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Cao Gio/Gua Sha Philosophy


            Upon being assigned this essay, I immediately thought of my boyfriend. It sounds weird I know, but I'll never forget the day we were hanging out and I caught a glimpse of his back as he was taking off his sweatshirt.deep red liner marks all over his back. I asked about them, absolutely mortified because quite frankly, they looked like lesions like one would have with meningitis. He told me that he previously had a migraine that would not go away so when he went home for the weekend his mother did cao gio on his back (he is Vietnamese). Thus I've decided to explore the claims made by proponents of the cao gio practice.
             Cao Gio (pronounced cow gaw) is the Vietnamese version of the Chinese practice of Gua Sha. Both these practices operate under the belief that certain ailments, like headaches, the common cold, and fatigue are caused by a build-up of wind in the body thus the names Cao Gio (carving wind) and Gua Sha (scraping sha; sha being the redness that comes to the surface of the skin to release trapped wind)(1.).There are small differences between the two practices, however these differences are mostly in the tools used to draw air or wind out of the body. Cao Gio involves a coin (preferably one with a reeded edge, like a quarter), some sort of ointment (my boyfriends mother uses tiger balm, however camphor oil, mentholated oils and other warming essential oils can also be used)(1.), and a strong belief that cao gio (or coining) works how everyone says it works. The process of Cao Gio is very simple: The patient gets undressed from the waist up, and is then massaged with the oil/lubricant of choice, then the coin or bone tool (if performing Gua Sha) is then held at a 30 to 45 degree angle and scraped in a downward motion on the skin (with special care made to remain consistent in pressure and to not draw back upwards in motion). In the Cao Gio practice the deeper the red color, the more wind or air the person has built up inside them thus confirming the need for the practice for the patient who trusts in it and the practitioner who practices it.