Acupuncture points in the ear.
Alternative therapy

Auriculotherapy (also auricular therapy, ear acupuncture, and auriculoacupuncture) is a form of alternative medicine based on the idea that the ear is a micro system, which reflects the entire body, represented on the auricle, the outer portion of the ear. Conditions affecting the physical, mental or emotional health of the patient are assumed to be treatable by stimulation of the surface of the ear exclusively. Similar mappings are used in many areas of the body, including the practices of reflexology and iridology. These mappings are not based on or supported by any medical or scientific evidence, and are therefore considered to be pseudoscience.[1][2][3][4]

History and development[edit]

The oldest record of auriculotherapy dates back approximately 2500 to The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine (ca. 100 BCE), though it has mostly been limited to bloodletting and cauterization.[5] For instance, chapter 63 of Plain Questions of The Yellow Emperor's Classic (Huang Di Nei Jing) refers to blowing air into the ear with a tube to save an unconscious patient. Chapter 20 of Miraculous Pivot of The Yellow Emperor's Classic mentioned phlebotomy of distended vein in the ear to relieve tightness in the costal regions.[5]

Auriculotherapy was introduced to Europe after 1957, when French neurologist Paul Nogier proposed a more systemic and standardized approach to auriculotherapy in the “Treatise of Auriculotherapy” (1957).[5][6] Auriculotherapy has since then been introduced to the international scientific community as Nogier's article has been read by Russian, Japanese, and Chinese acupuncturists, and been translated into Chinese in 1958.[5]

The developments were made by clinical trials based upon a phrenological method of projection of a fetal Homunculus on the ear, for reference of physical complaints and points for medical treatment. Nogier soon presented his discovery to the public, where members of the Chinese Army picked up the map and took it to the barefoot doctors of China, farmers with minimal training in basic medical and in paramedical skills, and so provide medical services in rural China.

Moreover, Nogier then published what he called the “Vascular Autonomic Signal”, a distinct change in the amplitude of the pulse, easily felt with the tip of the thumb at the radial artery. That mechanism would only produce a signal upon the introduction of new information to the electromagnetic field of the patient. Nogier then was working with the principle of matching resonance, and said that he could use the vascular autonomic signal to detect the active points of the auricular microsystem.

Auricular acupuncture has progressed since then in China, and several national programmes are being developed[7].

More recent development of auriculotherapy includes the emergence of a new therapy developed by Dr. Richard Niemtzow in 2001, which he coined Battlefield Acupuncture. It involves placing gold aiguille semi-permanent needles at up to five sites in the ears. He developed the Battlefield Acupuncture system in an attempt to research more efficient relief for phantom limb pain and chronic pain for veterans.[3] The United States Department of Defense, the Veterans Center for Integrative Pain Management, and the Veterans Health Administration National Pain Management Program office recently completed a 3-year $5.4 million acupuncture education and training program, which trained over 2800 providers for Battlefield Acupuncture.[8]

Anatomical Structures of the Auricular Surface[edit]

It is important to understand the anatomical structures of the auricle in order to locate the auricular points. The main anatomical structures include:[9]

  • Helix, the outer, prominent rim of the auricle
    • Helix crus, a transverse ridge of helix
  • Antihelix, the elevated ridge anterior and parallel to the helix, of which the upper part branches into
    • Superior antihelix crus: superior branch of bifurcation of the antihelix
    • Inferior antihelix crus: inferior branch of bifurcation of the antihelix
  • Triangular fossa, the triangular depression between the two crura of the antihelix
  • Scapha, the narrow curved depression between the helix and the antihelix
  • Tragus, the small, curved flap in front of the auricle
  • Antitragus, the small tubercle opposite to the tragus
  • Concha: the hollow next to the ear canal, which is split into
    • Cymba concha: the concha superior to the helix crus
    • Cavum concha: the concha inferior to the helix crus

Distribution of Auricular Points[edit]

Points located on the ear lobe are related to the head and facial region, those on the scapha are related to the upper limbs, while those on the antihelix and antihelix crura to the trunk and lower limbs, and those in the concha are related to the internal organs.[9]


  1. ^ Barrett, M.D., Stephen. "Auriculotherapy: A Skeptical Look". Acupuncture Watch. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  2. ^ "Acupuncture". The Skeptic's Dictionary. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  3. ^ a b Gorski, David. "Battlefield acupuncture revisited: That's it? That's all Col. Niemtzow's got?". Science-Based Medicine. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  4. ^ Lee MS, Shin BC, Suen LK, Park TY, Ernst E (2008). "Auricular acupuncture for insomnia: a systematic review". Int. J. Clin. Pract. (Systematic review). 62 (11): 1744–52. doi:10.1111/j.1742-1241.2008.01876.x. PMID 18754807.
  5. ^ a b c d Hou, Pu-Wei (28 Dec 2015). "The History, Mechanism, and Clinical Application of Auricular Therapy in Traditional Chinese Medicine". Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2015: 495684. doi:10.1155/2015/495684. PMC 4707384. PMID 26823672.
  6. ^ Nogier, Paul (1972). Treatise of Auriculotherapy. Maisonneuve.
  7. ^ Nguyen J. (1989), Auriculopuncture, Encycl. Méd. Nat. (Paris, France), Acupuncture et Médecine traditionnelle chinoise, II-2, 12-1989, 16 p.
  8. ^ Levy, Charles (March 2018). "Battlefield Acupuncture: An Emerging Method for Easing Pain". American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. 97 (3): e18–e19. doi:10.1097/PHM.0000000000000766. PMID 28570280.
  9. ^ a b Cheng, Xinnong (2009). Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion (3rd ed.). Foreign Languages Press. p. 513–514.