Auricular acupuncture is the placement of tiny needles into specific acupuncture points on the ear. It is a diagnostic and treatment system based on regulating the body’s dysfunction through the stimulation of ear points.

Auricular acupuncture is believed to improve pain and illness through the reticular formation and the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems (2).

Auricular acupuncture has been practiced in China for thousands of years and is used to treat a wide variety of health concerns. It can be used in the treatment of:

  • Pain
  • Quitting smoking
  • Weight loss/appetite Control
  • Fertility
  • IVF support
  • Addiction
  • Stress/anxiety
  • IBS
  • Sleep
  • PTSD

Auricular acupuncture is extremely safe as there are no major adverse effects. Treatments can be performed with standard acupuncture needles, press needle, or acupressure.

Research References On This Page:

Stress/Anxiety

A research article published in the Clinical Oral Investigations Journal analysed whether auricular acupuncture before a dental treatment would reduce patient anxiety (1). They concluded that auricular acupuncture, a minimally invasive method, was effective in reducing the state of anxiety before dental treatment (1). This is great news for all those that hate going to the dentist, but also highlights the effects auricular acupuncture can have on anxiety sufferers.

Another study published in the Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing found that auricular acupuncture is an effective intervention for the relief of stress/anxiety in providers and supports heightened capacity for caring (6).

 Sleep Disturbance/PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

A 2015 study examined the feasibility and acceptability of an auricular acupuncture (AA) insomnia regimen among Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and sleep disturbance (5). Additional to this they also examined the effect of an AA insomnia regimen on objective sleep times by wrist actigraphy, subjective sleep times by sleep diary, and sleep quality ratings (5). The authors concluded that these results suggest that an AA insomnia regimen may improve sleep quality and daytime dysfunction among veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (5).

Appetite Control/Weight Loss

In 2015 the BMJ Open Gastrology Journal published a pilot study analysing the mechanism of action in auricular acupunctures ability to control appetite. The authors concluded that there was a statistically significant difference in the percentage change in body weight and active ghrelin levels in each individual participant in the auricular acupuncture groups (4). Therefore surmising that auricular acupuncture may reduce appetite by suppressing ghrelin production (4).

Addiction

A study into auricular acupuncture for chemically dependent pregnant women found that through the use of NADA protocol (a select group of auricular acupuncture points for addiction), the compliant female participants were found to be receiving higher doses of methadone on admission to hospital and reduced their dosage of methadone to a greater degree than either the non-compliant women in the acupuncture group or the control group (3). Furthermore, their babies required almost two fewer days of morphine treatment (3). 

  1. Michalek-Sauberer, A., Gusenleitner, E.,Gleiss, A., Tepper, G. & Deusch, E., Auricular acupuncture effectively reduces state anxiety before dental treatment—a randomised controlled trial, Clinical Oral Investigations, December 2012, Volume 16, Issue 6, pp 1517-1522 (Link to research)
  2. Soliman N, Frank BL. Auricular acupuncture and auricular medicine. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 1999;10:547–54 (Link to research)
  3. Janssen et al. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy 2012, 7:48  (Link to research)
  4. Ito H, Yamada O, Kira Y, et al. The effects of auricular acupuncture on weight reduction and feeding related cytokines: a pilot study. BMJ Open Gastro 2015;2:e000013.doi:10.1136/bmjgast-2014-000013 (Link to research)
  5. King, H.C. et al. Auricular Acupuncture for Sleep Disturbance in Veterans With Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Feasibility Study, Military Medicine, International Journal of AMSUS Volume 180 Issue 5, May 2015, pp. 582-590 (Link to research)
  6. Reilly, P.M. Auricular Acupuncture to Relieve Health Care Workers’ Stress and Anxiety, Impact on Caring, Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing: May/June 2014 – Volume 33 – Issue 3 – p 151–159 doi: 10.1097/DCC.0000000000000039 (Link to research)