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One or Both Sides?


When you have auricular acupuncture do you have needles in both ears or just one?



Hello Bella,

As with regular body acupuncture, whether or not you needle bilaterally depends on the condition you are trying to treat and the overall set of signs and symptoms that the patient has. Additionally, theoretical differences come into play - so what you will do depends greatly on the set of theories that you are using within each case.

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I was thinking of a case for giving up smoking



There are a few different protocols to use for smoking cessation and which one you use depends on your training and the patients set of signs and symptoms. This also holds true for choosing to needle on one side or bilaterally.

That said, many practitioners will use the NADA Protocol which almost always uses the same points and is nearly always needled bilaterally. The NADA protocol is unique, however, in that it is one of the few protocols in Chinese Medicine that is so fixed. As I stated before, there are no hard and fast rules in what points to use or in whether to needle bilaterally or not. This is the power of Chinese Medicine, to adapt each treatment to each individual. Fixed protocols generally deny this principle and lead to inferior results. With smoking for example there may be underlying issues with depression, a more general addiction, dietary issues, weight issues, etc. and each person has a combination that needs to be treated appropriately to stop the smoking urges.

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Is 'body' acupuncture more effective than auricular acupuncture? If so, why is ear acupuncture used in cases where the points on the body that can be easily reached as well. When I studied acupuncture from my (martial arts) instructor, he said ear and hand acupuncture was developed because some of the high society people/officials wouldn't want to expose their bodies. But how effective is it compared to using the body points?

Also, can I combine points on the ear and the body? For example in the case of the NADA points for stop smoking, can I needle L2 and Shen Men on the body and wrist and the other points on the ear?

Thank you,


Auricular acupuncture can be used as a sole mode of treatment with some success and there are practitioners who use it in this way. Most commonly, however, fully trained acupuncturists will use both body and auricular points during a treatment and/or leave in press balls (sesame or metal balls taped onto auricular points) for the patient to stimulate the points between treatments.

So, yes, you can use both body and auricular points within a treatment - mixing protocols, however, is another matter. The NADA protocol in particular is one of the few (if only) "fixed" protocols and probably should not be adjusted.

I'm not entirely sure of whether hand/ear points were used extensively due to social customs. Pulse diagnosis and treatment at points that didn't having to remove clothing (wrists/ankles) was very common due to these stigmas and customs.

With regards to efficacy, this is all within ones training. There are practitioners very skilled in auricular and hand acupuncture - as well as other microsystems - who get good results. Most practitioners, however, use an appropriate mix of methods to achieve the most consistent results.


I think I learned a lot from one mentor who kept coming up with new ways to treat. I&#39d ask him why and he simply wanted to know if treating that way would work as well. He had a busy enough practice to check it out and plenty of patients with great results.

I guess over time I&#39ve emulated much of his inventiveness. Like for allergies I started off with what I felt was good for the patient in both ears. Then I used the allergy point in both ears with a different underlying treatment in both ears. Then I used only one ear at times. And I would place viticaria seeds in the opposite ear on the way out.

Personally, I like to mix body and ear points but complete what I consider a full treatment on the ear or ears. It is my patients who define back to me what works and they will actually say, "hey -- I need that ear treatment, don&#39t forget it! My allergies are better by using the ear treatment", for example. Amazing!

I think that is what I like about this field ... it is what gets results that stands out -- not the names of the points or the names of the herbs or the exact tecniques. Finding right combinations that work on people is like solving a puzzle.

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