Auriculotherapy is a health care procedure in which stimulation of the auricle of the external ear is utilized to alleviate health conditions in other parts of the body. While originally based upon the ancient Chinese practices of acupuncture, the somatotopic correspondence of specific parts of the body to specific parts of the ear was first developed in France. It is this integrated system of Chinese and Western practices of auricular acupuncture which is presented.

   It is also known as ear acupuncture or auricular acupuncture when the stimulation is achieved by the insertion of acupuncture needles, whereas the term auriculotherapy often refers to electrical stimulation of the surface of ear reflex points. Specific points on the ear can also be stimulated by manual pressure, referred to as auricular acupressure or ear reflexology. Acupuncture points on the ear can also be stimulated with lasers, magnets, and ear pellets. Auriculotherapy is typically considered one form of acupuncture, but there are both differences and similarities between the two procedures. Acupuncture is a form of medical treatment involving the stimulation of acupuncture points located on energy channels extending over the surface of the body, which are known as meridians. Insertion of acupuncture needles into specific acupoints can relieve the symptoms and underlying pathology of a particular health problem. Different perspectives of auriculotherapy focus not on the acupuncture meridians but on the use of the ear as a localized reflex system connected to the central nervous system. The Traditional Oriental Medicine practiced in ancient China included just a scattered array of acupoints on the auricle for just a few health problems, whereas the current practice of auricular acupuncture shows a more complete organization of ear reflex points that can be used to relieve many health problems.

  The basic concept in auriculotherapy is that nerves in the skin overlying specific areas of the external ear correspond to specific parts of the brain which has reflex connections to the body. Organo-Cutaneous Reflexes are activated when organic pathology in a specific part of the body induce reflex reactions in the external ear, manifested as localized changes in tenderness, altered blood circulation, and electrodermal reactivity. Cutaneo-Organic Reflexes are activated when specific points on the auricle are stimulated in order to relieve organic pathology in another part of the body. According to microsystem theory, it is not that there are direct connections between the ear and the back or the ear and the foot. Rather, nerves from the ear connect to reflex centers in the brain which send neurological reflex pathways to the spinal cord and then to neurons going to the spine or to the foot.

  While ear acupuncture has been used in continental Europe for the past 40 years, it is only recently been considered by most medical doctors in the United States. Most MD's do not have sufficient information about auriculotherapy to make an informed comment on its effectiveness. In November of 1997, a consensus panel of the U.S National Institutes of Health gave conditional approval of the practice of acupuncture. They included an evaluation of those studies which supported the use of ear acupuncture for pain relief and addiction treatment. As more research accumulates on the efficacy of auriculotherapy, it is expected that even more physicians will acknowledge the benefits of auriculotherapy.

   Because every part of the external ear connects through the microsystem remote reflexes to every part of the body, a wide variety of health problems are relieved by auriculotherapy. Almost all health conditions can be affected to some degree by stimulating reactive ear points. The most commonly reported uses of auriculotherapy have been for the control of chronic pain, detoxification from addictive drugs, relief of nausea, and reduction of hypertension.