Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad himself recommended wet cupping, or hijama – the practice of drawing blood to the surface of the skin using glass or plastic cups and then making small incisions for therapeutic purposes.
Nelufar Hedayat visits Muslim hijama practitioner Ashiq Hussain to see cupping in action and find out from his patient Adil Anwar, a professional boxer, what it does for him. The method has been popularized by celebrities like Victoria Beckham and Gwyneth Paltrow in recent years – but be prepared for one or two moments which are definitely not for the squeamish!
With Ashiq and two other guests, Nelufar then explores the merits and dangers of faith-based complementary medicine.
Vijay Murthy, a medical doctor and Ayurvedic practitioner, explains that Ayurveda – far from being all about the herbs for which it is best known in the UK – takes a holistic approach, focusing more on maintaining health than curing illness.
David Colquhoun, Emeritus Professor of Pharmacology and award-winning science blogger, condemns cupping as “pure make-belief” and thinks that both cupping and Ayurveda are “a voluntary tax on the gullible”.
Ashiq Hussain argues that although clinical tests are only just beginning, cupping does work – but how important is the faith of the patient in bringing about its supposed benefits?