Ear acupuncture is also known as auricular acupuncture or auriculotherapy. Ear acupuncture is the stimulation of acupuncture points on the external ear surface for the treatment of health conditions in other areas of the body.
Ear acupuncture has proven to be an efficient method of treating a wide variety of conditions.. All diseases can be treated by ear and body acupuncture: a migraine, insomnia, depression, addictions, indigestion, autonomic symptoms, most conditions of pain and inflammation. Some patients feel immediately relieved, others need several days before they notice an improvement. Some people feel as if they were walking on air after treatment, and almost all feel very relaxed.
Origins of ear acupuncture
The earliest use of ear acupuncture, like body acupuncture, dates back to ancient China. Auricular acupuncture as we know it today however is largely the outgrowth of work begun by Dr. Paul Nogier, a neurologist trained in acupuncture. He found that the ear holds all of the acupuncture points of the body plus more detailed physiological and anatomical correspondences and found that stimulation of these points were very effective in alleviating pain and other symptoms. When an auricular acupuncture point on the ear is “active” it expresses as increased tenderness on stimulation and a higher electrical conductivity. This indicates pathology in the corresponding body tissue or function and makes auricular acupuncture a useful form of assessment of ailments. The texture, colour, skin changes, veins, etc., in different areas of the ear can be indicators of the state of health.
Whilst acupuncture evolved in the context of Asian medicine, the specialty of ear acupuncture was developed in western Europe. It’s foundations laid by Dr. Paul Nogier, a neurologist working in France in the 1950’s, it was deepened and expanded by Frank Bahr M.D. and physical medicine specialists in Germany over the following decades. The map on the ear is in form of an inverted foetus with all the fine details of the anatomical, physiological, and emotional body represented. The tissue of the ear is unique and has functions in addition to our sense of hearing. The ear is the first organ to develop to its full size and become fully functional about 18 weeks after conception and is one of a few anatomical structures composed of tissue from each of the 3 primary types (endo, ecto, mesoderm) in the developing embryo.
Treatment using ear acupuncture
Treatment is performed by needling the respective points on the ear and, if necessary, also on the body. Disposable surgical stainless steel needles are used. They are inserted only millimetres under the skin. Small ‘beads’ (metal-plated, magnetic, or vaccaria seeds) can also replace the use of needles and be placed using an adhesive plaster for longer lasting stimulation. Children are usually not needled but treated with laser or ear ‘beads’ instead.
The use of ear acupuncture in trauma and disaster
Community-style ear acupuncture is well suited to group treatment conditions faced in disaster settings. Treatment is easily integrated into a wide range of settings: hospitals, outdoor clinics, on a curbside, etc. The volunteer group, Acupuncturists Without Borders, provided support to both relief workers and victims in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan in the fall of 2001. Treatments are easily given while people are fully clothed.
The use of ear acupuncture for addiction
Ear acupuncture is most famous for the treatment of drug addiction. A set protocol developed for use in addiction treatment programs through the National Acupuncture Detox Association (NADA) is an effective way to help people facing enormous stress, anger, depression, fatigue and other emotional and physical pain. It has been used in thousands of programs around the world. Those receiving treatments do not have to wait to feel its impact, as relaxation generally occurs within minutes. Survivors of traumatic events report ear acupuncture to be useful in alleviating symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder. Recipient surveys show increased mental clarity, ability to cope, alertness, ability to sleep, reductions of pain and muscle spasm, depression, anxiety, and intrusive recall. These simple acupuncture treatments can have a calming and transformative effect without requiring the traumatized client to talk. They can be in a state of extreme dissociation and still benefit.
I worked as an acupuncturist in Public Health applying both general acupuncture and the NADA protocol at Wellington House Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Centre in Melbourne, Australia, which is a component of the Box Hill Hospital. I completed three acupuncture clinics there and gained an in-depth understanding of the nature and treatment of addiction. Ear acupuncture helped relieve the harrowing withdrawal symptoms and allowed patients to reduce their medication.
Carina Harkin BHSc.Nat.BHSc.Hom.BHSc.Acu.
Cert IV TAE. ARCHTI mem.