Auricular acupuncture is an ancient, non-invasive method of healing that focuses on the outer structure of the earlobe. Similar to reflexology and Korean hand acupuncture that treat the pressure points on the feet and hands, auricular acupuncture targets the microsystem of the ear to heal ailments of the corresponding parts of the body.
Health care practitioners are increasingly using this form of healing to supplement conventional and alternate forms of treatments. The therapy can be used to heal mental, psychological, and physical ailments of the patient by stimulating different points on the surface of the ear’s microsystem.
What is Auricular Acupuncture Therapy?
Made up of all three different kinds of tissue (ecto, endo, and mesoderm) in a developing fetus, the ear is the first organ to form and grow to its full size. It also becomes functional at 18 weeks of the baby’s life allowing her to pick up sounds from outside the uterus. View the structure of the ear and you’ll realize that it resembles an inverted fetus. Each of the sections of the ear lobe connects to the physical and emotional systems of the human body.
Using the map of the ear to identify the pressure points that connect with the various organs of the body, the therapist stimulates the points to diagnose the ailment and bring about healing in the body. By examining the texture of the skin of the ear, its color, veins, and other factors, an expert therapist can identify the section of the body that is affected by the illness.
Modalities of Auricular Acupuncture
The therapy that uses the ear to heal has two main modalities, auricular acupuncture, also called auriculoacupuncture or ear acupuncture and auriculotherapy.
- Auricular Acupuncture: Believed to have been originally used by many ancient cultures across the world, the therapy involves the insertion of acupuncture needles into the points on the ear. This modality works on the intrinsic philosophy of Traditional Chinese Medicine that is based on the premise that meridians and free movement of “qi” or “chi” running through the body govern health and wellness.
- Auriculotherapy: A more contemporary form of the treatment, auriculotherapy works on the premise that the anatomy of the body and its functioning is reflected on the surface of the ear. By stimulating the skin on the ear and thus the body’s reflexes, the healer can diagnose and treat the patient. This form of the therapy was first expressed by Paul Nogier in the early 1950s. Using auriculotherapy, the therapist can ease pain, calm the patient, activate the functioning of glands in the body, and synchronize the right and left sections of the brain.
History and Development of Auricular Acupuncture Healing
Relics made of bamboo and stone dating to the Stone Age have been found that indicate that people as far back practiced auricular acupuncture. Mummified remains of people found in Italy also show scars of the therapy. Olden tribes like the Eskimos, Bantus of South Africa, and a race in Brazil still use some forms of the therapy.
The oldest documents relating to auricular acupuncture have been found dating to 1550 B.C. in the Ebers papyrus in Egypt. Accounts also point to Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman medical healers using the therapy. Over the later centuries, Persian, Portuguese, Italian, and French doctors have used auricular acupuncture to treat their patients for various illnesses.
The contemporary form of the therapy was first developed by Dr. Paul Nogier in the year, 1957. He is considered the Father of modern ear acupuncture or auriculotherapy. In the later years, Frank Bahr M.D. from Germany and other physicians further expanded on the therapy laying the foundation of the healing form as we know it today.
What are Ear Seeds?
When performing auricular acupuncture, the therapist may choose to use sterilized, surgical needles made from gold or silver plated metals or from stainless steel. The tips of the needles are inserted into the skin only up to a couple of millimeters. As an alternative to using needles, the healer might also choose to use ear seeds, especially when the patient is a child.
Ear seeds are tiny beads made from various materials and placed on the reflex points in the ear. For long-term stimulation like for a few days or couple of weeks, the therapy uses adhesive plaster to hold the beads in place. Ear seeds can be made of magnetic materials, beads plated with metal or even, Vaccaria seeds. Yet another tool used to stimulate the reflex points are ear tacks that are very tiny needles with adhesive plaster. These ear tacks can be left in place for up to a week.
Why Auricular Acupuncture Works?
The stimulation used on the reflex points of the ear are relayed to the diencephalon, a particular section of the brain. From here, the signals are passed to the related body parts and organs. Since the body follows all signals received from the brain, it responds to the stimulus applied on the points of the ear. Pain is often caused when the muscles in the affected areas go into spasm or when the nerve endings are irritated.
Patients experience pain from an illness that is often caused when the muscles in the affected areas go into spasm or when the nerve endings are irritated. Auricular acupuncture can help relieve pain and inflammation by causing the muscles and nerves to relax. The therapy can also promote the release of endorphins to help soothe the discomfort. Some patients feel an instant relief as a result of the therapy while others notice a gradual improvement in the days immediately after the therapy.
How is the Therapy Administered?
Should you opt for auricular acupuncture, the therapist begins by examining your ear and talking to you about the medical issues you’re facing. Using the ear mapping techniques of the therapy, she will insert needles into the skin on the earlobe up to varying depths. The specific points she chooses correspond to the affected organ or area of your body. The needles are kept in place for 30 to 40 minutes, but if needed, she might choose to leave them for a week. In place of needles, ear seeds and eardarts are also used. Some healers use massage therapy or electrical stimulation on the reflex points of the ear to promote healing.
Benefits the Therapy Provides
Auricular acupuncture has many positive effects on the body including promoting the free flow of life energy in the body and balancing the complementary opposing energies in the different organs. Here are some of the health issues the therapy can help:
- Easing allergies
- Relieving mental issues like anxiety, stress, and depression, and helping in improving the mood of the patient
- Alleviating digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome and constipation
- Easing chronic pain including pain arising from fibromyalgia and arthritis
- Relieving lower back pain
- Curing headaches and migraines
- Helping patients sleep better by easing insomnia
- Assisting in weight loss
- Helping with withdrawal symptoms arising from quitting smoking or any other kind of substance abuse
- Helping patients focus better and contributing to mental alertness and tolerance levels
- Helping relieve the symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder
Side Effects of the Therapy
Performing auricular acupuncture has no side-effects save for a slight stinging sensation when the needles are inserted. The discomfort is likely to last only a couple of seconds. Post-therapy, the ear might feel slightly sore for a couple of days. As long as the therapist uses sterilized needles or ear darts, there is no possibility of infections.
Research on the Effectiveness of the Therapy
Here are some results of the research conducted into the effectiveness of auricular acupuncture therapy.
- The Swiss Journal of Research in Complementary and Natural Classical Medicine surveyed 126 people who used ear acupuncture for quitting smoking in 2004. They had a 41% success rate over a year after taking the therapy once a week for five successive weeks.
- The Acupuncture & Electro-Therapeutics Research conducted a study in 2012 on 35 migraine patients. By taking the therapy once a week for two months patients showed an improvement in the pain and stress levels.
- Ear acupuncture has been seen to help patients with post-surgery pain as reported by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2010. 17 patients were tested in the study.
- In 2010, the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine researched the effect of ear acupuncture on 29 patients with constipation and found that it was effective in easing symptoms.
- In the fall of 2001, Acupuncturists Without Borders helped patients in New Orleans after the Hurricane Katrina. They also helped doctors at the St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan.
Auricular acupuncture has been used by healers help patients with various health problems over the centuries. Therapists and conventional medical health care practitioners are recognizing its effectiveness and incorporating it into their remedies.
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