Ear acupuncture – what’s the deal?

Ear acupuncture – what’s the deal?

Ear acupuncture also known as auricular acupuncture, has a very interesting history. In the 1950s a French doctor, Paul Nogier, noticed small burn marks in the ears of some of his Algerian patients. These patients had been treated by a lay practitioner called Madame Barrin for conditions such as sciatica. Dr Nogier travelled to North Africa to learn more. After much experimentation he established a system of ear acupuncture. His writings were then picked up by Japanese acupuncturists and in turn entered China. The Chinese subsequently described Nogier as the ‘father of modern ear acupuncture’.

In the 1970s, Mutulu Shakur (Tupac Shakur’s stepfather) was instrumental in introducing ear acupuncture to Lincoln Hospital Detoxification Programme, in New York. This is where the NADA protocol was developed. NADA is a simple method that uses five ear acupuncture points. NADA stands for National Acupuncture Detoxification Association, but the acronym was chosen because ‘nada’ is the Spanish for ‘nothing’. A reference to not using any form of medication.


Ear acupuncture has been frequently used for substance misuse. However, it has also been used to support people with a variety of issues. British Acupuncture Council member Beverley de Valois was lead researcher in a programme, supported by the Lynda Jackson Macmillan Centre, that evaluated the NADA protocol for breast cancer survivors with hot flushes and night sweats. In Acu. autumn, Jonquil Westwood Pinto MBAcC,  interviewed BAcC Member Mandy Brass to learn about her work in integrated oncology, which includes running a NADA clinic for hot flushes.

We were very pleased to welcome Prof Taras Usichenko from the University Medicine of Greifswald, Germany to our conference last year. Prof Usichenko has undertaken research on ear acupuncture for pain control after caesarean delivery. The findings of this study suggest that the use of preoperative acupuncture as an additional pain therapy is safe and effective in patients after elective caesarean birth.

In 2020 the BAcC interviewed Rachel Peckham FBAcC, Director and Trainer for Nada GB, to learn about the clinic she set up in collaboration with World Medicine UK – to support the Grenfell community following the Grenfell Tower disaster in 2017.


More anecdotal stories by BAcC members.
Last year, BAcC Member, Deanna Thomas wrote about her experience of using auricular needling in her everyday practice. In the latest winter issue of Acu. – BAcC Student Member, Joanne McFarlane discusses her passion for using NADA auricular acupuncture to during treatments. We have a selection of case studies on our acupuncture research page including the use of Battlefield acupuncture to treat injury trauma.

What’s next?
Most recently, the BAcC helped establish a mental health ear acupuncture service for at Inner Gloucester Primary Care Network (PCN). Three BAcC Members are delivering the service which has been running for about a year. The early results are good and this has created interest from other PCNs. We have worked with Inner Gloucester PCN to develop toolkit to enable other PCNs to set up similar services.

BAcC staff
January 2024