Shingles Treatment using Wet Cupping

Shingles Treatment using Wet Cupping

Wet cupping therapy for treatment of herpes zoster: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials

by Huijuan Cao, PhD [Student], Chenjun Zhu, PhD [Student], and Jianping Liu, PhD, MD [Professor],
Center for Evidence-Based Chinese Medicine, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine

Published in final edited form as:  Altern Ther Health Med. 2010 ; 16(6): 48–54.


Background: Wet cupping is a traditional Chinese medicine therapy commonly used in treating herpes zoster (shingles) in China, and clinical studies have shown that wet cupping may have beneficial effect on herpes zoster compared with western medication.

Methods: We included randomized controlled trials (RCTs) on wet cupping for herpes zoster.  We searched PubMed, the Cochrane Library (Issue 3, 2008), China Network Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), Chinese Scientific Journal Database (VIP), and Wan Fang Database.  All searches ended in February 2009.  Two authors extracted data and assessed the trials quality independently.

RevMan 5.0.18 software was used for data analysis with effect estimate presented as relative risk (RR) and mean difference (MD) with a 95% confidence interval (CI).

Results: 8 RCTs involving 651 patients were included, and the methodological quality of trials was generally fair in terms of randomization, blinding and intention-to-treat analysis.  Meta-analyses showed wet cupping was superior to medications regarding the number of cured patients (RR 2.49, 95%CI 1.91 to 3.24, p<0.00001), the number of patients with improved symptoms (RR 1.15, 95%CI 1.05 to 1.26, p=0.003), and reducing the incidence rate of postherpetic neuralgia (RR 0.06, 95%CI 0.02 to 0.25, p=0.0001).

Wet cupping plus medications was significantly better than medications alone on number of cured patients (RR 1.93, 95%CI 1.23 to 3.04, p=0.005), but no difference in symptom improvement (RR 1.00, 95%CI 0.92 to 1.08, p=0.98).  There were no serious adverse effects with relation to wet cupping therapy in the included trials.

Conclusions: Wet cupping appears to be effective in treatment of herpes zoster.  However, further large, rigorous designed trials are warranted.

The full article can be found through the National Institute of Health Public Access at:

Cao H-J et al. (2010) Wet cupping therapy for treatment of herpes zoster: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials

Dr. Mee Lain Ling