Introduction to ear acupuncture

During the last course, we were introduced to auricular acupuncture, particularly used for detox.

As we practised amongst students, we realised that ear acupuncture was a lot less painful than anticipated. When properly done, one will experience a small pinching sensation and then a very quick reaction from the point treated. This can take the form of feeling things going down, starting to cry or feeling high.

In Chinese medicine, the ear as well as other parts of the body such as hands, eyes and feet can be considered micro-systems.

foeuts-earThese micro-systems have got the characteristics of reflecting the entire body within themselves. A trained practitioner can therefore support a diagnosis by examining the eyes (iridology) or manipulate these micro-system to affect the whole body (reflexology, auriculotherapy…).


Out of the many points existing on the ear we were introduced to six particular points:

– Sympathetic
– Shenmen
– Kidney
– Liver
– Upper Lung
– Lower Lung

Each of these points have particular effects on the body, for example: shenmen can be used to calm mental agitation and the Liver point is mainly used in alcoholic detox.

For auricular acupuncture, traditional needles can be used but it is quite common to use detox needles. Short (7 mm) and light thanks to their plastic handle, these stay well in the ear for the duration of the treatment.


Ear acupuncture is actually best done when the patient is sitting in a relaxed position. This facilitates the organisation of group sessions as chairs is all one need versus the traditional therapy couch. Also, health professional assisting addicted patients have found group sessions more effective and relaxing for the patients as they see they are not alone facing their issue.


One acupuncturist with a bit of experience can run hour long group sessions with up to 10 persons. The ideal duration of the treatment is 45 minutes although it is a gradual process due to the ailment of the patients.

In order to further help with the detox process, acupuncturists have access to tools other than needles: the ear seeds and ear tacks.


The ear seeds are either metalic or processed vaccaria seeds. They are round in shape and do not penetrate the skin. A seed is placed on an acupuncture point on either one or both sides of the ear. When the urge comes, the patient can delay it by thinking – I will do it / have one in 5 minutes while gently pressing on the ear seed.
This will stimulate the points, calm the mind of the patient and lessen the urge. A few minutes later, the patient repeats the process. Ear seeds can be kept on for three days in a row. If the acupuncture sessions are more than a week apart, the patient can be given extra ear seeds for them to place on their ear, maintaining the support process.


Ear tacks are similar to ear seeds in the process, although they do puncture the skin. As for the ear seeds the plaster is placed on the acupoint of the ear and stimulated when pressing it. Because they puncture the skin, they can be worn only for one day. By providing a sharper stimulation than the ear seeds, they are quite successful with patients addicted to drugs requiring IV.

The detox acupuncture is not a miracle procedure, the ultimate aim is to help the patient cope with the addiction by offering ways of delaying the intake of addictive substance.If a patient can push away an urge for 5 minutes, this is already a good beginning. As the sessions continue and the patient delay more and more the intake of addictive substance, they will eventually realise that the urges have stopped.

As ear acupuncture deal with the addictive behaviour, it can help with most addictions (illegal drugs, legal drugs, tobacco, sugar, food addiction, OCD)… but it can also help people with other issues like chronic anxiety as well. In addition to helping with the addiction, the six points mentioned above also contribute to harmonise the mental and emotional state of the patient by freeing blocked emotions and promoting healthy respiration and Qi circulation within the body.


Ear acupuncture can be used on its own or as part of a broader acupuncture treatment. Having these micro-system available also provide the acupuncturist with alternatives if for any reason the main acupuncture point on the body is not treatable (injury, skin disease…).

I found the introduction to ear acupuncture very fascinating and also very interesting from a practical point of view. I will definitely study it further as it can be used on-the-go without having the patient to remove their clothes or the need for a table, all I need to have are the detox needles and the wipes for the patient to clean their ears.

Thank you for reading and see you next time!

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