Archive for tag: ear seeds

Should a Veteran be Homeless?

I think not. Yet, there are around 50,000 homeless veterans in the U.S. on any given night -- despite a 33% drop since 2010! "The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) states that the nation's homeless veterans are predominantly male, with roughly 8% being female. The majority are single; live in urban areas; and suffer from mental illness, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders."

This is where acupuncture comes in, friends. The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) protocol, specifically, is helping veterans with PTSD manage stress, addictions, difficulty sleeping, and other behavioral and mental health conditions. NADA uses a standard set of ear points -- Sympathetic, Shen Men, Kidney, Liver, and Lung -- stimulated either with needles or with ear seeds.

Since it was established in the Bronx in 1974, the NADA protocol has brought relief not only to veterans, but also others in need of assistance with addictions, from food to illegal drugs. How does it work? The acupuncturist -- or one of over 10,000 health care professionals trained specifically in NADA protocol -- inserts the five sterile, stainless steel, one-time use needles into the ear and lets them remain for up to 45 minutes. Then, we take them out. It's simple. It's fast. It's cheap. It's effective.

2015-07-10_nadaWhat are patients saying about the NADA protocol? "...improved program retention, a more optimistic and cooperative attitude toward the process of recovery, as well as reductions in cravings, anxiety, sleep disturbance and need for pharmaceuticals." 

On Friday, June 26, NUHS Chief AOM Clinician Dr. Hyundo Kim and a group of acupuncture and oriental medicine interns headed downtown to the Chicago National Guard Armory to offer free PTSD ear seed treatments to homeless veterans. That's right -- NADA can get even easier! When needles aren't appropriate or convenient, we can still stimulate the ear points of the NADA protocol with stick-on ear seeds. The added bonus is that the patient can essentially take the treatment "to go," and can squeeze the seeds, reactivating the points, for the next few days.


At that Chicago Stand-Down event, held in June, homeless veterans are brought together in a single location to access community resources and supplies needed to begin addressing their individual problems and rebuilding their lives. Our group of volunteers provided ear seed treatments while other groups provided everything from a hot meal to a bag of clothing to an eye exam. I saw booths for flu shots, HIV tests, dental services, and Reiki. That day -- that one day -- those homeless veterans had a full-service experience.


Representatives were on-site to match them with shelters, jobs, and the benefits they earned for their service to the United States of America. They were welcomed, they were appreciated, and they were valued.

Ear-icular Egg-corns

This weekend I saw an article about the word "eggcorn" being added to the dictionary. Perfect, I thought. Someone has finally justified my mispronunciation of the word "acorn." After all these years, I've been vindicated.


No. That's not what happened. Apparently, a word has been created, tested, and formalized for these types of circumstances. When enough people say a word incorrectly enough times, it can become a legitimized word. You can't just be totally crazy and wrong, though, mind you. You have to misuse a word and have it be somewhat close to making sense. Then you can be legitimized.

2015-06-05_dic"For all intensive purposes," "a mute point," "an averse reaction," "old timer's disease," and "soup chef." All wrong. Look again -- it should read "for all intents and purposes," "a moot point," "an adverse reaction," Alzheimer's disease," and "sous chef." Notice how the words commonly used are technically wrong, but still actually kind of correct? Now there's a word for that, and that word is, appropriately, an "eggcorn."

What do eggcorns have to do with TCM? Well, thanks for asking. Some of my favorite intentional misspeaks just happen to be related to auricular acupuncture, or, as I call it, "earcupuncture." Closely related is the way that I call the ear apex the "earpex." Sometimes, I just can't help myself. It's like the words are out there just calling me to stick them together. Maybe I'm not even misspeaking; I'm just making new contractions. You're welcome.

Today, on this new day, just one week after Merriam-Webster added "eggcorn" to the dictionary, I feel confident in using my slightly off the beaten Daoist path terminology. I'm using earcupuncture, or earicular acupuncture, I'm bleeding the earpex point to lower blood pressure, and I'm not apologizing. Words that are wrong but self-explanatory enough to be right are OK in my book.


Also, ear acupuncture is important. It's powerful, it's fast, it's easy, and it's cheap to perform. People need to become more familiar with this modality of Traditional Chinese Medicine, but the sterile statement, "I'm going to insert needles into your ear now," doesn't always go over well with patients. Can an eggcorn or two lighten the mood? Can a spoonful of humor make the needle slide in more smoothly?


Why does auricular acupuncture work so well that I'm willing to mispronounce it to help new patients accept it? The theory of auricular acupuncture is that the ear is a microsystem, where every body part is represented and connected to a particular point on the ear. Red spot on the antihelix? Maybe it's revealing your knee pain. Really sore when I squeeze your lobe? Could be your tooth infection screaming for help.


Say it how you like. Whether it's ear acupuncture, ear-icular acupuncture, or earcupuncture, just try it out. I won't judge you on your pronunciation. Will it hurt? Maybe. Here's a secret tip. Sometimes we don't even use needles on the ear points. We have these things called "ear seeds," and they definitely don't hurt. If you could handle the feel of a Band-Aid with a piece of dirt stuck to it, then you'd be fine with ear seeds. Just squeeze and enjoy the pain relieving benefits. It's easier than sticking an acorn to your earlobe.

One of Those Kinds of Posts

Ok, I'll do one--one of those kinds of posts. I usually think it's more interesting and relevant to share information about some topic of concern or awe to those of us in alternative medicine, but this time I'm just going to do what the original intention of this AOM blog probably was. I'm going to share what it's like to be an acupuncture student fighting her way towards the end of the trimester.


Now, I'm not fighting because I'm bored, confused, or frustrated with my classes. On the contrary, I enjoy the nights I get to drive in a car by myself and sit quietly for 4-5 hours learning about something I love. It's the most relaxing part of the day. Hey, I have active young children, a messy husband, and a sometimes too-demanding teaching schedule to juggle all day. Give me a graduate night class any day of the week!

No, I'm not fighting in a bad way. I'm excited to reach the end of this trimester because the day after it ends, I'm getting on the airplane for Nicaragua. Two weeks in Central America is just what the doctor ordered for this stressed out, over-committed student. I'd love to say I'm a good flier, but that wouldn't be true. With that missing Malaysian plane, I'm going to be grinding ear seeds into my PC6 points until they're bleeding. Awesomely inopportune time for that mysterious tragedy. Not to be insensitive, but I barely make it through my flights as it is. Rescue remedy? Yep, I'll be using that heavily.

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The past several months have been leading up to this medical mission trip, and soon I know it will be here, then already--sadly--behind me. Since last year's trip, I haven't been able to get that clinic off my mind--not that I want to! NDI's integrative healthcare clinic serves so many appreciative and needy people, and it's the only medical setting I've ever experienced where providers of several medical fields all circle around and get to take a crack at each patient who walks in the door. I know that when I start my first shift, a middle-aged Nicaraguan farmer will come into the clinic with the chief complaint of back pain. If I used a machete all day, I'd develop back pain, too. Instead of that patient being confined to the limits of one provider's medicine, this patient will reap the benefits of the naturopath, the chiropractor, the acupuncturist, the psychologist, and the massage therapist on staff at the same time. He might get an adjustment, soft tissue work, some needles, and even a tincture for the road. I can't get that sweet deal anywhere in the United States, that's for sure. Did I mention it's free?

This is the future of medicine, people.This is it. Integrative medicine is the way. True, I have to get on an airplane to immerse myself in it at this point, but I promise you one thing--I'll bring it back.

A Needle in the Ear or a Cigarette in the Hand

Can acupuncture help you stop smoking? Maybe. Like most smoking cessation plans, the most important part will be whether or not you firmly desire to quit using tobacco. If you have the will, then acupuncture might just have the way.

2014-03-05_cigActually, smoking cessation is one of the more long-standing mainstream applications of acupuncture in the United States. My husband recently asked me for ideas about the effectiveness for his co-worker who has been trying to quit, and my mind has been making the connections ever since. How does it work? Will it work? Which points should be used? How often will he need treatment? Can he do some of the work at home between acupuncture sessions?

Naturally, being just a student, I didn't know the answers to these questions without looking into them myself. Now that I feel like I have a handle on some of these factors, I'll go ahead and give you lowdown. Of course, I'm not telling anyone to try this at home, but this is what your acupuncturist might do if you walk into the clinic and ask for help in your journey to drop the cigarettes for good.

First, let's talk about the mechanisms. Why does a needle going through your skin make you want to stop smoking? Actually, there are multiple methods to this madness. On one hand (literally, on the side of your hand, via an acupoint called Tim Mee) a needle can actually make your cigarette taste bad. Personally, I think they already taste bad, but apparently people who smoke tend to like the taste. Moving on, if changing the taste of a cigarette from lightly ashy to repulsively garbagy isn't strong enough magic for you, there are other things that might still work for your stubborn self.

2014-03-05_ear 200Next, auricular acupuncture can help control your cravings, addiction, and withdrawal symptoms while trying to quit. Think ear piercing with a purpose! While ear acupuncture can sound even scarier than regular body acupuncture to the faint-at-heart-newbies, rest assured that the needles are hair-thin and barely felt. I should tell you that electro-stimulation of these auricular points is also commonplace. Some commonly used ear points for smoking cessation include the following: Shen Men, Sympathetic Autonomic, Point Zero, Endocrine, etc. Your acupuncturist will add additional points depending on your individualized condition. Nope, auricular acupuncture for smoking cessation is NOT necessarily a one-size-fits-all treatment.

Now, what can the patient do at home to keep these positive no-smoking juices flowing between acupuncture sessions? Luckily, we have a plan for that, too. If you've never heard of ear seeds, you will if you seek help to quit smoking from an acupuncturist! Small seeds or magnets (fancy name--auricular pellets) with clear tape backing are stuck on the above mentioned ear points, and then the patient is instructed to squeeze them several times a day until they eventually fall off. If you shower regularly, this is generally in around three days. If you're looser with your bathing schedule, you might keep your home care going for a whole week I suppose. But, let's just pretend everyone showers more than once per week.


Back to the main event: Can acupuncture help you quit smoking? It really is UP TO YOU. Unless your acupuncturists steals your cigs, robs you of any available currency, and prevents you from bartering in the streets for your next nicotine fix, it really is in your hands. Studies show a variety of outcomes; some are very positive indeed. If you're ready, call the clinic!


Effect of Acupuncture on Smoking Cessation or Reduction: An 8-Month and 5-Year Follow-up Study. Preventive Medicine, Volume 33, Issue 5, Pages 364-372. Dong He, Jon I. Medbø, Arne T. Høstmark

Acupuncture to Stop Smoking - Yin Yang House