Gua Sha, Kerokan, and Other Strigil-Like Practices

Last week I wrote about strigils, an ancient bath tool used to exfoliate the skin.  Roman bathers would rub their skin with oil and then scrape it off with a strigil.

I suspect this instrument is more effective than the loofahs we use today, but I haven’t been able to find a strigil retailer to test one out.  But thanks to a super cellulite sleuth, we might have found a suitable alternative.

Gua Sha Skin-Scraping

In response to my strigil solicitation, herama (an expert cellulite investigator herself) referred me to an ancient Eastern practice called Gua Sha.  In Chinese, Gua Sha means to “to scrape away disease.”

In Gua Sha, the skin is covered in oil and then scraped with a smooth-edged instrument. Anything from a ceramic soup spoon to a honed animal horn to a piece of polished jade will do the trick.  Firm pressure is applied along the acupuncture meridians, often causing the skin to erupt in small red bumps called sha.

Cao Gio, Kerokan… Are They Worth Further Investigation?

Skin-scraping isn’t unique to China.  In the Vietnamese version called Cao Gio (scrape wind), a coin is rubbed across the shoulders, neck, and back. In Indonesia, a similar practice is called Kerokan.

The red marks that result from such skin-scraping practices are off-putting, to say the least.  Vietnamese children who undergo Gua Sha are sometimes suspected of physical abuse by people who aren’t familiar with the practice (there’s even a movie about that). Some accounts I’ve read say it is extremely painful while other say it’s not painful at all. I suppose it depends on who is doing the scraping.

In any case, do you think a Gua Sha scraper is worth checking out for our investigation? Perhaps something like this jade scraper from China Book House?

*This post is part of Fight Back Friday hosted at FoodRenegade.

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Lauren says:

I do! I can’t believe no one took you up on this. I had the “full treatment” at a Moroccan hamam many years ago – I left feeling like a cooked noodle and slept 14 hours that night. There was hot water, lots of steam, cold water, scrubbing, oil, more scrubbing… gunky skin-slash-I-don’t-know-what came off in alarming amounts, and I’ve always dreamed of doing it again. I can only say I felt purified. Last week I happened to be in an ancient European spa town and ‘took the waters’, which included a similar routine with a soap-and-brush massage in the middle. I was lovely but I think the oil/scrub/scrape routine adds something important. I’d be interested to hear how this can be applied in a normal bathing routine at home.


That sounds amazing, Lauren! Since I wrote this post, I did find a modern “strigil” and have been using it in my regular bathing routine. It really does feel purifying. The one I use is not longer manufactured, but I recently find a company that makes a similar product. They are sending me a sample to review, so I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.

Michael says:

I had the treatment in Changchun, China on Saturday and the doctor there said that the markings on my back and arms could take up to 10 days to dissipate. The doctor in Changchun, used an oil for lubrication and both broad and narrow jade instruments for the procedure. My right wrist had been having pain since falling on in in May, but now feels great, without any pain. After the treatment, I slept for about 4 hours and then was very hungry and thirsty and had to go to the restroom a lot for about 2 hours.

The doctor adjusted my digestive tract and noted that my spleen and gall bladder had some problems and that I should schedule a couple of sessions on my next visit to China. Since gall bladder problems occurs in my family tree, I will probably get further treatment in March next year. Will keep you posted.


Sounds like an interesting session, Michael. How did the doctor adjust your digestive tract? Was it through Gua Sha or a different type of treatment? Was the Gua Sha painful? Thanks for sharing this info with us!


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