Like many modern weight loss devices, ear magnets can seem counterintuitive. You might wonder how sticking tiny magnets to your ear could help you fight food cravings. According to proponents of the alternative medical practice of auricular therapy, ear magnets work by taking advantage of the body's automatic reflex reactions to restore you to a state of natural balance.
Auricular therapy is a hybrid of traditional Chinese medicine, or TCM, and western medical research that maps the entire body --- including limbs, torso, organs and glands --- onto the ears, according to the website of Dr. L. B. Grotte, M.D., a medical doctor and acupuncturist offering holistic therapies in Cleveland, Ohio. By stimulating the ear point that corresponds to an ailing body part or system, an auricular therapist seeks to release tensions and create a healing response.
Dr. Paul Nogier developed auricular therapy in his French clinic in the 1950s after finding that some of his patients had peculiar scars on their ears. Nogier's patients told him that they had received the burns from a folk medicine healer called Madame Barrin, who claimed she could heal sciatica by burning key points on the ear. She in turn claimed to have learned the technique from a Chinese healer, notes Kajsa Landgren, acupuncturist practicing in Helsingborg, Sweden, and author of "Ear Acupuncture: A Practical Guide." Devoting his life to studying the interconnections between the ear and disease, Nogier developed the ear map still in use today.
Early 21st century studies of ear acupuncture and acupressure techniques for weight loss, including the use of ear magnets, demonstrated poor design, making it impossible to draw any conclusions from them, according to Jan Ostman of the Karolinska Institute at Huddinge Hospital in Sweden, co-author of "Treating and Preventing Obesity." A major fault in ear acupressure study design is the lack of a long enough followup period. Without proof that study participants can maintain weight loss in the long term, any positive results from ear acupressure studies are relatively meaningless.
Obesity and overweight are complex issues that are even more difficult to treat than nicotine addiction, according to Axel Rubach, naturopath and acupuncturist working in Munich, Germany, and author of "Principles of Ear Acupuncture: Microsystem of the Auricle." Rubach recommends a protocol involving several specific points on the ear that a professional auricular therapist can identify for you. Ear magnets that you purchase and place yourself might not give you the same benefits as professional treatment.
If you decide to self-treat with ear magnets, for best results look for magnets that are shaped like disks rather than beads, advise Bryan L. Frank, and Nader E. Soliman, medical doctors, auricular therapists, and authors of "Auricular Therapy: A Comprehensive Text Color Edition." These disks should be marked with a dimple on one side that identifies the south pole of the magnet. To help with weight loss, place the south pole of the magnet against your ear. The south polarity helps to restore areas of weakness or deficiency in your system that can cause food cravings.