The Neiching says, "The ear is the place where all the acupuncture channels meet".
Ear acupuncture or auricular therapy is a form of treatment that has been widely practised in different parts of the world. Arab physicians cauterised the ear with a red-hot poker to treat sciatica. Traditional Ayurvedic practitioners in India have for thousands of years inserted earrings into various parts of the ear to treat diseases like asthma, arthritis and heart diseases. This form of treatment was also extensively used in North Africa. The practice of wearing earrings was not merely ornamental but often had a therapeutic purpose as well.
Recently a lot of work on ear acupuncture has been done by Dr. Paul Nogier in France, which has lead to the popularisation of this form of therapy in Europe. In fact there are some French acupuncturists who treat all ailments through the ear.
The ear contains one hundred and thirty acupuncture points, which are arranged in the ear in the form of an upside down foetus. The head is represented at the lobule of the ear while the feet lie at the top of the ear. The other organs are distributed through the other parts of the ear. The principle behind ear acupuncture is that when a point on the ear is stimulated it creates its effects on the corresponding organ.
In auriculotherapy the ear points are used for diagnosis as well as for treatment. The points may be detected by inspecting the ear visually or by pressing the various acupuncture points with a match stick or a blunt probe. The acupuncture points may also be detected using a galvanometer to detect points of reduced electrical resistance. This is an extremely accurate but time-consuming form of diagnosis, which can often predict an illness long before it actually occurs.
The insertion of needles in the ear is used to treat a range of conditions including anxiety, insomnia, epilepsy, hypertension, hormonal imbalances and pain due to many causes. Ear acupuncture is also used for giving analgesia for various types of operations including childbirth. Ear acupuncture can also be used very effectively to help overweight people slim down. The treatment acts in two ways, it suppresses the appetite by making the stomach feel full. Secondly it regulates the metabolic rate, so that the body burns up more calories to do the same amount of work.
In ear acupuncture, needles are inserted and stimulated either with the hand or with a high frequency electric current. Electric stimulation is normally used in the treatment of drug addiction, cigarette smoking, or for people who want to lose weight.
When prolonged stimulation of an acupuncture point is required, a tiny ear stud that looks like a drawing pin is inserted into the ear and covered with adhesive tape. Whenever the person feels the urge to eat or smoke, he is advised to place his thumb and forefinger on either side of the ear and massage the needle. Massaging the needle releases neuro-transmitters in the brain, which take away the urge to smoke or eat by making the stomach feel full. This needle can be left in the ear for seven to ten days. In tropical countries, it is advisable to change the needles every five days to prevent any infection.Semi permanent magnetic needles are also available which can be left in for upto 3 weeks.
In patients who are apprehensive about the insertion of needles a tiny gold or silver ball one millimetre in diameter is placed in the ear over the acupuncture point. It is covered with an adhesive plaster and the patient asked to massage it whenever required. This ball can be left in for upto three months or till it falls off whichever is earlier. Naturally this is not as effective as the ear acupuncture needle.
Ear acupuncture is useful in helping people to stop smoking. The treatment effectively counteracts the effects of nicotine withdrawal and in co-operative patients, yields excellent results. However, if the patient does not wish to stop smoking, any method of treatment is useless. Treatment with acupuncture removes the physical need to smoke and many patients actually develop an aversion to cigarettes. This is achieved by stimulating the nicotinic receptors in the brain so the patient does not manifest any physical signs of withdrawal.
Smokers often light up a cigarette when they are tense, to keep their fingers occupied. When they are under treatment, they are advised to massage the ear needle, which calms them down within a couple of minutes.
However, as the smoking habit is deeply ingrained, many smokers light up a cigarette out of habit. The smoker needs to be cautioned that he should not light up a cigarette out of habit and that he should make every effort to avoid smoking.
This same principle is used to treat many other types of addiction, including addiction to hard drugs like heroin. Here too acupuncture is very useful as the patient experiences very few withdrawal symptoms and is easily able to give up the habit. Acupuncture however cannot cure the underlying cause of the addiction, which is the patient's inability to cope with his environment. The treatment is therefore only effective in curing the patient of his habit when the other factors have been attended to and the patient truly wishes to be independent of drugs. Whenever he has the urge to take drugs he is advised to massage the ear needle which stimulates the release of endorphins in the brain. This immediately removes the urge to take drugs while an excessive stimulation of the ear needle may even make the patient slightly euphoric!