification as well. There have also been claims that the practice can be used to increase fertility by encouraging ovulation.