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Combing Therapy in Traditional Chinese Medicine – 梳法 SHU FA

Combing therapy is an ancient method of health care that can be practiced by anyone to improve their health. Combing Therapy is really an extension of Tui Na (Chinese medical massage) and self-care therapies often characterized as Dao Yin (guiding/leading or guiding/pulling), or Yang Shen (nourishing life) techniques. These methods involve self massage and movement to regulate the meridians and harmonize the functioning of the internal organs, thereby preventing disease. In Dao Yin exercises the scalp is combed with the fingers in order to stimulate the brain and the meridians that flow through the scalp.

Why It Works

Combing therapy focuses on the head. It has long been known that pathological disease states are reflected in the facial complexion and also that by treating the face and head with acupuncture and massage, therapeutic results can be achieved in a wide variety of diseases. Since all of the meridians in the body have either direct or indirect connections with the head, scalp and brain, stimulating the scalp can have global effects on the body’s health by regulating the meridians. Combing massages all of the acu-points of the head, which regulates excitement and inhibition in of the cerebral cortex.[1]

In the Sui Dynasty, physicians discovered that the simple act of hair combing produced beneficial results, including brighter hair, less hair loss and a reduction in headaches. They also found that Combing hair can help you to sleep well and recommended combing the scalp 100 times before going to bed in order to calm the mind and produce peaceful sleep.

Most hair experts say feel that Male-Pattern-Baldness is caused by impaired blood circulation to the hair roots. This can happen because the tissue of the scalp is too tight. Regular combing can help improve hair  quality, Combing deeply massages the scalp and helps clean the surface of dirt, dead skin, and dandruff. It also helps the sebaceous glands to release their secretions and stimulate their normal activity. Regular combing will not pull out your hair. Hair that is already so loosely attached to the cuticle that combing will dislodge it, would come out anyway.

About Combs

A well-made wooden or horn comb should used for Combing therapy. Wooden combs prevents static electricity and do not catch and pull on the hair, Plastic or metal combs can generate static electricity, scratch the scalp and pull the natural oils out of your hair.

Different combs can be used. If you have thick curly hair you may need a comb with wider spaced teeth as opposed to someone with thinner hair who can use a comb where the teeth are spaced closer.  Various online companies including Amazon sell excellent combs. Peach wood is commonly used in the making of combs and peach is also a symbol of longevity in China. Other common choices are yellow willow wood, date wood. Pear wood, sandalwood, boxwood or bamboo.

Ox and Sheep horn combs are also recommended for combing therapy. They are made of keratin, the same material as human hair. Horn combs do not generate static electricity. Using a horn comb allows your hair to keep its natural oils resulting in richer, shinier hair.

Combing Therapy after a Stroke

One modern development in acupuncture that relates to combing therapy is the use of scalp needling, which is often used in treating stroke patients. This therapy stimulates scalp points over regions in the brain that correspond to neurological functions such as motor nerves, sensory nerves, speech, balance and vision. Stimulating the scalp has been shown to in some cases miraculously restore normal functioning in cases of hemiplegia. Although acupuncture provides stronger stimulation to the scalp combing therapy is a useful adjunctive therapy.

Combing Therapy to Relieve Stress and Revitalize Mind and Body

In modern times, we exercise less and sit more while processing information on the computer or cell phone. This focus of attention and energy on the head and eyes can lead to blockage in the meridians of the neck and head which in turn leads to headaches, eye pain, fatigue, neck and shoulder tension and back pain.[2] By stimulating the scalp, the normal functioning of the meridians can be restored, relieving tension, stimulating the brain and improving functioning of the whole body.

Effects of Combing Therapy

  • Increased energy
  • Greater mental acuity
  • “Wakes up” the brain in the morning
  • Improves visual acuity
  • Calms the body before sleep
  • Calms the spirit
  • Regulates the meridians
  • Relaxes the neck muscles
  • Prevents colds
  • Clears sinuses
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Relieves headache
  • Stimulates the hair follicles
  • Improves the strength and health of the hair

How to Perform Combing Therapy

Combing therapy involves stimulating the scalp by combing the scalp with a soft wooden comb or horn comb. The scalp can be combed in both directions starting at the posterior hairline and combing toward the frontal hairline. Hold the comb with the forefinger along the back of the comb and apply light pressure with the finger keeping the comb perpendicular to the head. This means the angle of the comb will change as it passes over the scalp.

Comb the hair from front to back and then from back to front. Comb the midline first, then comb one side of the head in overlapping sections followed by the other side of the head. Repeat each line several times. The hair can be combed this way for dozens or hundreds of strokes until the scalp is warm. Comb slowly and evenly with steady pressure. For maximum effect it is best to comb in the morning upon awakening and evening before going to bed, for 5-10 minutes each time. This therapy can be combined with other practices such as Dao Yin/Health Preservation Exercises or meditation. If you do not have a comb the fingers can be used to comb  and massage the scalp

If using the fingers, spread the tend fingers of the hands apart and knead in a circular manner from the anterior hairline to the posterior hairline and then massage the scalps from the sides to the top of the head. Use and even force.[3]

Examples of Combing Treatments

  • Insomnia: only comb from the front to the rear hairline, every evening for 5-10 minutes or 100 strokes before bed.[4]
  • Eye Pain:  Comb from forehead to the rear hairline 2-3 times a day
  • Headache: after the basic combing described above also comb with greater force the area of the headache or the area where the headache usually manifests. Do this three times a day.

[1] Life Cultivation and Rehabilitation of Traditional Chinese Medicine. A Newly Compiled Practical English-Chinese Library of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Publishing house of the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Wang Xudong et als. p.167.

[2] Dr. Wu’s Head Massage, by Dr. Bin Jiang Wu. Boston: YMAA Publication Center, 2005, pp. xiii-xiv.

[3] Life Cultivation and Rehabilitation of Traditional Chinese Medicine. A Newly Compiled Practical English-Chinese Library of Traditional Chinese Medicine, p. 248.

[4] Chinese-English Illustrated TCM External Therapies for Common Disease, Compilers-in-Chief Zhu Bangxian  and Tang Hanjun. Shanghai Scientific and Technical Publishers, p. 251.