Cupping on ancient Greek coins: A numismatic case series and its relationship to dermatology

Clin Dermatol. Mar-Apr 2021;39(2):344-347. doi: 10.1016/j.clindermatol.2020.05.002. Epub 2020 May 13.

Abstract

Cupping is an ancient medical therapy with a modern-day resurgence. This practice has been referred to in the ancient Egyptian papyri and the writings of Hippocrates and Galen. We attempt to bridge the past with the present by showcasing a series of ancient Greek coins from different mints depicting medical cupping vessels and dating as far back as the 4th century bce. This practice has not been sufficiently studied in randomized controlled trials, and a standardized procedure does not exist. The dermatologist may see the consequences of this practice in the office, as it is a complementary medical technique supposed to treat a variety of ailments from joint pain to menstrual problems and leaves a very characteristic morphology. We have showcased three coins of historic numismatic and medical interest that depict ancient cupping vessels. This is the first time these coins have been presented together. A literature search was also performed to outline the theories of the mechanism of action of cupping and to compile a list of reported dermatologic side effects.