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What are they used for?
Pretty much everything, since there are points on the ear that correspond to virtually every part of the body. There are a few areas, though, where they seem to be most effective. «In my clinical practice, I use ear seeds with weight loss, addictions, and stress-related conditions,» says Dr.
Stephen Chee, who is dual-trained as an M.D. and as an acupuncturist. «I find ear seeds to be most helpful in patients who are motivated to change and looking for something that they can physically do.
I explain to patients it’s useful as a ‘pattern interrupt.'» So for example, if he has a patient who is dealing with stress eating, he’ll place the ear seed on the corresponding point and then encourage them to apply pressure for 15 to 60 seconds and take some deep breaths when they get the urge to overindulge.
Science is still lacking when it comes to proving that ear seeds have any effects on your weight. But one preliminary study in the Clinical Journal of Pain found that in combination with exercise, ear acupuncture can help ease chronic low-back pain.
Burris points out that «there are no side effects, there’s no discomfort, and in my 14 years of practice, most patients report that they absolutely receive a benefit from them.» In other words, ear seeds are completely safe to use, so there’s really no downside to trying them if you think they might be able to help you.
Plus, the placebo effect is pretty powerful. If you believe ear seeds will make a difference, particularly with anything emotional or pain-related, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see at least some benefit from them.
Auricular Acupuncture Weight Loss Found Effective
Auricular acupuncture successfully treats obesity. A new study concludes that a special 5 point combination of auricular acupuncture points is effective for weight loss in overweight individuals.A one point auricular treatment was also found effective but not to the degree of clinical success as the 5 acupuncture point combination.
A randomised controlled clinical trial of a total of 91 patients with a BMI (body mass index) of 23 or greater were divided into 3 groups. Group 1 received the 5 acupuncture point combination. Group 2 received only one acupuncture point and group 3 received sham acupuncture. At both 4 and 8 weeks following the treatment regime, measurements were taken to determine clinical effectiveness. It was discovered that the 5 acupuncture point combination was the most effective yielding over a 6% reduction in the body mass index. The one point acupuncture treatment regime yielded just under a 6% improvement in BMI. Both groups 1 and 2 showed significant improvements in BMI and weight loss.
Group 1 received 5 auricular acupuncture points: shenmen, spleen, stomach, hunger, endocrine. Group 2 received only one auricular acupuncture point: hunger. Group 3, the sham group, was needled at the 5 auricular acupuncture points but the needles were then immediately removed. The unilateral application of the acupuncture needles was applied once per week. Both groups 1 and group 2 retained a total needle time of 8 weeks using the ear tacks, tiny acupuncture needles attached by tape. Group 3 only received local auricular stimulation of the acupuncture points to simulate the experience but the points were not retained.
A special type of tape retained the needles over the 8 week period for groups 1 and 2. The same tape hid the absence of needles in the sham group. The needle depth was 2 millimeters in the auricular acupuncture points. The 5 point acupuncture treatment caused the most significant reduction in waist circumference and BMI. Body fat percentage dropped significantly in the 5 point acupuncture treatment but not in the other groups.
The 5 auricular acupuncture point combination is commonly employed for digestion issues. Gastric and duodenal ulcers are commonly treated with a similar combination of auricular stomach or duodenum, brain, mouth, spleen and shenmen. The 5 acupuncture point weight loss combination used in the study includes auricular shenmen, located in the triangular fossa at the bifurcating point between the superior and inferior antihelix crus at the lateral 1/3 of the triangular fossa.
The spleen point has two major auricular locations; one is located on the middle of the back side of the ear. The other location is at the lateral and superior aspect of the cavum concha. The cavum concha point is more commonly applied in clinical settings. The spleen auricular point is traditionally used for strengthening the spleen and harmonizing the stomach. It helps to produce ying-blood and benefits the muscles. Common indications treated with the spleen auricular point are uterine bleeding, abdominal distention, diarrhea and other digestive dysfunctions. The stomach auricular acupuncture point is located at the end of the cruz of the helix in the cavum concha. It is the area formed by the end of the crus of the helix and the border of the lower antehelix cruz.
The endocrine point used in the 5 acupuncture point combination is located in the cavum concha in the intertragic notch. The endocrine point is classically applied within TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) for removing liver qi stagnation, regulating the menses, invigorating the blood, expelling wind and benefitting the lower jiao. Indications for use of this auricular point include skin disorders, impotence, irregular menstruation and endocrine system dysfunction.
The hunger auricular acupuncture point is located on the lower part of the tragus in the direction of the transitional fold near the facial skin. The hunger point can be used to up-regulate or down-regulate sensations of hunger. It is used for issues of anorexia, bulimia and digestive disturbances.
S. Yeo, K. S. Kim, S. Lim. Randomised clinical trial of five ear acupuncture points for the treatment of overweight people. Acupuncture in Medicine, 2013; DOI: 10.1136/acupmed-2013-010435.
After the birth of her second son, Allison, 25, found herself in the same situation as many other new moms with a few pounds left to lose and no idea how to do it. While she tried cleaning up her diet and she was a regular at the gym, the weight wasn’t budging, so this mom turned to something a little less conventional: acupuncture. «I went into the chiropractor for my first time to get adjusted and have acupuncture done for my back problems,» she says. «I was asking about all the things acupuncture can help with and she mentioned weight loss. My eyes lit up and I said ‘sign me up, when can I start?'»
«At first it was easy,» Allison says. «I just had to lay there while I got pricked all over my body (which actually felt kind of good) and then lay still for another 30 minutes after the last needle was inserted. It was a dark room with relaxing music. It was a nice break!» But things took a strange turn when the acupuncturist «hooked the needles on my stomach up to a battery that pulsed electricity into them. Now that was a weird feeling. My abs were sore the next day!»
In addition to the weekly hour-long acupuncture sessions, the acupuncturist taped a small magnet to her ear that she was supposed to squeeze every time she felt hungry-a practice said to use the magnet’s south polarity «to restore areas of weakness or deficiency in your system that can cause food cravings.» Allison laughs, «Yeah, I got some weird looks with that.»
But what about results? Did she get her pre-baby abs back? After 12 weeks of weekly appointments, she reports, «I feel that overall, it worked. It wasn’t quick by any means. I lost about 1-2 lbs a week. The magnet worked as well. It actually took my appetite away the majority of the time, but I learned it doesn’t help when you eat out of boredom.» She adds, «I would do it again. The only reason I stopped was because it became a conflict with my schedule.»
However, for people looking for a quick fix, Allison cautions, «This isn’t magic. You still need to eat right and exercise regularly. It just helps give you an extra boost along the way.» (Check out my blog to see pictures and read more about Allison’s experiment with acupuncture.)
Ear acupuncture for weight loss
The ear is another area that acupuncture practitioners target for weight loss. It’s believed that food cravings can be controlled by manipulating points on the ear.