From aromatherapy to herbal remedies to acupuncture, Americans are embracing alternative health practices with open arms. While most people don’t view these treatments as a replacement for traditional Western medicine, they do consider them a viable complement to conventional care.

Nearly 50 percent of American adults have used some form of alternative medicine in the past year, according to the publication “Minnesota Physician.”

Acupuncture is one of the more widely accepted, drug-free alternatives. It has been used for thousands of years to treat a variety of health conditions. Acupuncture encourages the body’s promotion of natural healing and improved functioning.

Traditionally, it was believed that acupuncture works by clearing obstructions in the body’s energy channels, or meridians.

Modern science, as explained by the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, holds that when acupuncture points are stimulated, the nervous system releases chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord and brain.

These chemicals either change the experience of pain or trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones that influence the body’s internal regulation system.

Acupuncture is done by inserting needles and applying heat or electrical stimulation at precise acupuncture points. Acupressure does not use needles; instead, pressure is applied to areas of the body associated with particular health benefits using beads, seeds or other hard substances.

In the United States, until recently, acupuncture and acupressure were used primarily for pain management. They are now becoming more widely used for other medical conditions and encompass a number of different types of acupuncture techniques, theories and systems.

These include not only body-type acupuncture, but also microsystems of acupuncture in which the entire body is represented on one body part such as the hand, foot, scalp or ear.

Auriculotherapy uses one such microsystem, on the ear, that is particularly effective. Auriculotherapy is practiced widely in Europe and is gaining more common use in the United States.

“The entire body is represented in the ear,” explains Dr. George Kramer, an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

Auriculotherapy has been practiced by acupuncturists for many years, using plasters or tapes to hold objects in place as they applied pressure to specific points.

Kramer saw first-hand how auriculotherapy helped his patients. But the beads he used lasted only a few days before they had to be reapplied by a professional. Kramer wanted a way to help patients between office visits.

Armed with an idea of how patients could easily apply the acupressure beads at home, Kramer joined forces with Dr. Frederick Strobl, a neurologist and co-founder of CNS (manufacturer of Breathe Right nasal strips).

Working with a team of acupuncturists, the doctors created AcuBead acupressure strips, disposable adhesive acupressure strips designed to be used in a particulate location on the ear for treatment of specific problems.

“AcuBead acupressure strips combine ancient Eastern medicine with modern Western medical knowledge and technology for users’ benefit,” says Kramer. “They make ear acupressure easy for anyone, anywhere, anytime.”

Each strip has titanium acupressure beads arranged in patterns designed to affect acupressure points traditionally used in auriculotherapy for specific pain problems.

AcuBead offers four products: HeadacheBeads, for migraine and tension headaches; NeckBeads, for neck and shoulder pain; LowbackBeads, for low back pain and sciatica; and SlenderBeads, for appetite suppression and weight loss).

The beads are worn on the outside of the ear, and can be left in place for several days. Users simply squeeze the beads for 10 to 30 seconds every half hour to stimulate the pressure points.

“They can be very helpful when other methods have failed, but are not to replace professional attention. If pain is severe or persists for more than 14 days, consult a physician,” says Kramer.

AcuBead products are available without a prescription and can be purchased at discount retailers such as Target, participating Albertsons and local drug stores and pharmacies. To locate a retailer near you, learn more or order online, visit the company’s Web site,

Courtesy of ARA Content