Frequently Asked Questions
What is Auriculotherapy?
How is Auriculotherapy different from Acupuncture?
What is the History of Auriculotherapy?
Who discovered Auriculotherapy?
How is Auriculotherapy related to other forms
of Alternative Medicine?
Is Auriculotherapy accepted by Conventional
What is a Microsystem?
What are Remote Reflexes?
What are Auricular-Somatic Reflexes?
What is Somatotopic Inversion?
What are Holographic Representations?
What is the role of Endorphins in Auriculotherapy?
What is the effect of wearing Earrings?
What type of health care practitioners provide
Where do I find an auriculotherapy practitioner
in my area?
What health conditions are most helped by auriculotherapy?
How does auriculotherapy affect pain conditions?
How does auriculotherapy affect drug abuse?
How are other conditions relieved by auriculotherapy?
Can one do these treatments on one's self?
How difficult is it to learn auriculotherapy
Are auriculotherapy treatments covered by
How long do the benefits of auriculotherapy
How many treatment sessions are needed to
How many times per week are treatments provided?
How long is a typical treatment session?
How does auricular needle insertion compare
to electrical stimulation?
Does it matter what frequency of stimulation
Is an electrical point locator necessary for
detecting ear reflex points?
What are ear seeds or ear pellets?
What are the contraindications for auriculotherapy?
What are the side effects that occur from
What are phases of auricular points?
What scientific studies verify the effectiveness
What is Auriculotherapy?
Auriculotherapy is the stimulation of the auricle of the external
ear for the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions in other
parts of the body. It is also known as ear acupuncture or auricular
acupuncture when the stimulation is achieved by the insertion of
acupuncture needles, whereas the term auriculotherapy often refers
to electrical stimulation of the surface of ear reflex points. Specific
points on the ear can also be stimulated by manual pressure, referred
to as auricular acupressure or ear reflexology. Acupuncture points
on the ear can also be stimulated with lasers, magnets, and ear
How is Auriculotherapy
different from Acupuncture?
Auriculotherapy is typically considered one form of acupuncture,
but there are both differences and similarities between the two
procedures. Acupuncture is a form of medical treatment involving
the stimulation of acupuncture points located on energy channels
extending over the surface of the body, which are known as meridians.
From the philosophy of Taoism, there are six Yang meridians and
six Yin meridians. In classical acupuncture, it is the Yang meridians
that directly connect to the external ear. These energy lines of
force are blocked or congested when there is some pathology in a
specific area of the body. Insertion of acupuncture needles into
specific acupoints can relieve the symptoms and underlying pathology
of a particular health problem. Some of the meridian energy lines
of force connect to the external ear, thus creating the field of
auricular acupuncture. Different perspectives of auriculotherapy
focus not on the acupuncture meridians but on the use of the ear
as a localized reflex system connected to the central nervous system.
What is the History of
The earliest written records of ear acupuncture date back to the
Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine, a compilation of
acupuncture procedures that were in practice in 500 BC. Within this
extensive text that covers a variety of acupuncture treatments,
there is mention of specific acupuncture points on the external
ear for the relief of certain medical disorders. However, the manner
in which auricular acupuncture is practiced today in China is actually
based upon more recent discoveries that occurred in France in the
1950's. The Traditional Oriental Medicine practiced in ancient China
included just a scattered array of acupoints on the auricle for
just a few health problems, whereas the current practice of auricular
acupuncture shows a more complete organization of ear reflex points
that can be used to relieve many health problems. In the West, the
earliest references to ear treatments were referred to in medical
records from ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. The most complete
descriptions of medical treatments through the ear were recorded
in ancient Persia. A trail of evidence of the use of auricular stimulation
for the treatment of sciatica back pain can be followed from these
Persian records through medieval Europe to modern France. Since
the 1950's, the use of specific ear points as a complete reflex
system that can alleviate many health problems has been utilized
by clinical practitioners in other parts of Europe, in Asia, and
in North and South America.
Who discovered Auriculotherapy?
While the earliest uses of ear acupuncture points dates back to
ancient China, modern applications of auriculotherapy are based
on the work of Dr. Paul Nogier of Lyon, France. In the 1950's, Dr.
Nogier noticed a strange scar on the upper ear of some of his patients.
He found that all of them had been treated for sciatica pain by
a local lay practitioner. This woman had cauterized a specific area
of the external ear in order to relieve their low back pain. Dr.
Nogier conducted a similar procedure on his own sciatica patients
and found that their back pain was also reduced. He then tried other
means of stimulating this "sciatica point," including the use of
acupuncture needles, and found that they too were effective in alleviating
sciatica pain. The brilliance of Dr. Nogier was in extending this
one observation into a more comprehensive model. Dr. Nogier theorized
that if an area of the upper external ear is effective in treating
low back pain, maybe other parts of the ear could treat other parts
of the body. The ear is said to represent the whole anatomical body,
but in an upside down orientation. Nogier's theory contended that
the auricle could be compared to an inverted fetus, with the head
represented on the lower ear lobe, the feet at the top of the external
ear, and the rest of the body in-between. This model was first presented
to naturopathic practitioners in France in 1957, then spread to
acupuncturists in Germany, and finally was translated into Chinese.
The Chinese seemed to have adopted the inverted fetus model of ear
acupuncture in 1958.
How is Auriculotherapy
related to other forms of Alternative Medicine?
Auriculotherapy is considered one form of alternative medicine,
which also includes acupuncture, chiropractic manipulation, homeopathy,
and biofeedback. All of these techniques are also referred to as
Complementary Medicine, in that they are not only an alternative
to conventional Western medical treatments, they can serve as an
additional procedure which complements the practice conventional
medicine. Auriculotherapy can reduce the tension, stress, and pain
not fully relieved by other medical procedures, but works best when
implemented as part of a multidisciplinary complement of multiple
treatment approaches. While ear acupuncture is often used in conjunction
with body acupuncture, auriculotherapy can also effectively relieve
pain, stress and tension when used by itself.
Is Auriculotherapy accepted
by Conventional Western Medicine?
While ear acupuncture has been practiced in Asia for over 2,000
years and auriculotherapy has been used in continental Europe for
the past 40 years, it is only recently been considered by most medical
doctors in the United States. Most MD's do not have sufficient information
about auriculotherapy to make an informed comment on its effectiveness.
In November of 1997, a consensus panel of the U.S National Institutes
of Health gave conditional approval of the practice of acupuncture.
They included an evaluation of those studies which supported the
use of ear acupuncture for pain relief and addiction treatment.
As more research accumulates on the efficacy of auriculotherapy,
it is expected that even more physicians will acknowledge the benefits
What is a Microsystem?
The word microsystem has also been referred to as a micro-acupuncture
system or a micro-reflex system. The auricle serves as a microsystem
in that the external ear is like a microcosm of the whole body,
with one part of the body representing the whole body. This phrasing
distinguishes a microsystem from the macro-acupuncture system of
meridian channels that extend over the whole body and the nervous
system connection of reflex pathways that inter-relate different
parts of the body. Microsystems have been reported for foot reflexology,
hand reflexology, face acupuncture, scalp acupuncture, and iridology.
The term Microsystem was first popularized by the acupuncturist
Ralph Alan Dale of Miami, Florida.
What are Remote Reflexes?
As with distal acupoints in body acupuncture, the auricular microsystem
can be used to treat health conditions in distant parts of the body.
Stimulating points on the ear not only can alleviate problems associated
with nearby regions of the face and head but can also relieve pathological
disorders in the chest, abdomen, lower back, and feet. According
to microsystem theory, it is not that there are direct connections
between the ear and the back or the ear and the foot. Rather, nerves
from the ear connect to reflex centers in the brain which send neurological
reflex pathways to the spinal cord and then to neurons going to
the spine or to the foot.
What are Auricular-Somatic
The basic concept in auriculotherapy is that nerves in the skin
overlying specific areas of the external ear correspond to specific
parts of the brain which has reflex connections to the body. Organo-Cutaneous
Reflexes are activated when organic pathology in a specific part
of the body induce reflex reactions in the external ear, manifested
as localized changes in tenderness, altered blood circulation, and
electrodermal reactivity. Cutaneo-Organic Reflexes are activated
when specific points on the auricle are stimulated in order to relieve
organic pathology in another part of the body.
What is Somatotopic Inversion?
The inverted fetus pattern that is represented on the auricle is
referred to as somatotopic inversion. The word "soma" means "body"
and the word "topic" refers to a topographic "map." The auricle
is a map of the body in an inverted or upside down pattern.
What are Holographic Representations?
In holographic photography, unlike conventional photography, one
portion of the holographic negative contains an image of the whole
holographic picture. This process has been used as an analogy for
the auricular microsystem, whereby there is an echo resonance of
wave form interference patterns, just as the waveform patterns of
laser beams that interact to form a hologram.
What is the role of Endorphins
The endorphins, endogenous morphine molecules that relieve pain
in a manner similar to external opiate chemicals, have been used
as one explanation for how auriculotherapy serves to relieve pain.
Both animal research and human studies have shown that stimulation
of ear acupuncture points appears to cause the systemic release
of endorphins. Administration of the opiate antagonist naloxone
partially blocks the analgesia produced by either auriculotherapy
or by acupuncture.
What is the effect of
A common thought that occurs to many people is to question the consequence
of wearing earrings when they are located at auricular acupuncture
points. The classical location of earrings placed on the center
of the ear lobe occurs at the eye point and has been reported to
relieve visual disturbances. The response of ear reflex points to
earrings depends on both the healing of the skin tissue where the
ear has been pierced and the type of metal used in the ear ring.
If the skin where the ear has been pierced has not completely healed,
the metal in the ear ring can release electrically charged ions
into the skin. Whether those ions help or harm any pathology in
the corresponding part of the body depends upon whether the metal
is gold, which releases positive ions, or silver, which releases
What type of health care
practitioners provide auriculotherapy?
Auriculotherapy is conducted by a variety of practitioners, including
acupuncturists, biofeeback therapists, chiropractic doctors, dentists,
medical doctors, naturopathic doctors, nurses, osteopathic doctors,
physical therapists, psychotherapists, and reflexology therapists.
Where do I find an auriculotherapy
practitioner in my area?
There is a list of different practitioners of auriculotherapy of
in the Certification section of this website.
What health conditions
are most helped by auriculotherapy?
Because every part of the external ear connects through the microsystem
remote reflexes to every part of the body, a wide variety of health
problems are relieved by auriculotherapy. Almost all health conditions
can be affected to some degree by stimulating reactive ear points.
The most commonly reported uses of auriculotherapy have been for
the control of chronic pain, detoxification from addictive drugs,
relief of nausea, and reduction of hypertension.
How does auriculotherapy
affect pain conditions?
Most chronic pain is due to myofascial pain, related to the constriction
of the connective tissue surrounding muscles in spasm. Muscles do
not remain in spasm unless there are motor neurons causing them
to contract. Maintenance of pathological muscles spasms is due to
pathological brain reflex patterns that keep spinal reflex re-initiating
the activation of the motor neurons that cause muscles to sustain
their contraction. By stimulating ear reflex points that connect
to the somatotopic reflex system in the brain, the pathological
brain patterns can be electrically reset stop the unwanted activation
of spinal reflexes. Pain sensations that are due to irritated nerves
can be relieved by the normalizing of pathological, hypersensitive
reflex pathways that interconnect the ear microsystem and the somatotopic
brain. In addition to these neurological explanations, it is also
theorized that pain relief from auriculotherapy is achieved by the
hormonal release of endorphins into the blood. From a Traditional
Oriental Medicine perspective, pain is due to the blockage of Qi
(pronounced chee) energy in the acupuncture meridian channels, thus
creating an imbalance in the macro-acupuncture system. By stimulating
specific ear points in the auricular microsystem, bi-directional
connections are activated in the body macrosystem which lead to
a balancing of energy and an increase flow of Qi.
How does auriculotherapy
affect drug abuse?
As with pain control, explanations for the effectiveness of auriculotherapy
in facilitating the reduction of drug abuse derive from both a Western
neurological conceptualization and a Traditional Oriental Medicine
perspective. The first evidence of the power of auriculotherapy
in reducing the substance cravings of drug addicts came from H.L.
Wen of Hong Kong in the 1970's, and were expanded upon by Dr. Michel
Smith, a physician who practices Oriental Medicine in New York City.
The Lung point on the ear used to relieve addiction disorders is
said to affect the energy of the Lung meridian, which affects not
only respiratory disorders but problems with detoxification. A Western
neurological explanation of drug detoxification with auriculotherapy
is based on the observation that the concha area of the ear which
is used to treat addiction problems represents the control of the
autonomic nervous system through the vagus nerve and through the
hypothalamus of the brain.
How are other conditions
relieved by auriculotherapy?
By facilitating a balancing of energy throughout the body macrosystems
or by correcting pathological reflex centers in the brain, stimulation
of the auricular acupuncture microsystem can lead to a homeostatic
state whereby any form of stress or pain is lessened. Stimulation
of the specific ear reflex points that correspond to a particular
area of the body leads to either a reduction of excess stimulation
or an enhancement of diminished under activity of the affected region.
The overall effect of auriculotherapy is to create a more balanced
condition throughout the body.
Can one do these treatments
on one's self?
While the insertion of acupuncture needles into any part of the
body requires approved training in acupuncture or medicine and the
electrical stimulation or laser stimulation requires a comparable
health care license, anyone can learn ear reflexology. By placing
firm but gentle pressure on the relevant tender regions of the ear,
one can achieve relief of discomfort in specific parts of the body.
How difficult is it to
learn auriculotherapy treatment procedures?
Because of the simplicity of learning the inverted fetus somatotopic
pattern on the ear, basic mastery of auriculotherapy skills can
be achieved in just a few training sessions. The Auriculotherapy
Manual by Dr. Terry Oleson provides a detailed description of over
250 ear reflex points and presents specific treatment plans for
over 200 health conditions in a manner that is both comprehensive
yet easy to understand. The International Handbook of Ear Reflex
Points describes these same ear points in nine different languages
in order to assist international communication regarding the location
of these points.
Are auriculotherapy treatments
covered by health insurance?
Whether auriculotherapy treatments are reimbursed health care providers
or HMO's depends both upon the type of license of the practitioner
and health insurance coverage of the client. When billed as applied
neurostimulation (CPT Code 97118) as part of a regular office visit,
many health insurance agencies will accept auriculotherapy as a
form of TENS (transcutaenous electrical nerve stimulation). Only
some health insurance companies accept auriculotherapy when billed
as a form of acupuncture.
How long do the benefits
of auriculotherapy last?
The range of responses to an auriculotherapy session are quite varied,
but it is common that a patient suffering from severe pain will
notice mild to marked reduction of their complaint on the very first
session. This reduction in their pain experience can actually improve
for the next several hours after treatment, but the benefits often
begin to subside several days after the first treatment. With each
successive treatment, the degree of pain relief usually becomes
more and more prominent and the duration of pain relief progressively
extends from several days to several weeks. With smoking cessation
and drug detoxification, the benefits of auriculotherapy can last
several weeks after just one or two auricular treatments.
How many treatment sessions
are needed to help patients?
There is no set number of treatments for any health condition treated
by auriculotherapy, but it is common that the severity of most conditions
are moderately reduced by four to six sessions and greatly alleviated
by eight to twelve sessions.
How many times per week
are treatments provided?
The number of treatment sessions per week depends upon the schedule
of the patients, as well as the severity of their health condition.
When possible, severe conditions can be treated on a daily basis,
but many patients are not available to come in that often. Typically,
patients are given two treatments per week for two to three weeks,
then once a week for several more weeks. The frequency of sessions
progressively decreases to once a month as the medical disorder
becomes less pronounced.
How long is a typical
While the first auriculotherapy session requires greater time for
an intake evaluation and patient history, a typical auriculotherapy
treatment lasts 15 to 30 minutes. With auricular acupuncture, four
to six acupuncture needles are inserted and left in place for approximately
20 minutes. In transcutaneous auricular electrical stimulation,
each ear reflex point is first detected then stimulated for 10 to
30 seconds, requiring a total of 20 minutes for successively treating
six to twelve points on each ear.
How does auricular needle
insertion compare to electrical stimulation?
While both the insertion of acupuncture needles into the skin of
the ear and the transcutaneous electrical on the surface of ear
reflex points can effectively alleviate various health conditions,
the effects from electrical stimulation usually produce more rapid
Does it matter what frequency
of stimulation is used?
Practitioners of Traditional Oriental Medicine usually stimulate
body acupoints and ear acupoints with an alternation of slow and
fast frequencies, whereas followers of the work of Dr. Nogier use
a frequency specific pattern that depends on different zones of
the ear. While stimulation frequency may have some impact, the location
of the ear point stimulated is a more critical factor.
Is an electrical point
locator necessary for detecting ear reflex points?
In ancient China, electrical point locators were not available,
and modern practitioners of Traditional Oriental Medicine do not
usually use point locators to detect body acupoints. Nonetheless,
more accurate localization of auricular acupoints is achieved by
first detecting a point with an electrodermal measurement device.
Unlike the wide spaced body acupoints, ear points are only a few
millimeters from each other. Moreover, increased electrical skin
conductance at an ear reflex point is one of the primary indicators
that there is pathology in the corresponding part of the body. Greater
electrical conductance at body acupoints is found whether or not
there is pathology in any underlying condition.
What are ear seeds or
Small adhesive band-aids are often used to hold a small grain or
a small metal ball onto a specific area of the ear to allow for
maintained pressure at that ear reflex point.
What are the contraindications
As with other forms of acupuncture, there are few contraindications
for the use of auriculotherapy. It is important not to treat any
pain needed to diagnose an underlying problem, not to treat any
pain needed to limit range of movement of an injured area of the
body, not to treat women who are pregnant, and not to electrically
stimulate the ear points of patients with a cardiac pace maker.
are the side effects that occur from auriculotherapy?
Because tenderness of ear points is one of the primary diagnostic
features of auriculotherapy, soreness on the ear points stimulated
can sometimes continue for up to an hour after the treatment.
What are phases of auricular
Paul Nogier has described three different somatotopic maps on the
ear in addition to the inverted fetus pattern he first described
in 1957. These additional phase maps provide additional locations
on the ear for stimulating the ear to relieve a given medical condition.
scientific studies verify the effectiveness of auriculotherapy?
list of the research articles and medical texts that describe the
efficacy of clinical work with auriculotherapy is presented in the
Research section of this website.