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HISTORY AND THEORY: The theory is that the ear is a microsystem for the rest of the body, in contrast to the acupuncture macrosystem of meridian channels that extend over the whole body. Other examples of microsystems include hand and foot reflexology, face acupuncture and iridology. Auricular acupuncture was discovered by Dr. Paul Nogier in 1951 when he realized that the “sciatic point” correlated with the fourth lumbar vertebrae. This led to the mapping of ear zones in relation to particular body parts.

The ear represents the whole anatomical body, but in an upside down orientation. The ear is compared to an inverted fetus, with the head on the lower ear lobe, the feet at the top of the ear, and the rest of the body in-between. There are up to 200 acupuncture points on the outer ear, each point named after an anatomic area or body function, such as hips, knees, stomach and heart.

WHY IT WORKS: The corresponding points are stimulated to encourage the body to heal itself. Each acupoint on the ear triggers an electrical impulse from the ear to the brain and then to the specific area of the body being treated. For example, a treatment for smoking cessation would likely include the ear points that relate to the lung, sympathetic nervous system and the mouth.

Detoxification with auriculotherapy is based on the observation that the concha area of the ear (which is used to treat addiction problems) represents the autonomic nervous system. Research on human and animals suggest that auricular acupuncture causes the systemic release of endorphins, the body’s endogenous morphine molecules, that mimic opiates in their pain-relieving effects. This leads to a homeostatic state that lessens any form of pain and stress.

WHAT IT HELPS: Auricular acupuncture helps headaches, body pain, sleep troubles, depression, stress, anxiety, addiction, fear, obesity, anger and food cravings by regulating the sympathetic nervous system. Mentally and emotionally, it promotes feeling clear, calm, alert and focused.

WHAT TO EXPECT: Your practitioner will talk briefly with you about your health condition, then use the diagnostic tools of tongue and pulse observation to determine appropriate ear acupoints. Tiny needles will be inserted in the ear and retained for 30 to 40 minutes. After the session, your practitioner may send you home with small magnets or seeds in your ear held in place with a small piece of adhesive tape. These act as time release acupressure for the next few days or for up to two weeks.

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