Auricular Acupuncture

Traditional Chinese Medicine is a medical system that dates back nearly 4,000 years. Auricular (ear) acupuncture was first mentioned around 500 B.C. in the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine.

Auricular acupuncture is the stimulation of the external ear for the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions. It is considered a microsystem, in that the ear is like a microcosm of the whole body, similar to the way that reflexology is used on the foot. I learned this method from Dr. Li Chun Huang and her sole practice is ear acupuncture. She does not do anything else and gets amazing results! She can look at someones ear and tell them their health issues. It’s astonishing and I wouldn’t believe if if I hadn’t seen that for myself! Sometimes I can surprise people too when I inspect their ear and ask them if they broke their leg or have allergy issues. I base these questions on what I see on their ear. My hint is that the area might be red (inflammation) or white( long term injury) for example.

Ear acupuncture is a powerful addition to regular acupuncture treatments. I use them regularly in my practice usually at the end of a treatment and patients often ask for them. I just got in some beautiful sparkly crystal ear seeds and they are quite popular. Come get a treatment and see for yourself!

I think of ear seeds like time-release acupuncture. It can be done as a treatment unto itself or at the end of an acupuncture session so the patient continues to receive benefits. Traditionally, small black seeds from the Vaccaria plant are secured in the ear with a piece of adhesive tape over specific acupuncture points. The seeds stimulate the point by exerting mild pressure. The patient should rub or press on them for an added effect. They can stay in the ear for a few days. If there is any local pain, they should be removed immediately.

There are over 200 acupuncture points on the ear and these can be stimulated by the use of ear seeds. The theory is that stimulated points trigger electrical nerve impulses from the ear via the brain, to the corresponding part of the body being treated. Recent research has shown that auricular therapy stimulates the release of endorphins, the body’s own feel good hormones.

One form of auricular acupuncture came about after Dr. Paul Nogier (a French pracitioner) noticed a scar on the upper ear of some of his patients. When he inquired about the scar, he found out a local practitioner had been treating his patients for sciatica pain and she was cauterizing this specific area on the external ear to relieve their low back pain. Dr. Nogier conducted similar tests on his own patients and found their low back pain was also relieved. He tried using other means of stimulation as well, such as acupuncture needles and found it to be just as effective as cauterizing the area. So Dr. Nogier theorized if an area of the upper external ear is effective on treating low back pain, then perhaps other areas of the ear could treat other parts of the body. This led to the model now used when teaching auricular acupuncture. The ear is thought to represent the whole anatomical body. However, it is upside down in orientation, so the head is represented by the lower ear lobe, the feet are at the top of the ear and the rest of the body is in between.

Auricular acupuncture has been used regularly in Europe for the past 40 to 50 years. And it is finally starting to take root in the United States. The U.S. military, over the past 5 to 10 years, has started utilizing auricular acupuncture for its battlefield personnel. This form of battlefield acupuncture is used to help soldiers deal with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) brought on by being in combat. And, of course, many folks are walking around with PTSD and a simple treatment like this can help take the edge off.

Since auricular acupuncture allows for every part of the external ear to connect through the microsystem to every part of the body, many conditions can be treated using only a few very tiny needles or seeds. Not only can PTSD be treated using auricular acupuncture, but also things like chronic pain, drug addiction, insomnia, hot flashes, headaches, and nausea.

I use it regularly with people that have any kind of pain. I remember one patient that came in prior to a surgical procedure (he was nervous and the acupuncture helped calm his nerves) and when he left I put on ear seeds. He called me three days later and told me that up to that morning he had not used ANY pain medication, he then removed the seeds and slowly the pain crept in and he wanted to come in for another treatment and more seeds rather than take a pill.

If you have any questions specifically about ear seeds or Chinese medicine (acupuncture, herbs, etc.) in general, feel free to ask! You can email me at or just give a call at 831-212-3090. I’d love to chat.

Photo credit: Ear – Travis Isaacs | CC 2.0

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