You may have heard friends or coworkers mention that auricular acupuncture helped them with a particular chronic or acute health condition. Auricular acupuncture? What’s that?
If you’re wondering what auricular acupuncture is, here’s an overview so you know more about this centuries-old and highly effective health treatment.
Auricular Acupuncture Defined
Auricular acupuncture is also sometimes known as ear reflexology, ear acupuncture, or auriculotherapy. Instead of using needles, contemporary auricular acupuncture uses tiny seeds that look like little beads or jewels placed on various points around the ear. By stimulating these points around the ear, you can affect various parts of the body that are known to be associated with those particular areas of the ear.
What Are the Benefits?
There are multiple benefits to using auricular acupuncture as an alternative to conventional needle acupuncture, which is what you’re probably most familiar with. Because it’s a noninvasive therapy, auricular acupuncture is great for people who are not comfortable with needles or who have an actual fear of the needles used in acupuncture, no matter how small or how fine they may be. Auricular acupuncture is ideal for children who might be more trepidatious about being treated with needles too.
Auricular acupuncture is also beneficial because it’s less expensive than going to the acupuncturist for repeat needle treatments. Once you understand how auricular acupuncture works, you can actually perform auricular acupuncture on yourself to treat a variety of conditions, including both chronic problems and temporary ones.
Being able to treat conditions yourself not only saves money but it’s also more likely you’ll be compliant with recommendations for treating your condition. You won’t have to rely on scheduling appointments to keep up with your acupuncture because you can easily treat yourself, even when traveling. You can perform auricular acupuncture on your own convenient schedule so your acupuncture treatment will not get in the way of your travel plans and vice versa.
Auricular acupuncture is relatively inconspicuous. As noted below there are now more attractive versions of auricular acupuncture seeds available on the market if you don’t want to go with traditional seeds. There’s no need to make time for appointments or take time off work or school so you can carry on with your care regardless of what else you’re doing in your life, whether that’s playing athletics, sleeping, or working in an office.
Auricular acupuncture is great when you have a chronic condition like pain that needs continuous treatment every day, possibly for the rest of your life. Because you are in control of the treatment and it’s more economical, you can easily continue the treatment as long as you need it.
Another benefit of auricular acupuncture is that it’s generally quite safe. You don’t have to worry about the qualifications of an acupuncturist nor do you have to worry about needle cleanliness or the possibility of infection. If you mistakenly put an auricular acupuncture seed on the wrong spot, you can simply remove it and place it on the correct spot with no harm done.
Auricular acupuncture may additionally replace pharmaceutical therapies for many conditions. For example, if you suffer from chronic pain, you may be able to reduce or even eliminate pain medications by using auricular acupuncture. This is desirable not only because it saves you money but because the drugs used to treat pain are often addictive and can have negative side effects on the body.
It should be noted, however, that if you plan to try auricular acupuncture as an alternative to drug therapy, you should discuss it with your physician first. Never stop any prescribed medications without first talking with your doctor. Some medications, like antidepressants or opiates, require careful stepping down of your dosage before they can be discontinued entirely, and some medical conditions could be quite dangerous if left untreated, which is a possibility if you perform auricular acupuncture incorrectly, such as by not using the correct spot on the ear.
Auricular acupuncture, as you can see, is a tremendous time saver for people with busy lives, like people who work long hours, those who travel, and anyone with kids. It’s particularly helpful for those who have free time outside of normal acupuncture clinic hours and for people who live in remote rural areas where access to a traditional acupuncturist may be challenging.
What Is the History?
Auricular acupuncture has been used for many centuries and probably predates conventional needle acupuncture. Rudimentary forms of auricular acupuncture may actually date as far back as the Stone Age, given how easy it would have been to perform with materials on hand even at that time.
Acupuncture itself has, of course, been used for thousands of years as well. While it may be a relatively new concept in alternative medicine in the Western world, acupuncture was considered normal practice in other parts of the globe and it has been very well studied.
The formal practice of auricular acupuncture hit its stride in the 1950s when French doctor Paul Nogier discovered that tissue in the ear was basically a map for the entire human body and that stimulating various parts of the ear could subsequently affect those various parts of the body in positive ways, especially by quelling pain.
Nowadays, we know quite a bit more about auricular acupuncture and it has gone from an esoteric practice to one seen throughout the Western world. You can even purchase auricular acupuncture kits online so you don’t need an acupuncturist to perform your own auricular acupuncture or to offer it to your children.
How Does Auricular Acupuncture Work?
To get into a little more detail about how auricular acupuncture works, a map of the ear is used to determine where to place the auricular acupuncture seeds for the greatest impact. Typically, seeds from the vaccaria plant are used but sometimes small metal beads are used as well, especially in patients with plant allergies. As mentioned above, each distinct area of the ear corresponds to another part of the body. When you place a seed on that part of the ear and apply slight pressure to it, usually with just the fingertips, you can affect the corresponding part of the body. For example, placing a seed on one part of the ear can reduce pain in the sciatic nerve that starts in the lower back and runs down the length of each leg.
The seeds are left in place, held by a small piece of clear adhesive tape, for about five days, after which they are removed for anywhere from a few hours to a day to let the skin breathe in that location. You can conduct your life just as you normally would while the acupuncture seeds are in place and you don’t need to remove them for sleeping, bathing, sports, or any other activities. Basically, think of your auricular acupuncture seeds like wearing a waterproof bandage that you don’t remove for five days.
Sometimes people feel immediate relief from the presence of an auricular acupuncture seed; other times, it can take longer to feel their effect. This is similar to conventional acupuncture with needles. However, remember that auricular acupuncture is non-invasive, so no needles are used.
What Conditions Can Be Treated Using It?
Auricular acupuncture can treat literally hundreds of conditions, from temporary pain and discomfort to chronic conditions. Some conditions most commonly treated with auricular acupuncture include:
- Both chronic and temporary pain, including sciatica and back pain
- Nausea (including nausea associated with chemotherapy)
- Jet lag
- Smoking cessation
- Lactation (promoting lactation)
- Weight loss
- Headaches, including migraines
- Focus and memory problems
- Symptoms of menopause
- Fertility (improving fertility)
- Vision impairment
- Postpartum hormone fluctuation and mood swings
- Acne breakouts
- Low libido
If you see an acupuncturist, they may recommend auricular acupuncture for you for other conditions not mentioned above. Every day new research is being done in the area of alternative medicine to find new uses for acupuncture and auricular acupuncture, so don’t be surprised if your acupuncturist recommends auricular acupuncture to treat your unique situation.
Auricular acupuncture, like conventional needle acupuncture, is still probably most well-known for treating pain. However, studies are ongoing to see if auricular acupuncture may eventually replace current therapy in treating conditions that have in the past stymied medical practitioners, like anxiety and depression (including trauma, grief, and PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder), which have a mental health component.
Like pain medications, drugs used to combat many mental health conditions have undesirable side effects and are costly to the user. Therefore, finding easy, economical alternatives with no adverse effects could revolutionize the treatment of these conditions and even provide improved relief or remission for patients. You can already use auricular therapy as an adjunct therapy for anxiety and trauma; soon it may become the main treatment modality.
What Else Should You Know About It
As mentioned above, auricular acupuncture is relatively easy to perform on yourself or on your kids. However, to get the best results, consider visiting an acupuncturist who is trained in using auricular acupuncture seeds or beads. An acupuncturist who is familiar with auricular acupuncture and has practiced it on other patients can help you make sure you’re putting seeds in just the right location. They may have other tips for you as well. Also, if you have questions once you start doing auricular acupuncture, a trained acupuncturist who is familiar with this practice can provide information for you.
Are you worried about looking strange with auricular acupuncture seeds in your ears? Now you can find auricular acupuncture seeds that look just like jewelry, made of gold beads or crystals in an array of colors. They function just like vaccaria seeds but look more like regular earrings or ear jewelry.
While your seeds are meant to be worn continuously for five days, including during showering or swimming, they sometimes fall off ahead of schedule. This is especially common with kids because they’re more active and they may fiddle with their ear seeds. If this happens to you, you can usually just replace the seed as soon as you notice it has fallen out or as soon as it’s convenient, particularly if you have only just placed the seed recently. But if it’s nearly time for the seed to be removed anyway, you may just want to take 8 to 24 hours to let the skin regenerate and then try again. Always make sure you’re applying an auricular acupuncture seed or bead to a clean, dry area on the ear or it will not adhere well.
If you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant, talk to your doctor before using auricular acupuncture or purchasing ear seeds. While overall ear acupuncture is very safe, you want to be sure about any treatments that could affect your unborn child.
If you have any reaction to auricular acupuncture ear seeds, such as a rash or other allergic reaction, discontinue their use until you can speak with your doctor or acupuncturist. Sometimes switching the material used in your seeds, like replacing the vaccaria seeds with metal beads, can help if you’re allergic to plant material. Also, if you have a latex allergy, be careful about buying seeds with latex tape and look for latex-free alternatives. If you develop irritation on the skin of your ear simply from wearing the seeds for a long time or from putting pressure on them, simply take a little longer time between seeds to give your skin a break.
Never use auricular acupuncture ear seeds inside your ear canal. If you develop any serious symptoms that you think may be related to the use of your ear seeds, such as long-term dizziness or fainting, discontinue their use immediately and seek medical attention. Sometimes, though, people do feel a little discomfort or slight dizziness when they first place their seeds, having never used them before. That should pass very quickly.
If you think auricular acupuncture might help you, get in touch with an experienced vendor of auricular acupuncture supplies like earseeds.com, who can also help you find a certified auricular acupuncturist in your area. Auricular acupuncture could change your life. Why wait? Find out more today.