If you have ever experienced insomnia, stress, the desire to curb your appetite, and/or you became ready to finally and for good quit smoking, then chances are you have either heard of or experienced auriculotherapy. But if you haven’t much familiarity with Chinese medicine, then maybe this is the first time this topic has crossed your path. And if you really don’t like needles (or the thought of needles in your ears freaks you out), you are missing out if you don’t know anything about alternatives like ear seeds or magnets. The focus of this blog post will be ear seeds, but you have a lot of options and there will be more to come in future posts, not to worry. What really matters is this: your external ear? It’s not just something that sticks out in pictures or holds up your earrings. Did you know that there is an amazing degree of healing potential in this humble area of your body?
Keep reading, and you will discover what ear treatments are and what they can do for you!
~~~What is it?~~~
Have you ever heard of ear (or auricular) therapy, or have you tried it? That’s when your practitioner inserts needles into the specific points of the outer ear. For those who prefer to avoid needles, small seeds or magnets attached to a tiny bandaid do the trick. There are roughly two hundred acupuncture points on the outer ear. When they are stimulated they trigger a response within the brain. The ear, according to experts, mirrors the internal body and is a worthy facsimile that can be treated accordingly. And, though ear treatment has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine, it is in the recent scholarship that the most interesting developments are outlined. (If you wish to read further, see this article on vagal regulation, here).
In essence: the ear is a microcosm of the body. By stimulating specific points, either with needles or via other methods (seeds, magnets), the ear communicates directly with the brain. These electrical impulses move from the brain to the targeted organ or body area. The result can be outstanding. Really, truly–the outer ear is a magical wonderland of healing potential if you know where to look and what to do!
~~~What are the benefits?~~~
The above-linked article outlines ways in which the vagus nerve can potentially be regulated via auriculotherapy. A happy vagus nerve generally makes for a calmer digestive system, among other things. Your fight-or-flight response also pertains to the vagus nerve. Because there is a point for every body part and system, a trained practitioner can potentially do just about anything by working on your ears. The most common uses of ear therapy tends to be in the realm of weight loss, stress, stress-related issues like insomnia, back pain, and addiction cessation (it’s GREAT for quitting smoking for those who are motivated and willing to try varying tactics). It is a very useful add-on to a concurrent weight loss program, as you can see here, in this article in Shape magazine.
The best way to get the most benefit from ear treatment is to ask your practitioner what they feel is most apt for you. If your practitioner does a lot of ear work then you can be sure that they will have something good to suggest for your benefit. (And it does take some practice and an enthusiasm for the topic to get good at it, so do ask your practitioner about their experience to date).
~~~What is a treatment like? What happens?~~~
Just like so many things related to Chinese medicine, the short answer to the question “What happens?” is: it depends. Your ear treatment could be part of a larger picture that includes anything from tui na, gua sha, and/or cupping to acupuncture to herbs or all of the above. If your issue is super clear-cut then you will get seeds placed on specific points. There are certain locations for weight loss and others for stress, for example. If you have body pains, generally your practitioner will press along certain areas of the ear to find tender spots. The seeds will be placed on the areas that are sensitive and the continued stimulation of these spots can potentially help to mitigate the pain.
You can leave the seeds in place for two or three days, and this will allow you to benefit from the results of the treatment even after the appointment is finished. Your practitioner can tell you how to gently massage the seeds so that you provide yourself with a gentle and sustained level of stimulation (I always tell people that they are not trying to press the seed through their ear, for instance, and that a moderate press with no resulting discomfort is the goal here). Ideally, whatever you do with the seeds is part of a larger picture of your self care and holistic health practice. Like all things, there is no silver bullet for stress or weight loss or pain relief. But judicious use of varying tools, including ear seeds, can make a big difference in your health journey.
~~~How can I experience this wonder?~~~
If you are in Austin, TX then you are in luck. You can come see me! I can give you an acupuncture treatment in my office and then send you on your way with seeds, or we could just have the seeds. Whatever you prefer! If you are not in Austin, the answer then is: anywhere you have an acupuncturist. If you are near an acupuncture school, you can keep your eye out for community events that take place during national disasters (the NADA protocol, a five-needle treatment, is used everywhere from battlefield acupuncture to quitting smoking or other addictions and schools will often have events related to those topics). A licensed practitioner will offer either seeds or needles, while an AOBTA-CP (a certified Asian bodywork therapist) can provide you with seeds only. As a licensed acupuncturist, I am happy to needle once again but I really love the seeds and won’t ever stop offering their magic to people who come to my office even now.
As you know if you follow my blog, I never get tired of writing about all the different and wonderful ways traditional Chinese medicine can change your life. Acupuncture is marvelous and I, myself, LOVE getting needle treatment. In fact, I go twice a month as part of my normal self-care program. As a student intern, I really and truly loved needling patients. Acupuncture has lasted all these centuries because it really does work.
But if all you try is acupuncture, you are missing out on a lot. Traditional Chinese medicine has a rich variety of techniques and tactics that can do so much for you!
Are you ready to try a non-invasive, calming method of self care? Contact me, or go ahead and hit the book now button on this page.
Discover the value of ear seeds now–you’ll be so glad that you did!
Paula Bruno, Ph.D., L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, an AOBTA-CP traditional Chinese bodywork therapist, and a wellness educator. She maintains an active and growing practice at her Austin, TX offices. Dr. Bruno is also available for distance appointments for wellness consultation or coaching.
In her first career, she was a Spanish professor.
Dr. Bruno’s specialties as a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner include: • Musculoskeletal health (acute or chronic pain relief; Ehlers Danlos syndrome & hypermobility support) • Digestive support, gut health, and weight loss • Aesthetic treatment, including scar revision • Men’s health • General preventative care and immune support for all persons.
When you are ready to discover what traditional medicine plus a vibrant and engaged approach to holistic health can do for you, either contact Dr. Bruno or book an appointment online.
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Note: Material on this web site site is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease, illness, or ailment. A TCM practitioner in Texas identifies syndrome patterns but does not diagnose illness. Material on this web site does not purport to identify syndrome patterns.