Some of the earliest medical acupuncture texts have survived since 200 B.C. and are still being used to teach students today. When you consider the fact that acupuncture has been used to treat patients for nearly 3,000 years, microsystems acupuncture is a relatively new practice.

Ear acupuncture, or auricular therapy, is a type of acupuncture that approaches the ear as a microsystem of the body. Similar to reflexology, it treats this one body part in an attempt to treat symptoms elsewhere.

It was popularized in the 1950s by a French doctor, Dr. Paul Nogier, and was created as a bridge between Eastern and Western acupuncture. These days, most acupuncturists will use it in tandem with full-body acupuncture.

Practitioners insert very fine needles into set points in the ear, often prompting quick — sometimes immediate — results. Ear acupuncture can be used to treat chronic pain, isolated injury, stress, addiction, and more.

Let's dive into this new variation on an ancient healing practice:

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How does it work?

Microsystem theory operates off the idea that a part of the body (ear, foot, hand, face, etc.) is a tiny version of the entire body, so you can use that area to treat any other area. This differs from full-body acupuncture, which stimulates meridians, or energy channels, across the whole body.

On a basic level, inserting needles into the skin stimulates natural painkillers like serotonin and dopamine, so any type of acupuncture can provide quick relief right away. But since the ear has so many nerve endings, it acts as a sort of switchboard to the brain. Ear acupuncture can stimulate the central nervous system and ignite parts of the brain responsible for different processes. There are muscular-skeletal, organ, and neurological points in the ear, and needling them removes blockages in any of those systems.

It's designed to bring all parts of the body back into balance — and that includes the emotions.

Who's into it?

Penélope Cruz, Madonna, Bar Rafaeli, Demi Moore, and David Grohl of the Foo Fighters are just a few of the celebrities who have been snapped during ear acupuncture sessions.

And it's not just celebrities turning to the practice — it's now being used in hospitals, complementary health clinics, and even rehab facilities. Certain sects of the American and British military administer it to soldiers for pain management and relief from PTSD.

Curious to try a session out for yourself? Ear acupuncture is generally cheap ($30 a session or so), and it's easy to bolt it onto a standard acupuncture session. Search your local area for acupuncturists, and find your Zen soon!

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