Acupuncture is a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and has been around for thousands of years. Typically it is performed with insertion of fine needles at acupuncture points on the body following various “meridians,” or pathway for the flow of what TCM calls ‘qi’ —somewhat analogous to what Western naturopathic physicians would call the ‘vital force’. It’s the evanescent concept of the energy that keeps us alive.

All of these same points can be stimulated without breaking the skin, too—this is called acupressure. 

Auricular acupuncture is a subclass of acupuncture, in which certain points within the ear affect corresponding parts of the body (which is also called reflexology). This can be performed with tiny acupuncture needles, or it can be performed as acupressure, via seeds applied to the points with an adhesive. 

Does Auricular Acupressure (or “Ear Seeding”) Work? 

Since auricular acupuncture (or acupressure) is really a branch of acupuncture, the question of how they work is the same. When I learned acupuncture alongside Western medicine in naturopathic medical school, I struggled to reconcile the two. Ultimately came to see that they were two completely different paradigms that nevertheless seemed to largely reach the same conclusion. The book, The Web That Has No Weaver was the best attempt to explain acupuncture to a Western mind that I’ve found, but it can’t be easily distilled to a soundbite. 

There aren’t a lot of studies on auricular acupuncture, or acupressure. There are a few, though, and those there are are promising. It’s perhaps best known as an alternative treatment for cravings and addiction, to aid in things like smoking cessation. However, alcoholism and other substance abuse issues can also benefit—even, perhaps, sugar addiction, which is quite similar in terms of addiction neurochemistry. 

Auricular acupuncture has also been shown to improve insomnia, and there are a few studies that show improvement in depression, stress tolerance, and anxiety, as well. 

Most of the rest of the studies I’ve been able to find have been for various kinds of chronic pain. 

  • This study shows that auricular acupuncture aids chronic pain in general. This study shows the same. 
  • This study shows improvement in low back pain specifically, demonstrating a 70% reduction in the intensity of the worst pain, a 75% overall reduction, and 42% improvement in disability due to back pain. 
  • This study shows that aside from reduction of pain levels, auricular acupuncture improves the pain threshold for tolerance. 
  • This review study shows that auriculotherapy aids perioperative pain in particular, reducing the need for analgesics, and pain intensity. 
  • This study shows that auricular acupressure is an effective treatment for menstrual pain. 

The Upshot

Auricular acupressure and acupuncture are low-risk and generally low cost approaches to mitigate pain, insomnia, stress, anxiety, and can aid in reduction of cravings for substances. There are likely many more indications that have yet to be studied, as well. 

We now offer auricular acupressure at Nature Cure Family Health!