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November 24, 2009

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Home » Feature » Health and Environment

Getting an earful of earmarks

WANT to lose weight, move your bowels or ease menstrual cramps? Rub your ears. The ear is an acupuncture microcosm of the body. Zhang Qian lends an ear.

The ear contains more than 200 acupuncture points and rubbing or piercing certain areas can improve health, according to traditional Chinese medicine.

TCM considers the ear (erduo) to be a microcosm of the human body and has identified very specific points that correspond to and influence body parts and functions.

There are spots that when stimulated influence sneezing, heart and lungs, memory, insomnia, armpits, complexion, liver, libido, tonsils, sciatic nerve, colon (constipation), hunger-appetite and so on.

We've all seen people with acupuncture staples in their ears as part of a stop-smoking effort. The staples are supposed to stimulate areas that suppress cravings for nicotine (or food).

Since it's practically impossible for laymen to precisely target the tiny points, generalized rubbing can help.

Ear acupuncture is also used to aid weight loss by suppressing appetite. It can also be used to prevent or ease menstrual cramps (there's a point for genitalia).

It seems fanciful to Westerners, but TCM holds that the structure of the ear resembles an upside-down fetus in the uterus and certain points on the ear correspond to points on the fetus, which represents the human body.

The ear is used as a health barometer and diagnostic tool.

"Kidneys (urinary and reproductive systems) open at the ear and the ear is where all meridians come together," according to "Huangdi Neijing," or "Medical Classic of the Yellow Emperor," the 2,000-year-old foundational text of TCM.

TCM uses ear acupuncture, acupressure, moxibustion, and er tie (sticking tiny beads on acupuncture points).

Acupressure is the easiest DIY therapy. Press the points with thumb or forefinger tips. It's best to press increasingly hard until the area of the ear feels sore, numb or burning. Simply pulling and rubbing the entire ear can stimulate blood circulation and aid general well being.

Moxibustion (this is more difficult at home) is more suitable for the elderly and the weak who are deficient in energy. They may simultaneously feel dizzy, fatigued and short of breath.

Moxibustion involves burning a moxa herb stick above the skin, sometimes along with acupuncture. As moxibustion usually covers a relatively large area, it's not necessary to find the precise acupuncture point.

Light a moxa stick and hold it two to three centimeters above the skin, pointing at the general ear location (this is true for other parts of the body as well).

Move the stick slightly, changing the distance repeatedly. Do this once a day for 10-15 minutes each time, until the skin gets red but not burning and painful.

Do it as long as necessary.

As for acupuncture and er tie (seed therapy), leave it to a TCM professional as needles (sterile) and seeds need to be applied accurately.

Tiny plant seeds or beads are widely used for er tie therapy. A doctor affixes the seeds to the ear with an adhesive. Then all the patient need do is press and rub for two or three minutes until the area feels tender and warm. It is usually applied to one ear at a time, for one week an ear.

Here are some therapy tips from Walter Hartenbach in his book "Was Ohren Verraten" ("The Secrets Revealed by the Ear: Personality, Talent and Health") published in August.


Rubbing the ear can help relieve constipation. Patients should also eat fiber-rich foods, such as bananas, eat regular meals and exercise regularly.

Dachang xue (large intestine point), zhichang xue (rectum point) and jiaogan xue (sympathetic nervous system) are the spots that can stimulate bowels. Acupuncture, acupressure, moxibustion or er tie can be used.

The points are located in the relatively upper part of the ear, the "belly" of the up-side-down fetus.

Dachang xue is located at the cymba auricula; zhichang xue is located at the helix near the large intestine point; jiaogan xue is located at the border of fossa triangularis and cymba suricula.

Moxibustion is more suitable for the elderly and the weak with constipation due to deficient energy. As the three points are all located near or at the fossa triangularis, applying moxibustion on this area is enough to help stimulate all the three points.

Weight loss

The strategy is to control and suppress appetite while accelerating digestion and metabolism.

The points involved are wei dian (stomach point), ji dian (hunger point), shen men (spirit gate) and neifenmi dian (internal secretion point).

Stimulating the stomach can help strengthen the spleen function, promoting efficient digestion, removing fat and reducing waste and water stagnation in the body.

It located at the border of the cavum conchae (the sunken area near the ear passage) and the cymba auricular (the sunken area above cavum conchae).

The hunger point is at the tragus (the semicircular extension covering the ear passage). Stimulation can reduce the feeling of hunger and limit the appetite.

People usually want to eat when the digestive system sends the message "I'm hungry." Pressing hard on the "hunger point" can help delay the message and convey the "full feeling," thus diminishing the desire to eat.

Massaging the shen men and internal secretion point can also help.

Shen men is located at the fossa triangularis (the triangular sunken area above the cymba auricular, near the basal part). Pressing shen men can help sooth nerves and relieve irritation. It can slow an over-active digestive system, especially when over eating is caused by psychological pressure.

Pressing the internal secretion point, located in the lower part of the cavum conchae can help limit secretion of a hormone signaling hunger.

In addition, rubbing the entire ear frequently can promote blood circulation and improve metabolism, which helps in weight loss.

Acupuncture, moxibustion, acupressure and er tie all work.

Menstrual pain

Most acupuncture points related to the reproductive and urinary systems (known in TCM as the kidneys) are located at the fossa triangularis. Stimulating the points for internal reproductive organs and the shen men (spirit gate) can help relieve and prevent painful menstruation.

Stimulating the internal genitalia points can help regulate menstruation and energy, relieving blood stagnation and related point.

Stimulating shen men (spirit gate), which helps sooth nerves, can help relieve pain.

Acupressure, moxibustion and applying seeds all work.


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