Hjama, a treatment that involves the letting of blood from a number of small incisions, remains a well known and popular tradition in Iraq.
Although this practice is widely accepted as having no medical benefit, Ali al-Badri, a Hjama therapist, said some patients regularly receive this treatment twice a month.
Mawtani met al-Badri at his office in Baghdad for the following interview:
Mawtani: What is the principle of Hjama treatment? And for which diseases can it be used?
Ali al-Badri: Hjama is recommended for many diseases, the most prominent of which is perhaps high blood viscosity as a result of excessive smoking. It is also recommended for high blood pressure in its early stages and for other diseases as well.
During Hjama treatment, a number of incisions on the patient's body are made using a medical scalpel, and then blood is drawn out from the body. The tools used in Hjama have witnessed great development. In the past, therapists used to use animal horns after burning and drying them to draw blood. Later, a glass cup started to be used for this purpose, where a number of incisions would be made using a medical scalpel, over which a glass cup would be placed. Inside that cup, a burnt piece of cotton is placed to vacuum air, and as a result of the pressure, blood will flow into the cup.
For the time being, this method can be replaced by a plastic cup that is air vacuumed mechanically. However, some clients believe in using only the glass container method and the burnt piece of cotton.
Mawtani: Is Hjama treatment restricted to the Arab region, or is it practiced in other countries?
Al-Badri: Hjama is different from one region to another. However, many treatments that are practiced in other countries depend on the same principle. In China, for example, treatment by acupuncture is common, and it is not different from Hjama treatment. But the difference is that in Hjama we stimulate the drawing of blood to activate the infected area, as compared to the Chinese method, where the therapist settles for insertion of needles.
Mawtani: Are there any seasons where Hjama is more popular?
Al-Badri: In the summer, it is usually more popular. The time of doing it differs based on the different Muslim sects. For example, I do not practice it on Wednesdays and Fridays. Monday is one of the most popular days, as is the last Thursday in each Arab month. There are also certain days in the Arab month that we call "white days", which are days usually preferential for Hjama treatment. These days are the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th of each Arab month.
Mawtani: Do women also use Hjama?
Al-Badri: There are some women who resort to the Hjama treatment. I have trained my wife to do that at home. However, the percentage of women as compared to men is almost insignificant. As to age groups, they range between 30s up to 70.