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Auriculotherapy manual: Chinese and Western systems of ear acupuncture
  1. Anne-Marie Marlow
  1. Correspondence to Dr Anne-Marie Marlow, BMAS, BMAS House, 3 Winnington Court, Winnington Street, Northwich CW8 1AQ, UK; annemariemarlow{at}

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Oleson T. Published by Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, 4th edition, 2014. 464 pp. £50–£60. ISBN: 978-0-7020-3572-2

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Who could fail to be intrigued by the unconventional and unlikely concept of auricular (or ear) acupuncture? Anatomy teaches that the auricle acts as a funnel to concentrate sound waves for hearing. The idea of a microsystem of the entire body being represented in this small area is surprising in itself. That this has been mapped out, and furthermore can be used to treat a variety of diverse conditions of the human body from musculoskeletal pain to addiction to endocrine and immune disorders, can be a step too far for the sceptical and appears a magical concept even for the open-minded.

Terry Oleson is Professor of Psychology at Ryokan College and Director of Doctoral Studies at Emperor's College of Traditional Oriental Medicine, Los Angeles, California, USA. He has been researching auricular diagnosis since the 1970s, and is a revered and respected international expert and lecturer in the field. He is the present and founding President of the Auriculotherapy Certification Institute. The 4th edition of his book ‘Auriculotherapy Manual: Chinese and Western Systems of Ear Acupuncture’ (first published in 1996 with revisions in 1998 and 2003) sets out to “explain both the theoretical basis and clinical practice of auriculotherapy so others may know of its value”. He does not disappoint. His enthusiasm and wonderment for the subject is conveyed in his writing. He presents current clinical observation and ongoing academic research, including that presented at international conferences in 2010 and 2012, in clear understandable language.

The text goes far beyond the concept of a manual. It is not only a ‘book of instruction’, but also a clear and comprehensive guide to the history and development of auricular therapy in the East and West—the anatomy, the embryology of the ear, the energetic view in Traditional Chinese Medicine and the neurophysiological approach in the West—and to the ever increasing body of research in the subject. The ambiguities in auricular point location, inevitable with systems developing independently in the East and West, are hugely simplified by presenting both, usually on the same page and often on the same auricular photograph. Most acupuncture courses devote only cursory time and attention to ear acupuncture, often with a diagram depicting an upturned fetus transposed on the external ear or a diagram so complex that the student can only blink in surprise. Terry Oleson explains the theoretical and clinical aspects of auricular acupuncture in a structured and comprehensive format. He has that rare gift of writing in such a way that he manages to simplify what could otherwise be a complex, intricate and daunting subject, sharing his enthusiasm so that the reader wants to take in more and having reached the clinical chapter can't wait to get started.

What's new in the 4th edition (the 3rd was already excellent)? I have always struggled with ‘flat’ ear diagrams. Where exactly is the point? Is that a valley or a mountain? How can I transpose a diagram of the right ear to the left? This difficulty has been resolved by the inclusion in this new edition of images of the ear based on three-dimensional technology and photographs of the external ears of several subjects. Point location, as well as being described in the text, is clearly illustrated in both the right and left ears on the same page and from slightly different angles, so that the exact nuance of point location and landmarks on the ear can be more clearly identified. The text is adjacent to the illustrations, avoiding the irritation of flicking from page to page (it sounds obvious, but that is my experience of books on auricular acupuncture and I have looked at many). I also researched 20 conditions and they were all there in the index, the treatment protocols were clear, and all the recommended points clearly marked on the adjacent diagrams without further search.

Comparing the old diagrams (in the 3rd edition) with the new is akin to having a cataract removed and suddenly being able to see in high definition. Each chapter is clearly laid out with contents, learning objectives, a glossary of key terms used in the chapter and, finally, review questions, a useful learning tool for the reader. This is particularly so for the beginner faced with a huge volume of new information, but also helps the old ‘pro’ who might otherwise be tempted to skip that chapter!

Terry Oleson is to be congratulated on this excellent 4th edition, producing in one volume a highly readable reference and comprehensive guide to auricular acupuncture for both the beginner and experienced practitioner, and at the same time a practical manual for easy reference in the clinic. It is quite clear that the 4th edition is the synthesis of a huge amount of thought, reflecting suggestions from readers of previous editions and the use of modern photographic techniques. The result is superbly laid out in text of a readable size, simplifying point location out of all recognition. This volume is a sensible and excellent investment for any practitioner who has an interest in (or would like to learn about) auricular acupuncture and wishes to develop their skills. It is also very competitively priced. It is likely to become the standard text on the subject and one to which you would frequently refer, like an old friend.

An electronic version, or at least an App of the auriculotherapy treatment protocols with three-dimensional diagrams for ease of reference in the clinic, would be a useful addition. This would be particularly helpful for the beginner, but I would still want a friendly hardback copy in my library.

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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