What is gua sha?

Gua sha is a Chinese medical technique as ancient as Chinese medicine itself and commonly practised throughout East Asia today.

During a gua sha treatment, a blunt edge is press-stroked over oiled skin in order to squeeze congealed blood out of the capillary bed without damaging blood vessels.

This brings the old blood to just below the skin surface, producing red marks called ‘sha’.


The Western medical term for ‘sha’ is ‘transitory therapeutic petechiae’, meaning that the marks have a beneficial therapeutic effect and fade away within a few days.

How does it work and how can it help?

Gua sha increases local blood flow by around 400% during the treatment and enables blood to flow more freely through the dredged capillaries. This brings fresh oxygen and nutrients to the area and helps old injuries to muscles, fascia and tendons heal more fully.

When the body clears ‘sha’ in the days after treatment, it upregulates an enzyme called haem oxygenase 1 (HO-1). Medical research is getting increasingly interested in the role of HO-1 in the body.


In China, it is credited with the success of gua sha for treating hepatitis C, and studies are underway to investigate its role in treating respiratory problems.


Traditionally, gua sha is indicated for pain, coughs, colds and inflammation anywhere in the body.