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Scrape the blues away

10-26-2011 13:47 BJT

Many Chinese feel weak, depressed, upset, even irritated this time of year. As summer gives way to autumn and then winter, the day is shortening and night falls sooner.

Is she hurting you? Scraping leaves unsightly – if harmless – marks. Photo: CFP

But according to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), there's actually a cure for this malaise: scraping.

"Scrape in autumn, once in a while, and you will survive to the age of 88" goes the ancient wisdom. But what's the ancient theory?

"The sudden seasonal change can slow down metabolism and lead to hormone disorders that make people feel sick," claimed Dr Dong Yanfen, of Beijing's Xiyuan Hospital. Autumn may be the time for harvest, Dr Dong warned, but it's also the easiest time for toxic matters to accumulate in our bodies.

"Autumn sadness" is a TCM term that encompasses symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, lack of appetite, coughing and muscle pain.

"Scraping helps release stagnation and draw out toxins," said Dr Dong. "It can remove cold, damp and heat in the body and is commonly used to treat fever, heatstroke and joint pain."

Scraping is usually performed with a smooth-edged instrument such as a spoon, jade or buffalo horn, which is applied by repeatedly rubbing pre-oiled skin until it turns red. This boosts circulation and helps unblock meridians so as to improve the immune system – but it also leaves your body looking as if it's taken a beating.

This discoloration can take from three to five days to fade (doctors also advise against showering immediately after). The color varies according to the severity of the patient's blood stasis: usually red, but it can also be pink or dark blue, said Dr Dong, resembling severe bruising.

"The darker the color and the more that appears, the more severe the problem."

Scraping can have an effect at any part of the year but the reason it is so popular in autumn goes back to the Chinese term for scraping – gua sha, literally "scrape away sandiness."

TCM believes sha is caused by wind, dampness and fire suppressing the body's yang.

Damp can cause meridian stagnation but in autumn the cold keeps the dampness inside – which, oddly, transfers itself into inner heat. Heat surrounded by cold causes headache, anxiety, fatigue and pain in TCM.

"It is not a serious problem but it makes people very uncomfortable," observed Dr Dong. "Scraping should be one of the first choices to let heat and dampness out, so the body can feel as cool as autumn."

Those with a sedentary lifestyle may also experience joint pain and tight muscles. Neck scraping can ease this but "make sure to scrape from top to bottom, never back and forth."

Scraping's final advantage is its beneficial effect on the lungs, an organ likely to suffer from cough, rhinitis and throat inflammation in the cold months.

"Scraping can improve the lung function and shorten the duration of illness," Dr Dong promised.

But in case you're starting to think that scraping is some kind of one-stop miracle cure, it is not a form of relaxation to be done often, like massage, and it doesn't make already healthy people healthier.

"People who tend to bleed, those who have skin problems and pregnant women should avoid scraping," Dr Dong warned. "It also shouldn't be done on an empty stomach."

On which subject, to live in accordance with nature during autumn, people should try to rise and sleep early and eat food that nourishes the lungs (pear, honey, walnuts) as well as, of course, avoiding spicy and pungent food.

Editor:Zhang Jianfeng |Source: Global Times

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