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What Illnesses Can Be Treated with Auricular Acupuncture?

By Solomon Branch
Updated May 17, 2024
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Auricular acupuncture is considered a microsystem, which means it is an entire form of acupuncture-related treatment that is separate from acupuncture practiced on the rest of the body. It can treat a wide variety of chronic and acute issues but is used most often to treat mental issues, digestive disorders and addiction problems. Although this is considered an entire system of treatment, it is often used with other forms of acupuncture as an adjunctive treatment.

Several forms of auricular acupuncture are practiced in modern times, but the main forms are based in either traditional Chinese medicine theory or on systems developed in Europe. Both forms of treatment work by placing small, thin needles in points on or in the ear. The ear is said to represent the human body in the form of an upside-down infant, and the points in the ear correspond to points on the body.

The traditional Chinese medicine theory is that a subtle energy known as qi, which is pronounced “chee," flows through meridians that run along the body and those meridians converge at the ear. Stimulating the ear with acupuncture then brings about balance in the body’s qi. European auricular acupuncture models are based on a modern medicine perspective, which states the ear is full of nerve endings, and stimulating those nerve endings can produce a specific bodily response.

One of the most common ailments auricular acupuncture treats is mental issues, such as depression and anxiety. Points on the top of the head and the forehead are often used in conjunction with auricular acupuncture to achieve this effect. The same stimuli that helps with anxiety and depression also may help in the treatment of addiction.

Around the world, there are organizations that regulate acupuncture and create protocol for practitioners. In the United States, this is the National Acupuncture Detox Association (NADA). Australia has a similar organization, The Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association (AACMA); the regulatory body in the UK is The Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ATCM).

In addition to anxiety and depression, another common use for auricular acupuncture is as a treatment for digestive related issues, particularly appetite control. Points on the ear stimulate production of certain hormones that are responsible for appetite and satiety, which is the feeling of fullness. In addition to auricular acupuncture, acupuncture points on the body are usually used as well.

A licensed practitioner should perform auricular acupuncture treatments. Consult your doctor before receiving any form of acupuncture to ensure that you are not a risk. If you are needle-phobic, treatments can be performed with ear seeds that place pressure on the ear acupuncture points, which stimulates the points in a similar manner as needles.

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