As explained last week, gua sha is a form of AOM treatment that
primarily creates bleeding subcutaneously to aid in the moving and
release of many types of pathogens. This week, I'm blogging about
another blood related therapy, bloodletting, which purposefully
causes the patient to bleed to release pathogens. This may seem a
bit horrific, but it rarely hurts and offers significant healing
Bloodletting is an ancient form of AOM treatment. It produces
one or many punctures to the skin allowing blood to be released.
The discharge of blood releases pathogens such as trauma, heat,
cold, stagnation, and deficiency (under certain conditions).
Bloodletting improves circulation and qi flow in addition to many
There are many forms of bloodletting. One form of bloodletting
includes using either an acupuncture needle or a lancet to puncture
the skin. Upon extraction of the needle, bleeding occurs (as
pictured on the finger). At times, bleeding occurs naturally after
needle extraction. If bloodletting is indicated, but does not occur
naturally, the practitioner may apply pressure to aid in the
discharge of blood. This form of bloodletting is indicated for many
conditions. Some conditions include heat rash, common cold,
respiratory illness, GI pathology, mental or emotional disorder,
Another form of bloodletting occurs from using a plum blossom
(pictured) or seven start tool. The patient's skin is quickly
pricked repeatedly using the tool. While the tool looks like
something out of a medieval movie, this procedure is often
painless. Most patients have reported feeling a tapping or tickling
sensation. After the repeated pricks, a small amount of bleeding
often occurs. This therapy is useful for many conditions. I have
seen it used most for trauma and reducing hypertension.
The last form of bloodletting I'm going to discuss is
bloodletting through cupping. As discussed in previous blogs,
traditionally cupping uses glass cups that are heated momentarily
with fire to create suction on the patient's body. The fire is
placed momentarily into the cup using a hemostat and cotton ball.
The fire is removed quickly and the cup is placed on the body. The
temporary heating of the cup creates a vacuum on the body.
Cupping can be transitioned into bloodletting in several ways.
One way is to apply acupuncture to the patient, often on the
patient's back. After needle extraction, cups are applied. A
second option is to plum blossom the area first, instead of using
acupuncture needles. The vacuum from the cups draws blood to the
Clinically, I have found areas of the body that contain
acupuncture points most related to the patient's diagnosis manifest
with the most productive bloodletting. For example, if a patient is
diagnosed with excess stomach heat, the fire point on the stomach
channel typically discharges the most blood. By releasing the
blood, the body is clearing the excess heat.
Above is a picture of a patient's back showing the result of
bloodletting through cupping. The patient had acupuncture needles
extracted in all areas where cups had been placed. The red circles
indicate where the cups had been placed. The cups create sha, much
like gua sha. The patient bled in the region of the point that
mostly pertained to the patient's diagnosis. The patient reported
feeling much better post treatment.