Ear acupuncture is a little different from full body acupuncture in that the ear is considered a microsystem of the body. Although some ear points were mentioned in Chinese texts as far back as 500 BC, auriculotherapy as we know it today was developed by Dr. Paul Nogier, a French physician, in 1957.
Dr. Nogier noticed a scar on the upper ear of some of his patients. He found that all of them had been treated for sciatica pain by a local lay practitioner. This woman had cauterized a specific area of the external ear in order to relieve their low back pain. Dr. Nogier conducted a similar procedure on his own sciatica patients and found that their back pain was also reduced.
He then tried other means of stimulating this "sciatica point," including the use of acupuncture needles, and found that they too were effective in alleviating sciatica pain. Dr. Nogier theorized that if an area of the upper external ear is effective in treating low back pain, maybe other parts of the ear could treat other parts of the body. Nogier theorized that the ear represents an inverted fetus and points in the ear correspond to parts of the body. Points for hands and feet can be found at the top of the ear, while the face is represented on the bottom of the ear. What’s interesting is that a similar map of the body, called the homunculus, exists in neurons on the cerebral cortex (outermost sheet of neural tissues in cerebrum and some vertebrae), in the thalamus and in the brain stem. This model was first presented to naturopathic practitioners in France in 1957, then spread to acupuncturists in Germany, and finally was translated into Chinese around 1958.
During 1958 a large study on the effectiveness of this acupuncture technique was conducted by the Nanking Army Ear Acupuncture Research Team using over 2,000 patients. Dr. Nogier's theory of an inverted fetus was accepted as clinically accurate, and during the cultural revolution so called 'barefoot doctors' were trained in the simple techniques of ear acupuncture In 1990, the World National Organization conducted an international meeting and standardized auricular anatomical names for the points that had been used in Chinese and French auricular acupuncture for many years. By 1995, the World Health Organization, in tandem with the Chinese Government, defined the location of 91 specific ear acupuncture points.
Nogier acknowledged that Chinese traditional medicine had been using ear points for acupuncture prior to his discovery, but these had been considered empirical points for particular treatments and were not associated with representation of the homunculus in the ear. This new discovery allowed for greater treatment possibilities.
In the US, Terry Oleson who has a PhD in pychobiology published a paper on his research findings. He had 40 patients examined to find areas of their body with musculoskeletal pain. The patients were draped and doctors examined the patients' ears for elevated skin conductivity or tenderness with no knowledge of their medical conditions. The correspondence between the medical diagnosis and the auricular diagnoses was 75.2%. In addition, MRIs show that there is a correspondence between points in the ear, sections of the brain, and areas of the body.
Ear acupuncture is a type of treatment that has not only been verified by science, but also leads to clinical success when used to the patients in my office. It works particularly well for pain, addiction and stress!
Chinese medicine dates back over three thousand years. The oldest book on Chinese medical theory, The Nei Jing, was written between 300 and 100 BC. It describes the theory and application of yin and yang and the five organ, element system. It teaches the causes of disease, explains how to diagnose illness, and tells how energy flows through the body. It still serves as the theoretical basis of acupuncture which today is one of the most widely used forms of medicine in the world.
Although acupuncture is ancient, it has only been practiced in this country for about 50 years. In 1972, a New York Times reporter, James Reston, accompanied Henry Kissinger to China. While there he had emergency appendectomy surgery and was so impressed by the post-surgery acupuncture he received, he wrote about his experience. This created interest in the modality in the US. In 1974, the first acupuncture school in this country, the New England School of the Acupuncture (NESA), was opened. I studied there, graduating and receiving my license in 1998.
Most folks don’t know this, but there are several different styles of acupuncture. These styles that evolved as Chinese medicine spread to different countries. Acupuncture arrived in Japan in 562 AD. Schools were established during the 8th century. Acupuncture was considered an appropriate vocation for the blind, and as a result, acupuncturists in Japan developed extremely sensitive kinesthetic skills. They learned to get information by feeling the pulse and palpating the abdomen. In Japan, acupuncturists apprenticed with masters and learned by observing their work.
At NESA, after the first year of training, students have to choose to study between a Chinese or Japanese acupuncture track. I chose Japanese and began studying the style of a well-known acupuncturist from Japan, Kiiko Matsumoto. Kiiko, to this day, studies with the masters in Japan and brings their teachings to the US, carrying on a several thousand year old tradition.
I continue to study with her and feel honored to be a part of this ancient way of healing.
I traveled to New Orleans a few weeks ago. I knew I had truly arrived when our Lyft driver said "How ya doing, Miss Bonnie?" I had made a lunch reservation and when we arrived I was greeted with "Welcome, Miss Bonnie." On a shuttle bus to Mardi Gras World the driver asked if this was my first time in New Orleans. When I said it was my second, he replied "Welcome Home."
New Orleans is a great place to travel to. The food, music, warm weather, welcoming people make it so special. Being there feels like getting a big hug.
But I want to tap into something deeper. The importance of social connection. Not just because it makes us feel good -- although this is important. But because it makes us healthier.
Here's what the experts have to say:
Here is "Miss Bonnie's" take on all this:
One of the reasons that I love Eastern Medicine is because of its emphasis on connection. In the 5 element/5 organ system that we use no one organ/element exists on its own. The energy of the liver feeds the heart, the heart energy feeds the spleen, the spleen energy feeds the lungs, the lung energy feeds the kidneys, the kidney energy feeds the liver. The cycle is completed and begins again.
As people we may feel isolated, but we never exist in true isolation.
With you in spirit…
February is almost here, and I’m thinking about Valentine’s Day! For me it’s a day not just about romantic love, but about all forms of love and how love is expressed.
I want to share with you an exercise that I've done over the past month. It's called "Where Does Love Live?" Each night I wrote a sentence or two about where love lives that day. It's been a great way to check in about what I'm doing, thinking and feeling.
Here are notes from my first few days writing about where love lives.
12/21 On a dark night, driving on the highway from Massachusetts to Cleveland, remembering my first road trip with Dan 14 years ago. (We met carpooling to Bethel, Maine for a ski trip & we’ve been together ever since.)
12/22 Sitting between my tall, beautiful nieces on the way to lunch at Stone Oven. Watching the way they connect with each other.
12/23 Staying at my mother-in-law’s condo. Being able to relax, read, study...no responsibility.
I'm realizing how often I jump from task to task without reflecting on what truly brings me joy. Don't get me wrong, I live a good life -- I love my work, my husband, my home. But it's easy to get into routines and wake up day after day thinking that there is a little something missing.
By reflecting on where my heart is at the end of each day, I feel a kind of awakening. I get the realization of what is working in my life, as well as where I want to be heading. You may too!
Roses and chocolate may be symbols of love, but why not look into you heart and see what it has to say. You may be surprised.
If you try this exercise, feel free to share your thoughts with me.
Sending loving and healing energy…
Bonnie Diamond, Licensed Acupuncturist
Tuesday & Wednesday & Thursday, 10am-8pm
179 Northampton Street, Suite C
Easthampton, MA 01027