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Coining: An Ancient Traditional Practice

Coining is a traditional medical technique that is commonly employed in China, Vietnam and other countries in Southeast Asia. Specifically, coining is characterized as Asian Traditional Medicine. Among this, coining is employed at-home. Encompassed within traditional knowledge, this technique is accumulated over generations through oral traditions

In Vietnam, coining is colloquially known as cạo gió. In comparison, coining is referred to as guā shā in China. It is predominantly believed among these cultures that when people catch a cold, they have caught excess wind or “heatiness”. “Heatiness” does not necessarily refer to temperature. Rather, “heatiness” is an ideology established by Asian Traditional Medicine that is analogous to negative energy. As a result, coining is traditionally employed to eliminate this. Likewise, coining is customarily perceived to restore balance to one’s body and is used to treat the flu, cold, vertigo, dizziness, headaches, chronic pain and fevers.  

Coining: An Ancient Traditional Practice

Eagle Brand Medicated Oil. (Image Source: Yahoo News)

Researchers have elucidated that coining is an ancient dermabrasion technique. In particular, coining is performed by vigorously rubbing an object along the skin in a linear motion until bruises appear. The predominant ideology regarding this technique is that the larger the bruise, the more effective it is. Therefore, coining inflicts tremendous pain. Lubricating oils and balms, such as the Eagle Brand Medicated Oil or Tiger Balm, are applied prior to the treatments. Moreover, coins are generally adopted since they have smooth perimeters and are hard objects. These characteristics are crucial for the development of bruises. Coining is also often performed using custom tools that have been developed for this traditional practice. 

Coining: An Ancient Traditional Practice

Coining performed with a custom instrument. (Image Source: Medical News Today

There is some evidence that suggests coining may be effective to some degree. For instance, studies have demonstrated that coining may efficaciously relieve fever. More specifically, the linear strokes along the skin stimulate capillary dilatation, which further results in heat dissipation. This process is analogous to tepid sponging, which is a procedure that is regularly implemented to relieve fevers.  Nonetheless, in comparison to evidence-based medicine, coining may not be as sufficient to improve health. Studies have also identified that generally coining is safe. However, it is not advisable for those taking anticoagulants or antiplatelets medication and those suffering from blood dyscrasias to undergo coining. 

It is crucial for healthcare professionals to be aware of traditional medical practices that are substantially integrated in certain cultures. Supplementary to this, healthcare professionals must be sensitive and respectful towards traditional practices. Understanding the cultural discourses regarding perceptions of health is critical to facilitate relationships with patients that are characterized with trust and open communication. Thus, integrating cultural education into healthcare systems may improve health outcomes as medical professionals will have the capacity to treat patients effectively and respectfully. 


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