Frequently Asked Questions for the Stanford Medical Center Community

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What is coining?

Coining (cao gio) is a common medical practice followed in the Southeast Asian community, as a treatment for symptoms such as cough, cold, fever and headache. Heated ointments containing herbs or other ingredients, including camphor, menthol, wintergreen, eucalyptus, peppermint, or cinnamon oils, are rubbed into the chest, back or head.

A coin or the back of a spoon is then rubbed vigorously in a linear fashion for 15-20 minutes over the spine, along the ribs, or the head, until a reddened area appears. This practice is felt to release "bad wind". Minor burns may result, although the usual presentation is as linear abrasions or bruising, which take a few days to resolve. This practice has been misidentified as child abuse in case reports.

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