Frequently Asked Questions
About Auricular Therapy
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). It is quite different from traditional Chinese body acupuncture.
Look to the Auricle
An ancient Greek oracle refers to a prophet or shrine through which hidden inspired wisdom was believed to be revealed. What a fascinating coincidence it is that the medical term for the outer ear is the auricle. Using modern scientific instruments, the auricle provides otherwise hidden information about the human body that other medical means may not reveal. The outer ear functions as a tiny microcosm of living energy that correlates with and connects to the entire body.
Conventional Western medicine looks to the human ear as only an organ of hearing. It is so much more! The auricle has complicated nerve connections through which constant communication takes place between your ear, brain and the body. There are no direct nerve connections between the ear and every part of the body, but it does indeed have a vast supply of nerve endings connecting it to the brain and spinal cord. It appears that a reflex center in the brain (reticular formation) continuously transmits energy signals to the spinal cord, and then to nerves connecting to the corresponding part of the body.
When there is a disturbance somewhere in your body, a change in the electrical resistance can be detected at pinpoint locations within predictable regions of the skin of the ear. These temporary acupuncture points directly correspond to the organs or tissue involved. Stimulating them by various means including acupuncture needles, electrical devices, cold laser, or acupressure pellets can trigger or “jump starts” a natural healing response. This holistic ear-based treatment is called auricular therapy. It has been clinically observed to achieve some absolutely stunning results—often after conventional medications and other treatment methods have failed.
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.
Ancient Chinese Secret?
The ear has been documented as an area of therapeutic focus dating back to ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and Persia. Various sources inaccurately cite auricular therapy to be developed by the Chinese. Auricular therapy is actually a French innovation. Historically, Chinese acupuncture involved merely a few points on the ear as part of the comprehensive, full-body meridian energy channel system. In Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), acupuncture points are very specifically anatomically located at fixed locations on everybody. These are perpetually electrically active—they can always be detected on everybody with instruments.
On the other hand, with auricular therapy there are no exact fixed points; they are constantly changing. They can differ in location on the ear from person to person, within large zones. They exist as electrically detectable acupuncture points if, and only if a problem exists—like the warning light on the dashboard of a car that turn to in case of malfunction.
The Chinese were brilliant in their developments of acupuncture. However, they did NOT know that the ear could serve as an entire system of acupuncture. The development of the science of auricular therapy is credited to Paul Nogier, M.D. (1908-1996). He was a conventionally-trained neurologist, who also had an engineering background. He taught at the medical school in Lyon, France.
During the 1950s, Dr. Nogier noticed a strange scar on the upper ear of some of his patients. The doctor learned these marks were created by a woman from Marseille named Madame Barrin. Although she was not a doctor, she somehow learned how to intentionally burn (cauterize) a specific area on the outer ear in order to relieve their low back and thigh pain (sciatica). She had no idea why or how it worked. Amazed and fascinated by this unheard of procedure, Dr. Nogier observed it, and performed the same procedure on his own sciatica patients with some success.
With side effects of drugs being a concern, Dr. Nogier sought methods of treatment that worked on a physical and energetic plane, rather than chemical. Thus, the professor studied homeopathic medicine, manual spinal correction, and acupuncture. He reasoned that needling the ear rather than burning it might be a much gentler, less drastic, yet equally effective approach.
He was right on the money!
Eventually, Dr. Nogier determined that this “magical” sciatica spot was a reflex point that corresponded directly with the fifth lumbar vertebra and its neighboring sacroiliac joint. This is where the sciatic nerve exits the spine, and runs down the leg. Despite the lack of scientific validation, Nogier persisted with detailed investigation of this phenomenon. He keenly hypothesized that if this spot on the ear was effective in treating low back pain, maybe other parts of the ear could treat other parts of the body too. Through extensive experimentation, Dr. Nogier systematically mapped out energetic ear reflex projection zones for the entire body.
In a fascinating development, he observed that pattern could be compared to an upside-down human fetus!
The head projects electrical changes to 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 embraced and adopted this model of acupuncture that was previously unknown to them despite thousands of years of acupuncture practice. They acknowledged Dr. Paul Nogier as the “Father of Auricular Therapy.” Not satisfied with these initial extraordinary findings, he continued research for decades. Nogier understood that the human body functions through always-changing and highly dynamic systems.
Several years later, Dr. Nogier and his research team determined this remarkable "inverted fetus" presentation to be merely one of three possible energy projection patterns that reflected problems in the body! They 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.
Every part of the body has three distinct areas for which electrical changes could develop. These are called auricular energy phases. Which zone develops electrical changes depends upon nature of the problem. A sudden or acute condition causes changes in a pinpoint area of one particular zone. A chronic problem results in electrical activity in another zone, quite a distance away. Any physical changes, tissue damage, injury, or degeneration leads to electrically detectable ear acupuncture points in yet another distinct area. There isn't just one zone or point on the ear for each organ or tissue; there are 3 different areas to consider.
"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.”
The reticular formation of the brain stem collects information from the entire body, and sends it to the ear. This is why the outer ear (the auricle) reflects everything going on in the body, and what the brain is trying to do to deal with it. The ear is a “hologram decoder!”
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.
Sorry, Cynical Skeptics… it’s Science!
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.
Doctors and anybody in the lay public, who don't "believe in" Auricular Therapy must realize that it is not an unproven or mystical treatment approach. Physicians would be wise to actually read the vast array of published medical research on the subject of Auricular Therapy, and acupuncture in general. In the scheme of history, acupuncture has been safely and effectively used long before the first pharmaceutical drug was patented and sold.
The science of auricular therapy has been well documented, internationally researched, with over 800 papers published in peer-reviewed medical journals. It is not only taught in France, but all of Europe—especially Germany. It is practiced by several thousand European medical doctors.
In 1990, Hiroshi Nakajima, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) praised Dr. Paul Nogier, and encouraged medical doctors to use auricular therapy.
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 (one of my favorite treatments to perform!).
Around 1995, Nogier's authentic work was brought to America, brilliantly re-vitalized, refined, and furthered by anesthesiologist, acupuncturist and homeopathy expert, Nader Soliman, M.D. I am proud and privileged to have been personally trained by him. Gleaning from Dr. Soliman’s experience, I have been thrilled to be able to carry on the noble work of Dr. Paul Nogier for patients from coast-to-coast.
Despite its success, most North American doctors are unfamiliar with it. Auricular therapy has proven to bring pain relief and support healing, in many cases, after all other medical interventions have failed.
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.
Auricular therapy was successfully implemented into the United States Armed Forces thanks to recently retired Air Force Colonel Richard C. Niemtzow, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H. He is a radiation oncologist, who became the first full-time physician acupuncturist for the U.S. Armed Forces. Dr. Niemtzow teaches military physicians an auricular technique called “Battlefield Acupuncture.” He established an extremely popular clinic at Andrews Air Force Base, where he serves personnel from Andrews, the Pentagon, White House, National Naval Medical Center, and Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Dr. Niemtzow is currently (2015) Consultant for Alternative Medicine for the United States Air Force Surgeon General. He also represents the Department of Defense at the National Institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Advisory Council.
"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 micro-system 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.
Electrical Ear Acupuncture Point Detection
Traditional acupuncture involves placement of needles in anatomically-established points within energy channels (meridians) throughout the body. They are 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:
"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. While I utilize all of these forms in my practice, electrical stimulation and acupuncture needles are what my patients have found most effective. The choice of which materials to use is case dependent.
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 NET3000, 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.
Semi-Permanent Auricular Needles
When a traditional body acupuncture session is over, the needles are removed. With auricular acupuncture, we often use tiny needles that are inserted into the ear to stay for many weeks. The Spinex needles (pictured right) are barely felt going in, and are covered by tape and medical adhesive for protection. These semi-permanent needles create ongoing acupuncture stimulation, without the need for many repetitive sessions of treatment. I have found them to be outstanding for use with a variety of problems, including pain relief, as well as allergies, with a very high level of patient satisfaction.
I also use specialized gold plated or stainless steel ASP needles for Battlefield Acupuncture, a remarkable pain-relief method for which I was trained by its developer, Air Force Colonel, Richard Niemtzow, MD, PhD, MPH.
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 healthcare system to catch up... help is available right NOW!
- Dr. Donald Liebell
on Auricular Therapy
Donald K. Liebell, D.C., B.C.A.O.
477 Viking Drive Suite 170
Virginia Beach VA 23452
8:30AM - 6:30PM M,W,F
(and by Special Appointment)
The Liebell Clinic: Chronic Pain & Wellness Solutions
Natural & holistic, whole-person, wellness-based Healthcare - Drug-Free & Non-Surgical Pain Relief
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The Liebell Clinic: 477 Viking Drive Virginia Beach, VA 23452 (757) 631-9799 www.LiebellClinic.com