Medical practices are often a subject of great debate and practices vary throughout the world. Many forms of alternative medicine that are popular in Asia are often viewed with skepticism in North America and Western Europe, yet many of the practices have survived for thousands of years, using techniques passed down through generations.
As one of the world’s oldest civilizations, it’s no surprise that many medical practices originated in China, using traditional therapies such as herbal medicine and massage and exercise therapy. One of the most identifiable practices still practiced widely around the world today is acupuncture.
Acupuncture uses needles to stimulate specific acupuncture points in the body to correct the imbalance of qi around sections called ‘meridians’. According to the practice, each meridian corresponds to an organ in the body and can be stimulated with penetration of the skin by thin needles.
In Vietnam the art of ‘cupping’ is commonly used to cure ills. With roots from Chinese medicine, cupping also attempts to deal with the invisible force of qi. Cupping is done by creating a vacuum on the patient’s skin with (funnily enough) a cup.
Suction is created by using a flame to remove the oxygen from the cup, which is then placed immediately on the skin. The process is simple and painless, though many are put off by the skin discoloration that often occurs similar to (painless) bruising – somewhat comparable to a ‘hickie’. Practitioners believe the process mobilizes the flow of both qi and blood around the body, which in turn stimulates healing.
If you’ve been lucky enough to have traveled around Asia, you may have noticed spas and massage shops offering ‘Fish Pedicures’. Although the practice is reputed to have roots in Turkish culture, it was in Hakone, Japan as recently as 2006 that the craze began to spread.
The practice involves small fish called Garra rufa apparently ‘feeding’ on the dead skin cells of a patient. In fact they are actually scraping at the skin in their search for anything edible, rather than for human skin cells. Thankfully, the epidermis-eating fish are minute, measuring approximately an inch in length and are unlikely to do any serious damage. It’s not the idea of being eaten alive by tiny fish that convinced the US authorities to ban the practice however – regulators believe it to be unsanitary and banned it soon after it gained popularity.
Asia is a continent that is certainly more liberal with the idea of personal choice, so if you’d like to try a Fish Pedicure, Vietnamese Cupping treatment or acupuncture, our expert Travel Specialists will be happy to include the experience in your personalized itinerary!