I have been sick for a few days now. It's an extreme version of a typical cold. I had a sore throat, cough, runny nose, stuffy nose, and watery eyes. I was so lethargic, and I felt so drowsy. The Peace Corps Medical Officer told me that it was just a viral infection and that it will be extreme for the first 3-4 days and will go away after a week or so.
Of course, I could have just taken the medications he prescribed me. However, I didn't feel much better even after taking them, so I finally gave in and allowed my host mom to scrape away my sickness. She used a coin to scrape my back, which included rubbing my skin vigorously with a thin mental coin and leaving red marks and bruises on my back.
Coining is a common therapy practice used to relieve many illnesses such as colds, fevers, aches, pains, or any other symptoms that makes your body uneasy. In Khmer, it is called Kawk-Khjol, which literally means "catch bad wind". While there are professional practitioners, most people usually do it at home with the help of their mothers, wives, daughters, and other female members of the family. Maybe some men do it too, but I haven't seen it yet. Many Cambodians believe that scraping away the bad wind through coining will increase the blood circulation and also allow us to sleep better.
Another traditional practice is called Cupping. In Khmer, it is called Kyoob-Khjol, which literally means "sucking the wind”. In this practice, they use small glass cups and placed them over the back of a person. A vacuum is created by lighting fires inside the cups or suctioning the air from them. Many people believe that the vacuum causes the blood to form in that area of the back and the suction penetrates the tissues through that area and causing them to release harmful toxins. While it sounds appealing, I don't think I will ever be willing to try this.
After Coining, did I feel much better? I think I liked the idea that there was a physical treatment to my ailing body. During the treatment, I was focused on the movements on the coin that my mind became more clear. I fell asleep right after coining and slept for 8 hours (in the middle of the day). I don't know if my body was just exhausted or it really helped with my blood circulation and sleep. I woke up in time for dinner and stayed awake for a few hours. Then, I took more medications and fell back to sleep. This morning, I woke up feeling much better. While I still have cold/flu symptoms, I am able to move around with more energy. Is it the coining? Or is it the cold moving on? I guess I'll never know. Either way, coining definitely made me feel better because of my host mom's care and attention! :)