Ear Acupuncture for Wellness

Auricular (ear) acupuncture can make acupuncture more affordable as a standalone treatment, or can be incorporated into regular acupuncture treatments. These auricular treatments may not be appropriate for all patients, so if you have interest, please let me know. The following issues can be addressed using auricular acupuncture:

- Pain Relief
- Stress, Anxiety and PTSD
- Smoking Cessation
- Weight Loss
- Curbing Sugar Cravings
- Substance Abuse

Pain Relief

Both acute and chronic pain may be addressed using auricular acupuncture. The musculoskeletal system of the entire body is represented on each ear. Auricular acupuncture may relieve pain by the use of both acupuncture and acupressure. This type of acupuncture for pain relief is so effective that in 2011, a military doctor devised an auricular acupuncture technique designed specifically for treating soldiers on the battlefield, now known as “Battlefield Acupuncture” (Spotswood, 2014).

Typically, points on one or both ears are utilized, followed by the use of “ear seeds” or “ear pellets” which adhere to the ear. They are applied to the same points as the needles, allowing the patient to apply pressure (acupressure) to these points as needed. Patients can keep the seeds/pellets on for 3 to 5 days, providing added relief, and a way for the patient to feel a sense of control over the pain. The patient may also be advised of how to use acupressure points on other areas of the body appropriate for that patient’s health concerns.

Stress, Anxiety and PTSD Relief

There are many treatment strategies that can be utilized to treat stress, anxiety and PTSD. The National Acupuncture Detox Association (NADA) protocol is one of them. This protocol is a quick and easy way to reduce the symptoms associated with these issues and can be used alongside other strategies, or as a standalone treatment, especially for those patients who need a less expensive treatment program. Ear seeds/pellets are used after acupuncture treatment, providing the patient with acupressure to retain the relief for longer periods of time.

The NADA is a nonprofit that promotes the “NADA protocol”, a standard auricular practice designed for behavioral health and trauma recovery. The NADA protocol uses five needles in each ear, followed by the use of ear seeds or pellets. This treatment accesses the sympathetic nervous system, reducing symptoms quickly, working to balance out the emotions, and promoting the release of endorphins to help patients feel calmer and more relaxed. Because of its effectiveness at addressing the symptoms of anxiety and PTSD, a not-for-profit group called Acupuncturists Without Borders travels internationally to disaster areas to treat survivors for anxiety and PTSD using this protocol (AWB, 2015).

Smoking Cessation

Acupuncture is used with good success to help people stop smoking, and is useful in treating the full range of addictions and addictive behavior. According to a study done in 2004, auricular acupuncture had a one-year success rate of 41.1%, making it a competitive alternative to conventional withdrawal methods, and is without side effects.

It works to reduce cravings by balancing the body’s brain chemistry and is useful to assist in healing the damage caused by smoking. Auricular acupuncture may be used alongside other conventional treatments, or as a standalone treatment for smoking cessation. The acupuncturist works with each patient to decide what might be most appropriate and effective for that patient.

The most common auricular treatment protocol for smoking cessation is the use of 5 points on each ear, along with one body acupuncture point located near the wrist. If appropriate for the patient, very mild low intensity electric stimulation may be used on acupuncture points as well. Ear seeds/pellets may be applied, as appropriate, using acupressure to extend the effects of each treatment.

Weight Loss

Several studies have shown that when acupuncture is combined with traditional methods of weight loss, patients lose more weight. A 2014 study done on auricular acupuncture for the treatment of obesity concluded that auricular acupuncture was a safe and effective treatment for weight loss, and had no adverse side effects (Schukro, 2014).

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the belief is that excessive weight gains are caused by an imbalance in the body. The endocrine system and kidneys are addressed to treat water retention and to stimulate nerve and hormonal rebalance. The spleen and thyroid gland are also targeted to effect sugar and hormonal rebalancing. Finally, the adrenal and ovary glands can be included to treat weight gain due to menopause or Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS).

Acupuncture treatment for weight loss can be accomplished using points on the body; using points on the body along with auricular acupuncture points; or may be accomplished using only auricular acupuncture points. Ideally, the practitioner will decide the most effective mode of treatment for each patient; however, auricular points alone may be used when finances are an issue.

Acupuncture alone will not be successful in addressing weight loss. These treatments should be combined with a reduced calorie diet, the elimination of refined sugar in the diet, and appropriate physical exercise. 

Curbing Sugar Cravings

Sugar cravings can be a health issue, even for those not struggling with weight loss issues. The auricular protocols for weight loss may be modified to address only sugar cravings, or this can be addressed during regular acupuncture treatments done on the body. If a patient is undergoing treatment for weight loss, sugar cravings will typically be reduced during these treatments. If the treatment for reducing sugar cravings is done without the need for weight loss, patient education on healthy nutrition, including the replacement of refined sugar with healthy options, such as fruit, raw sugar, and maple syrup, should be included.

Substance Abuse

Acupuncture for substance abuse may be used for those battling alcoholism, drug addiction, and addiction to prescription pain killers. Acupuncture combined with substance abuse counseling and group therapy programs is effective for treating drug and alcohol users. It produces a calm, yet alert feeling, reduces withdrawal symptoms, and decreases cravings. More than 2,000 drug and alcohol treatment programs in the U.S. and 40 other countries use auricular acupuncture as part of their treatment for addiction (Smith, 2012).

Thin needles are inserted on the ear while the patient relaxes for 20 to 30 minutes. The National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends needle placement on points that correspond with the traditional points of the kidneys, lungs, liver, and sympathetic nervous system. This is the same NADA protocol as is effectively used for treating anxiety and PTSD. It helps relieve withdrawal symptoms and produces a calming, relaxing effect on patients, which helps fight drug and alcohol cravings.


Ausfeld-Hafter, B., Smoking cessation with ear acupuncture. Descriptive study on patients after a smoking cessation treatment with ear acupuncture, Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd. 2004 Feb;11(1):8-13.

AWB, Acupuncturists Without Borders, 2015; http://www.acuwithoutborders.org/

Schukro, R.P., et al., The effects of auricular electroacupuncture on obesity in female patients--a prospective randomized placebo-controlled pilot study, Complement Ther Med. 2014 Feb;22(1):21-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2013.10.002. Epub 2013 Oct 31. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24559812

Ear Acupuncture for Wellness - Prairie Spring Acupuncture Clinic in Palatine, IL

Prairie Spring Acupuncture Clinic
Kathi L. Wotal, L.Ac.,
MSOM, Dipl. OM
600 N. North Court, Suite 230
Palatine, Illinois 60067
Phone: (847) 221-8644

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Ear Acupuncture for Wellness - Prairie Spring Acupuncture Clinic in Palatine, IL