Ear acupuncture, also known as auricular acupuncture, is a well-known application of the principle that a single, small part of the body reflects the whole body, also known as a microsystem. According to this theory, the ear resembles an upside down fetus and there is a point in the ear that reflects a part or an organ of the body.
Auriculotherapy utilizes points on the ear that when stimulated provide treatment for medical conditions in other areas of the body. Learning proper ear seed placement can help with anxiety, depression, weight loss, back pain/sciatica, stop smoking, stress, headaches/migraines, insomnia, focus & memory, menopause, postpartum, libido, any pain in the body and so much more.
In acupuncture sessions, usually very thin hairlike needles are shallowly inserted into the points. If patients want to prolong the effects of the treatment sometimes semi-permanent needles or ear seeds are placed in the ear to wear for a certain number of days after the treatment.
Semi-permanent needles are extremely small and short needles that stimulate the points. Ear seeds are usually seeds from the vaccaria plant. Sometimes small metal balls or magnets are used. The ear seeds or magnets are attached to an adhesive tape to allow the practitioner or patient to secure the ear seeds to the specific acupuncture point in the ear. To amplify the effect of the ear seeds it is recommended to lightly massage seed with your finger tip every few hours. Please note: the adhesive tape used to secure the ear seeds usually contains latex so if there is any allergy to latex you can simply stimulate the points with a pointer tool every few hours or have a licensed acupuncturist apply acupuncture needles to the points.
The seeds are left in place for three to five days. It is recommended to wait a few hours to 24 hours before reapplying ear seeds to give the skin a chance to breathe after removal. When the ear seeds are in place, continue to conduct your life just as you normally would. 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.
When working with pain, it is recommended to place the ears seeds on the same side of the body as the pain for a stronger treatment. For example, if you are experiencing left sided sciatica, place the ear seeds on the correlating acupuncture points on the left ear. If you are applying ear seeds to help balance emotions, many practitioners recommend either placing the seeds in the ear of your dominant hand. For example if you are right handed and experiencing insomnia and anxiety, place the ear seeds in the corresponding acupuncture points on the right ear. You can also put seeds on both ears for emotional issues, internal diseases or bilateral pain.
There have been many successful studies done to show the benefits of auricular acupuncture. Studies are ongoing to see if auricular acupuncture may eventually replace current therapy in treating conditions like anxiety and depression; including trauma, grief, addiction and PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Colorado Acupuncture Medical Reserve Corps (CAMRC) has shown effective results with helping first responders after traumatic events and lower levels of PTSD. The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) has trained many people including addiction and harm reduction counselors, mental health therapists, social workers, correctional officers, drug court personnel, disaster relief teams and trauma support center staff, first responders, health promoters, nurses, EMTs, acupuncturists and Western medical doctors to utilize the NADA protocol. The NADA protocol has been proven effective in reducing cravings for alcohol and drugs (including nicotine), minimizing withdrawal symptoms, increasing calmness, improving sleep, decreasing agitation, relieving stress and emotional trauma and discovering one’s own inner quiet and strength.
Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) has also received a lot of research and attention due to it’s impressive results in many areas. The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve and performs many things in the parasympathetic nervous system (affecting the immune system). VNS is effective at calming the central nervous system (CNS) and bringing us into parasympathetic “rest and digest” mode because the peripheral branch of the vagus nerve enters the brain and directly manipulates the CNS.
The brainstem and subcortical area of the brain are connected to the vagus nerve so VNS is good for the treatment of depression, anxiety, associative memory loss, psychiatric and psychological disorders, and substance abuse including reducing opioid withdrawal symptoms while assisting the patient in becoming comfortable in their own skin and promoting calmness.
Due to the vagus nerves connection to anti-inflammatory properties, the VNS is effective at controlling pain, fibromyalgia, migraines, complex regional pain syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), colitis and other inflammatory digestive and auto-immune disorders.
Other health complaints that have been alleviated with vagus nerve stimulation include headaches, obesity, alertness, ADHD, autism, compulsive disorders, epilepsy, and tinnitus. The intertragic notch, concha and tragus of the ear, all can be stimulated to access the vagus nerve. Some people may have branches in the other parts of the ears but the vagus nerve runs most superficially just near the tragus on the concha which can be easily stimulated with ear seeds.
The microsystem of the ear and vagus nerve stimulation have the potential to really help healthcare workers and their patients achieve significant results. Since patients are able to take ear seeds home, the body can have longer healing sessions and continue to correct any disruptions in the body’s ability to heal itself. Learning specialized points from your acupuncturist and bringing home your own kit (or having it mailed to you) is a powerful way to deal with acute, chronic, physical, mental and emotional issues someone is suffering from.