Coin Rubbing / Cao Gio

Main Piece: Coin Rubbing / Cao Gio

“It is a piece of traditional Asian medicine and the prospect of it is, you take a coin, usually a bigger coin such as a quarter or silver dollar, and you use some type of oil or liquid that you can apply like vaporub, take that and you apply it to your skin, not to the coin, and it is performed on somebody’s back when they are feeling sick or cold. You put the coin on the persons back and you kind of scrape. There are a few variations, but for my family it has been that you go along the spine and outwards on both sides of the back. It leaves streaks on your back and the more red the streaks are after doing it continuously, that is the level of sickness that you have. The purpose of it is to get the bad blood to rise to the surface which is supposed to heal the sickness.”

Background Information:

The informant learned this performance from his parents. Both the informant and his parents are Vietnamese and this is a traditional Vietnamese ritual for healing those who are sick.

Context of the Performance:

This is performed on a person who is sick or is cold. It is a traditional medicine, so this would not be performed on somebody who is not sick.

My Thoughts:

I think that this is a very interesting folk medicine and I am very curious to find out whether it works or not. There are many different folk medicines, some of which work and some do not. If a folk medicine is proven to work consistently, it is taken into the field practicing professional medicine. This folk medicine reminds me of bleeding a person to get rid of the bad blood inside of them, but that was proven to not be an effective way of curing somebody from a sickness. Both are aimed at getting rid of the bad blood inside of a person, although bleeding a person literally rids the body of blood whereas this folk medicine only brings blood to the surface of the body, but it still remains underneath the skin.


For more information and versions of traditional Vietnamese coin rubbing, please see below.

Yeatman GW, Dang VV. Cao Gío (coin rubbing). Vietnamese attitudes toward health care. JAMA. 1980 Dec 19;244(24):2748-9. doi: 10.1001/jama.244.24.2748. PMID: 7441861.