There are usually several practices among indigenous people of every society that sometimes defy scientific explanations but seem to have been working for these people for as old as the practices. A few days back, I met a family friend who tagged on a ride with me on a trip on her way to Ghana while my own trip terminates in Lagos. Curious to know why she was traveling to Ghana, I struck up a conversation with her during the 200 km journey from my original base. It was from there I understood that she was on her way to attend to a client who needed bloodletting therapy. What under the heaven is that? I am certain some of you are already asking.
Bloodletting is an age-long practice that was thought to have originated from ancient Egypt. It is deeply rooted in the belief that the basis of all health-related issues is the presence of 'bad blood' in the body and if the bad blood can be removed from the body by a suitable means, the body will return to its normal physiological functioning. The practice represented the first recommended line of treatment for virtually all forms of ill healths ranging from migraine to smallpox back in those days.
The practice became acceptable even in Europe, through the Greeks in the third century before christ before spreading to India and the Arab nations. Notable people that have been a subject of the practice include French Queen, Marie-Antoinette, while giving birth to her first child and American first president, George Washington, although the latter later died from what was believed to be complications associated with the procedure.
As science became a subject and scientists started researching the effectiveness of the procedure against different ailments, the practice started losing popularity with modernization because scientists could not find any evidence in support of the effectiveness of the practice. Despite the claims and even with the modernization and the technology, some people still have a strong belief in the practice as a solution to different health-related issues. Anecdotal evidence also abounds to support the effectiveness of the practice and notable folks like Michael Phelps, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, Victoria Beckham, and Justin Bieber have all demonstrated their belief in the age-long practice.
With the advancement in science and technology, the procedure for carrying bloodletting has undergone a significant revolution and has been modernized to be safer and less painful to patients. A practice that started by opening up veins with a sharp object and allowing blood to flow from the opening into a container or by placing blood leeches on some specific parts of the body to suck off the bad blood now uses a series of modern equipment that ensures that the bad blood aggregates before using sterile scalpels to create incisions to the skin areas containing the aggregated blood before using a suction method to drain off the blood into receptacles.
Effectiveness of Blood Letting (Cupping)
The effectiveness of the modern-day blooding letting, popularly known as cupping remains a source of debate among the various stakeholders concerned with scientists claiming that it solves nothing and that the healing effects being reported by individuals that are into the practice is only due to the placebo effect.
A review carried out in 2012 by Huijuan Cao and his colleagues on the efficacy of cupping found that the practice may help with ill-health conditions such as herpes zoster, cough and dyspnea, lumbar disc herniation, cervical spondylosis, and other forms of diseases. Even though the researchers recommended that further studies on the subject may be required to further strengthen their assertion, their findings indicate that the effectiveness of cupping being reported by individuals may be more than just placebo effects as opposed to the claims by some scientists.
In 2018, Al-Bedah and his co-researcher set out to explain the effects and mechanisms behind the various therapy that have been attributed to the practice of cupping. They proposed Six theories to explain the various healing effects that have been reported by the practice and these include Pain-gate theory, Reflex zone theory, and Diffuse Noxious Inhibitory Controls theory to explain the pain-reducing or analgesic effects, Nitric Oxide theory to explain the muscle relaxation, changes in local tissue structures and increase in blood circulation effects, Activation of immune system theory to explain immunological effects and hormonal adjustments effects, while Blood Detoxification Theory was used to explain the releasing of toxins and removal of wastes and heavy metals effects.
Blood Letting: To do or not to do?
Several anecdotal pieces of evidence exist to back up the effectiveness of cupping. Scientists, however, have tried to downplay these healing effects by attributing them to be purely placebo effects. Not just that, they also highlighted the downsides of engaging in the practice which include the risks of getting infections as well as excessive bleeding during the procedure. Despite the negativity, many people, including some of the world's most notable people are still engaging in it. The onus is therefore on individuals to find do their own research and find a break-even point.
Perhaps one of the reasons that this practice continues to gain acceptance in some quarters is the fact that several health-related issues exist that science is yet to find answers to and which conventional medicines have failed to treat. Anyone afflicted with such ill-health would definitely be willing to try out any form of the healing process, even if it has some dangers.
Thank you all for reading.