What is Auriculotherapy?

Auriculotherapy is a modality used by acupuncturists where points in the ear are used instead of body points. The points can be needled, or more likely in my clinic, they are stimulated electronically and then an “ear seed” is taped onto the point. It came to me in my studies in Los Angeles, though the work of my first Auriculotherapy teacher, Dr. Terry Oleson, who did primary research and wrote the seminal American textbook: Auriculotherapy Manual: Chinese and Western Systems of Ear Acupuncture. 


The history of Auriculotherapy traces back to the 50’s in France when in 1951, Paul NOGIER received in his consultation a patient, who explained to him that he was relieved from a sciatica pain by a cauterization on the ear carried out by a quack in Marseille, Madame BARRIN. Following this observation, Paul NOGIER examined the external ear and tried to understand why this strange cure took place

What he noticed was that the ear looked like an Upside down fetus. Further reasoning and probing created the first somatotropic maps and soon after, he began to teach this method of finding sensitive points that exhibited decreased electrical resistance and stimulating them electrically. Conferences began to happen, the Chinese learned of it and took notice and began to do their investigations and the maps became more and more complete.

Why do you use the ear?

The outer part of the ear, known scientifically as “the Auricle” seems to be a kind of microsystem. Very similar to the way the feet are seen in reflexology. The whole body is mapped onto the ear, and each part of the body has a corresponding point on the ear. By using the ear we can detect imbalances in the body and then send signals to the brain to help to correct those imbalances.

There are a few layers of neurological connections. The deeper layers are innervated by the vagus nerve and the facial nerve. These are cranial nerves, (i.e. there is a direct connection to the brain) Other cranial nerve connections include the connection to the  Auriculotemporal nerve, a branch of the Mandibular nerve, part of the trigeminal nerve. This branch has the unique quality of having efferant as well as afferent fibers, what this means is that the brain not only receives information from the auricle, but it  also sends messages out to the auricle”

The auricle is also innervated by peripheral nerves, (i.e. nerves that leave the spinal cord).

  • Cervical Plexus (Nerves that leave the Neck at the level of C1-C4)
    • The Greater Auricular Nerve
    • The Lesser Occipital Nerve

How do you know which points to use?

Whenever there is an imbalance in the body, it has a need to correct those imbalances. The body get sick because it doesn’t have enough of the “righteous qi” to heal itself. This righteous qi has an electrical quality to it. There is a measurable deficiency of the charge

in that cell, tissue or organ. That creates a kind of “hunger” for electricity to improve that charge. This shows up macroscopically as changes in electrical resistance at the skin. Namely a decreased resistance. That cell, tissue or organ wants more electricity so it will start to draw electricity by decreasing the resistance. So by scanning the auricle with a point detector, you can identify points with a decreased resistance. Then you can stimulate those points.

Stimulation of the points will send signals through the various nerves into the brain where the information will be processed and stimulate a coordinated healing response in that part of the body.

What are ear seeds?

“ear seeds” are small seeds, usually, vaccaria seeds that are applied to pressure points on the ear. The seeds themselves are small, just the right size for applying to a pressure point, furthermore they have blood invigorating properties and hormone regulating effects.

Acupuncturist may also use ear pellets or magnets or other such items to stimulate the points.

How long should I wear ear seeds?

Usually the seeds will stay on for a few days, sometimes as long as week.

Should I press or massage the seeds?

Yes. You can do both, and I recommend to experiment to find out how to best work with the particular point. sometimes it’s easier to pinch a point to massage it, sometimes it makes more sense to press it. Occasionally, the seed doesn’t seem to need any assistance and stimulates the point all on its on. But it is suggested to stimulate each point for about 30 seconds once an hour during waking hours.

What should it feel like?

The feeling should be a little sore, maybe a little stinging or warm. sometimes the seed can be pressed by a pillow at night and be quite painful. Most likely this means the seed is working to address the bigger issue, but if the pain is unbearable, you can just remove the seed by taking off the tape.