As a practicing acupuncturist of 20 years, I am always looking for ways to better understand and treat my clients. One of those ways is the training I received in German auricular medicine, a relatively new therapy in North America.
In Germany, auricular medicine also known as ear acupuncture, is a thriving discipline with its own institute named the Academy for Acupuncture and Auriculomedicine. The institute is dedicated to the practice, study and science of this medicine. The academy was founded by Dr. Frank Bahr, a student and colleague of the founder of auricular medicine, Dr. Paul Nogier of France, who brought the centuries-old practice of ear acupuncture into modern use. Today, auricular acupuncture is widely used and accepted by over 14,000 physicians in Germany alone.
On this side of the Atlantic, there is a well-organized and comprehensive program of study in German auricular medicine offered by an institute in Nova Scotia, Canada. It is called the Vital Principle Institute, which provides the only program of its kind in the English language in the world. The institute has been training health practitioners since 2003. I took this training program and would like to share a few of the gifts it has brought to my practice.
Because the brain projects the map of the body onto the ear, when using auricular therapy, we are dealing directly with what the brain tells us. Often a client has multiple current symptoms piled on top of many historical afflictions. When working with the ear, the brain tells us which condition is a priority to treat. Frequently, unknowingly, a person expends a great deal of qi in an attempt to regain homeostasis from old ailments that never completely healed. Because of this, the person does not have enough healing energy to mend a new injury.
In my practice, a client who had been in a car accident the year before and had injured her wrist came to see me about multiple body aches. The wrist injury was to the soft tissue and had never ceased hurting despite various therapies. In the past six months, she had begun experiencing body aches especially in her hips, she was not sleeping through the night, and she described herself as being anxious most of her life.
In scanning her ear, her uterus came up strongly as the place to treat. She had given birth to two children vaginally and was post menopausal with the only symptom being vaginal dryness, so her uterus did not raise any red flags during the intake. After treating only the uterus point on her ear, the following week, her wrist pain and body aches had decreased by 50 percent.
Next, the ear prioritized her big toe as needing treatment. She had not mentioned her toe as a problem, but when asked, she said that for years, several times a week, her big toe would wake her at night with severe pain. After treatment of her big toe, and continued treatment of her uterus combined with functional points to treat the whole body, she has no more body aches, her wrist is healed, she sleeps through the night, and she reports being more adventurous in her life. These results took a total of four treatments.
Her proverbial "barrel of insults" had been full, so when her wrist was injured, some things from the barrel had to be removed before her energies could attend to the healing of her wrist and any other ensuing imbalances. In this case, the ear acupuncture approach was an efficient way to reset her healing capacities.
Every patient is different, and the only drawback I have encountered with auricular acupuncture is that the needles hurt. You want a point to have a strong bite to be fully effective, and most people get on board with this, but some cannot. The good news is that advanced training in German auricular medicine includes auricular laser therapy, which does not hurt.
As an acupuncturist, I will never trade in work with the amazing body channels for only work with the ear, however, the brain is a fascinating and forthright spokesperson for what needs to be done. An additional tool to discern this moment's treatment priority from a tangle of symptoms and emotions is an enormous help, whichever modality is being used for treatment.
Another most useful application of German auricular medicine is the interruption of the pain cycle. A pain response can get stuck in a loop, and via the ear, the brain tells us where to interrupt that loop, whether it be in the frontal cortex, the limbic system, the sensory or motor nerves, the depression point and so on.
As well as organ and musculoskeletal points, there are functional points in the ear that treat the whole body, and psychospiritual points. The meridians are even mapped on the ear. German auricular medicine is an elegant system.
Dee Brown practices acupuncture in Kensington, MD. She can be reached at