The Astonishing Modern Acupuncture System Performed Exclusively on Your Outer Ear
By Dr. Donald Liebell
It is estimated that over half of Americans take prescription medicine for chronic pain. This is a mind-boggling and disturbing statistic. If you are seeking drug-free treatment options, you will be thrilled to learn about the fascinating and effective acupuncture system called Auricular Therapy. It is a proven, sophisticated European-developed treatment approach, used worldwide to improve health and relieve pain throughout the body... exclusively through acupuncture points on the outer ear (auricle). It is quite different from traditional Chinese body acupuncture.
The science of Auricular therapy has been well documented, internationally researched, and published in medical journals. Sadly, most American doctors are unfamiliar with it—even though it has been practiced worldwide for decades, with tremendous success. Auricular therapy has proven to bring pain relief and healing, in many cases, after all other medical interventions have failed.
In 1990, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) proclaimed that Auricular therapy is “probably the most developed and best documented, scientifically, of all the “micro-systems” of acupuncture and is the most practical and widely used.”
The WHO lists 150 conditions for which Auricular therapy is appropriate. Examples include various neurological and orthopedic disorders such as: headaches, migraines, Trigeminal Neuralgia, facial paralysis, peripheral neuropathy, Meniere’s disease, intercostal neuralgia, tennis elbow, sciatica, lumbar pain, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer pain, dry mouth, hot flashes, etc. It has also been successful in helping people with chronic allergies.
If you are frustrated with your chronic health condition...
Auricular therapy may be your answer.
Traditional “Western” medicine looks to the human ear as only an organ of hearing. Your outer ear however, has complicated nerve connections through which constant communication takes place between your ear, brain and the body. When there is a problem somewhere in your body, we can electrically detect ear acupuncture points corresponding to the organs or tissue involved. By treating these points by various means (discussed later), we energetically trigger or “jump start” a natural healing response.
Many factors may disrupt the flow of energy, which can have far-reaching consequences to our health. Energetic blockages are obstacles to the normal energy flow throughout the body. “Eastern medicine” acknowledges that your health depends upon energetic balance and stability of the “body-mind-spirit” axis. Modern research and technology is now scientifically verifying this principle that has been understood for thousands of years by many cultures. Auricular therapy is at the forefront of the scientific energy medicine revolution. It is extremely safe and easy to have done.
The ear has been used as an approach to treating disease in various forms, dating back to ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and Persia. The ancient Chinese used only a scattered array of acupuncture points on the ear for just a few health problems. The Chinese did NOT know that the ear could serve as an entire system of acupuncture.
Modern Auricular medicine was developed by award-winning, French neurologist, Paul Nogier, M.D. (1908-1996).
In the 1950's, Dr. Nogier noticed a strange scar on the upper ear of some of his patients. He found that all of them had been treated for sciatica pain by a local practitioner, Madame Barrin. She had cauterized (intentionally burned) a specific area of the external ear in order to relieve their low back pain. She had no idea why or how it worked. Dr. Nogier conducted a similar procedure on his own sciatica patientsand found that their back pain was also reduced. He then tried other means of stimulating this "sciatica point," including the use of acupuncture needles, and found that they helped with the sciatic pain too. Dr. Nogier brilliantly took this observation and developed it into a comprehensive science.
Dr. Nogier hypothesized that if an area of the upper external ear is effective in treating low back pain, maybe other parts of the ear could treat other parts of the body.
Nogier's research revealed that the ear is energetically connected to the entire body: a “micro-system.” This means that the outer ear is a tiny microcosm of living energy—a comprehensive acupuncture system representing the entire body.
Every structure of the human body could be mapped on the outer ear — the auricle. He observed that the ear could be compared to an upside-down human fetus; the head represented by the lower ear lobe, the feet at the top of the ear, and the rest of the body in-between. This model was first presented in France in 1957, then spread to Germany, and finally was translated into Chinese. In 1958 the Chinese adopted this model, and acknowledged Nogier as the “Father of Auricular Therapy.”
Several years later, Dr. Nogier and his research team discovered that the surface of the ear is actually a 3-dimensional, holographic energetic projector of the human anatomy and physiology.
A hologram is a 3-dimensional image of an object, which contains the information of the object itself… and in EVERY PART of itself. Dennis Gabor theorized the concept of holography in 1947. Leith and Upatniecks introduced it practically by 1964.
Nogier realized that the ear at all times, presents us with a 3-dimensional “image” created by energy interference patterns. This in turn, meant that there must be three distinct mappings (holographic energy phases) of the body which exist on the ear, depending upon the nature of the health condition (acute, chronic or degenerative). There isn't just one zone or point on the ear for each organ or tissue; there are 3 different areas to consider.
Unfortunately, few practitioners have mastered Nogier’s significantly more sophisticated and complex 3-phase approach to auricular therapy. Many practitioners have been satisfied with the one-phase (ear mapping) approach.
Even fewer have adopted Nogier’s brilliant advancement known as Auricular Medicine, a form of bio-energetic testing (covered in detail in a separate article).
Nogier's work has been maintained and furthered by research of anesthesiologist, Medical Acupuncturist and homeopathy authority, Nader Soliman, M.D. I am proud privileged to have Dr. Soliman as my mentor, and to be able to carry on the work of Dr. Paul Nogier, to serve the Hampton Roads community.
"How Does Auricular Therapy Work?"
What is most fascinating is the fact that there are no direct nerve connections between the ear and the rest of the body. The nerves from the ear however, connect to reflex centers in the brain, which send neurological reflex messages to the spinal cord and then to nerves connecting to the corresponding part of the body.
Imagine your brain as a computer. Inside this computer is a “map” of the entire body. This map is projected onto your EAR through your nervous system. Finding the points on the map is like using a computer’s keyboard or mouse to gain entrance into the system. With Auricular therapy we can energetically treat a number of painful conditions through the “brain’s computer.”
Some scientists say that pain relief from Auricular therapy comes from the release of endorphins into the blood. Endorphins are your body’s natural pain relieving chemicals. They are created by your brain, but they are similar in chemistry to opiate drugs, like morphine. Proof of this mechanism has come in the form of fascinating experiments, which revealed that drugs that block the effects of opiate drugs, also block the pain relieving effects of Auricular therapy.
From a Traditional Oriental Medicine perspective, pain is caused by blockage of Qi or Chi (pronounced chee) energy in the acupuncture meridian channels, thus creating an imbalance in the total body (macro-system) acupuncture system. By stimulating specific ear points in the auricular micro-system, two-directional connections are activated in the body macro-system which leads to a balancing of energy and an increase flow of Qi.
Modern science has proven what ancient cultures and millions of people have known all along: Acupuncture works! Technology such as Function MRI (fMRI) proves that ear acupuncture indeed triggers an effect in areas of the brain, specific to the corresponding zone on the ear.
Auricular Therapy Around the World
Needle-based acupuncture has been practiced in Asia for thousands of years, but only a few specific points were used on the ear; not as an entire acupuncture system. In November of 1997, a consensus panel of the U.S National Institutes of Health (NIH) gave conditional approval of the practice of acupuncture. They included an evaluation of those studies that supported the use of ear acupuncture for pain relief and addiction treatment (quitting smoking, drugs, alcohol).
Auricular therapy has been used in continental Europe for the past 40 years. The body of international research supporting it is quite impressive. Research studies in China and the USA verified the scientific accuracy of auricular diagnosis:
In China the ear points of over 2,000 patients were assessed recording which points correlated with certain diseases and which ear points lead to reduction of medical symptoms.
At UCLA 75% accuracy was achieved in correctly diagnosing the location of the musculoskeletal pain problems of 40 patients. Expert panels were formed by the World Health Organization leading to international standardization of identification of ear reflex points.
Auricular acupuncture has even been used to treat pain for cancer patients when prescription medicine was ineffective. A research study involving 90 cancer patients was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (Vol 21, Issue 22 (November), 2003: 4120-4126). The scientists concluded that there was a clear benefit from auricular treatment for cancer related pain.
Another example is Chinese medical research published in the journal, Zhongguo Zhen Jiu (2007 Feb;27(2):112-4). This study revealed success in relieving lower back pain. Studies have revealed auricular treatment’s success with dealing with drug and nicotine addiction.
"What’s the difference between
EAR and body acupuncture?"
Body acupuncture works with fixed meridians—channels which are exactly mapped and defined in the body, as well as fixed acupuncture points situated along these meridians. They can always be detected because they are always electrically active.
Auricular therapy (3-phase ear acupuncture) is a specialized acupuncture “microsystem” of the entire human body, which involves diagnosis of electrically active acupuncture points, which are ONLY detectable if there is something wrong in the body. Many consider this to be an advantage that Auricular Therapy has over traditional body acupuncture.
"How is Auricular Therapy Performed?"
Auricular therapy can be administered in several ways. Various types of specialized acupuncture needles can be used, although it can be done needle-free. Needle-free methods include use of electrical or laser stimulation, specialized pressure pellets made from gold, silver, steel or herbal seeds, as well as magnets, and manual pressure. I utilize all of these forms in my practice. The choice of which materials to use is case dependent.
Electrical Ear Acupuncture Point Detection
Traditional acupuncture involves placement of needles in "meridian" points throughout the body, where they're spaced widely apart. Auricular points are only a few millimeters or less from each other. In ancient China they didn't have electrical point locators.
Current technology enables modern Auricular practitioners to locate points with amazing precision. The device is used to detect increased electrical skin conductivity, which is found at an electrically active point.
The increase in electrical conductivity correlates exactly with a problem in the corresponding part of the body. The most sophisticated instruments also detect polarity of active points, which tells the doctor what type of treatment is needed. The same instrument can provide electro-acupuncture treatment:
Ear Neuro-Electric Acupuncture
Dr. Paul Nogier's research revealed 7 specific frequencies that must be used for different areas of the ear for electrical treatment. Strict attention to proper frequencies greatly enhances results.
In my practice I use the NET2000, which is considered the “gold standard” of devices. It is both a diagnostic and treatment instrument. Most people don't feel anything at all with this micro-current electrical stimulation. Each point is treated from 10 to 120 seconds. You can see a demonstration of me using the NET2000 on a WAVY-TV 10 news story they aired for Auricular Therapy treatment for people with chronic dry mouth
Auricular Therapy Acupressure Seeds & Pellets
Some people are fearful of needles. This is no problem, since special herbal seeds or metal pellets mounted on a "band-aid" type material provide outstanding effects. I provide these as one of several options, in conjunction with electrical stimulation.
Once an active point is determined by the acupuncture point detector, pellets or needles can be placed on the ear. This instrument can even determine which type of metal is appropriate based on polarity. Some points require gold (energizing), while others require silver (calming), which are made of either silver or an actual herbal seed. A special non-toxic medical adhesive is sometimes used to help them stick as long as possible.Many Auricular specialists think ear acupuncture has an advantage over traditional full-body acupuncture because these semi-permanent needles or pellets enable you to have constant ongoing stimulation of the points detected. A session of traditional needle acupuncture ends when the needles are removed.
"What Does Auricular Therapy Feel Like?"
You don’t feel much at all. Needles may have little sensation to a small, quick pinch. If pellets or seeds are use, you’ll feel some pressure and that’s it. The NET2000 point finder instrument is used to scan the necessary regions of your ear to locate the area for placement. Once I find each point, it is treated electrically prior to the application of a seed, metal pellet or acupuncture needle.
"How many treatment sessions are necessary?"
Frequency is extremely case dependent. There is no set number of treatments for any health condition treated through auricular therapy. In some cases only one treatment is necessary. Others require many more. It depends on what is being treated. If one is careful to not wash or rub off the seeds, pellets, or needles, treatment is continual for several weeks. Some conditions require multiple treatments spread over time. Electrical treatments may be done more frequently.
"How long is a typical treatment session?"
A typical treatment, which includes electrical stimulation and needles, seed, or pellet placement requires only a few minutes, depending on your needs. Electrical stimulation. Specialty treatments such as Battlefield acupuncture, Allergy desensitization acupuncture, or treatment for dry eyes and ears can take up to one hour. A comprehensive workup using bio-energetic testing methods of Auricular Medicine, takes 30-60 minutes.
"How fast are results?"
The range of responses is of course, varied. It is common that a patient suffering from severe pain will notice mild to marked reduction of pain after or even during the first session. This reduction in their pain experience can actually improve for the next several hours to weeks after treatment. Like any treatment, its effectiveness depends on the severity and/or duration of the condition treated, extent of damage, etc. It’s important to understand that the goal of auricular therapy is to detect energy imbalances in your body… and “jumpstart” normal function.
One does NOT need to keep ear seeds, pellets or needles in permanently. Some patients can have one application to eliminate a problem. Others may require several different patterns of points to treat different areas of the body over time.
"Are there any reasons NOT to have Auricular Therapy?"
As with other forms of traditional acupuncture, there are few reasons to avoid auricular therapy. Also, pain is an important indicator of deeper problems in some cases. It is important not to treat any pain needed to diagnose an underlying problem. We shouldn’t treat any pain needed to limit range of movement of an injured area of the body. Nor should we treat women who are pregnant, and not to electrically stimulate the ear points of patients with a cardiac pace maker. Needles should may not be used if a person has a bleeding disorder. I do NOT use Auricular Therapy as a replacement for necessary traditional medical care. It is a form of complementary medicine only.
"Are there any potential side effects from Auricular Therapy?"
Because tenderness of ear points is one of the primary diagnostic features of this method, soreness on the ear points can sometimes continue for a while after the treatment. Also, in the case of a chronic condition, one may experience a “retracing” of symptoms. In other words, in some cases a patient may feel their body going through symptoms that took place during a condition’s development—a reversal of symptoms, rather than an immediate pain relief. Remember that "Eastern" medicine seeks to trigger natural healing responses, rather than mask symptoms.
"Can I Get Addicted to Auricular Therapy?"
No. Auricular Therapy is a non-addictive healing tool that you can use in your healing, revitalization, recovery, and in your life. You may become ACCUSTOMED to the benefits that ear acupuncture offers and look forward to treatments much in the same way that people look forward to chiropractic adjustments, exercise, good nutrition, etc. Sure, you may seek Auricular therapy as an ongoing means of naturally treating problems or injuries should they come up. My entire family seeks this phenomenal health approach as part of our preventative and naturally curative lifestyle. I am eternally grateful that I found out about Auricular Therapy, because my wife and daughter would still have Lyme disease, and my son would still suffer asthma, caused by fungal allergy and damage.
"What happens if my seeds, pellets or needles fall off?"
The goal is for the treatment to last long without need for reapplication. Acupressure pellets typically stay on for a few days. If one is careful not to scrub them off in the shower or toweling dry, semi-permanent ear acupuncture needles can stay on for up to four weeks. If they do fall off too soon, new ones might need to be applied. This should not require more than a brief session, since a full evaluation and exam is not necessary.
"Can I receive Auricular treatment at the Liebell Clinic if I live out of the Virginia Beach Area?"
Yes. Many people travel long distances for treatment. Since we can apply semi-permanent needles, seeds, or pellets, it is the perfect treatment for such circumstances. In addition, homeopathic supplementation is a great complement to Auricular Therapy.
Auricular therapy is a phenomenal pain-relieving, natural health approach. It’s promising to discover that more Americans are embracing energy medicine with open arms. My patients no longer view these treatment techniques and practices as “alternative” at all. One might wonder, “alternative” to what? Drugs and surgery? It seems that the term “alternative” might suggest such practices are inferior, weird, unproven or unscientific. If one has such treatments only once traditional American medicine has failed, then perhaps they are appropriately named.
Practices such as acupuncture, including Auricular therapy are standard practices in many nations worldwide—nations healthier and longer lived than the United States.
I'm proud to be helping people with supposedly "hopeless" conditions with the aid of auricular therapy, in combination with my other non-invasive procedures.
If you're tired of the "drugs & surgery" approach to health, Auricular therapy may be the right approach for you. Why wait for the "mainstream" American health care system to catch up... help is available right NOW!
Although I receive lots of questions daily, I do respond to all of them (in the order received), usually within 48 hours. Please understand that my answers are for general information only. I cannot provide specific medical advice via email; that can only be provided through proper evaluation in my office. For appointments, please call my office.
Your email address or other information is confidential; I wll never share it with anyone, nor will it be used for any form of solicitation. I look forward to your questions!
- Dr. Donald Liebell
Nader Soliman, M.D.,
Anesthesiologist, Auricular Therapy practitioner,
Past President of the American Academy of Medical Acupunture (2003-2005)
President, Alternative Medicine Seminars
Auricular Therapy at Andrews Air Force Base
Colonel (Dr.) Richard Niemztow, M.D., PhD., M.P.H.
- Patrick J. La Riccia, MD - University of Pennsylvania School of Me dici ne
A Fascinating Field of Medicine
“Fifty years later [from the discovery of auricular medicine], many exciting and fascinating developments in understanding this medicine and how to use it for quite complex assessment and treatments are being tested and offered by trained practitioners around the world. This field continues to expand, with thousands of practitioners and exciting developments, particularly in Europe.”
- Beate Strittmatter, M.D., Academy for Acupuncture and Auriculomedicine - Munich, Germany,
Internationally known authority on auricular therapy, World Health Organization instructor
“When a disease occurs in an organ or certain kind of tissue, positive reactions will appear
on the corresponding auricular point(s). Stimulation of positively reacting point(s) by
applying the proper method can eliminate the pathological effect reversing the pathological
Li-Chun Huang, O.M.D., M.D. (China)
“Unfortunately there are many conventional doctors who think acupuncture, or even say nutrition nonsense"
Dr. Bryan L. Frank, M.D., Anesthesiology/Pain Medicine
- President, American Academy of Medical Acupuncture,
- Author, “Atlas of Auricular Medicine and Auricular Therapy, medical Acupuncture"
- Programs for: the UCLA Medical School, the University of Miami School of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and the McMaster University School of Medicine
Journal of Clinical Oncology
"Auricular therapy can reduce the tension, stress, and pain not fully relieved by other medical procedures”
- Pioneer on auricular diagnosis at the UCLA Pain Management Center
- Research Director at the American University of Complementary Medicine
"For chronic conditions, auricular therapy is better than [body] acupuncture"
"The body heals pain through the brain rather than by pharmacological methods that only suppress the pain signal (along with other vital functions).”
Darrell Stoddard, Board Certified Auricular Therapist, Founder, the Pain Research Institute
- Author, "Pain Free For Life"
"Auricolotherapy is a treatment diffusing in all over the World"
“In the last years modern clinical and basic research is confirming the efficacy of ear acupuncture mostly in the treatment of pain both acute and chronic, and of anxiety related disorders…
Dr. Luigi Gori, M.D., Dr. Fabio Firenzuoli, M.D.
– “Ear Acupuncture in European Traditional Medicine"
- Center of Natural Medicine, S. Giuseppe Hospital, Empoli, Italy.
Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine
(Vol. 9, No. 3, 1994)
“At the Center [for Improvement for Human Functioning, Wichita, Kansas], auricular therapy is used as a diagnostic and therapeutic option.
It is relatively painless, inexpensive, easy to use in experienced hands and may give immediate results. We recommend its use.
Dr. James Jackson, PhD, MT,
- Professor and Assistant Dean, Wichita State University Graduate School
"There is increasing evidence that ear acupuncture can be helpful in the treatment of migraine”
Marco Romoli, M.D.
- "Ear acupuncture in the control of migraine pain: selecting the right
acupoints by the “needle-contact test”
From: Neurological sciences: official journal of the Italian Neurological Society and of the Italian Society of Clinical Neurophysiology
Neck and Back Pain Studies In Auricular Therapy
“We believe that substantial savings in medical health care can be made through the adjuvant use of [auricular] electroacupuncture... significant improvement in pain intensity, mobility, psychological wellbeing, and sleep”
“In this [back] study we demonstrated significant additional and long-lasting pain relief through adjunctive ear acupuncture in patients suffering from chronic low back pain…”
Sabine M. Sator-Katzenschlager, MD, etal.,
"Electrical Stimulation of Auricular Acupuncture Points Is More Effective Than Conventional Manual Auricular
Acupuncture in Chronic Cervical Pain: A Pilot Study"
- Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care B, Outpatient Pain Center, University of ienna, Vienna, Austria
Auriculotherapy is a sophisticated discipline of acu- puncture that can be studied to a refined level of precision”
“Used in an integrated medical model, acupuncture is well suited to deal with many of the functional problems that allopathic medicine is not equipped to address. The result is patient and physician satisfaction."
Dr. Farshad Ahadian, M.D.
- Medical Director, the Center for Pain Medicine at University of California, San Diego