Science in the Torah

The Discovery of Auriculotherapy

 

One of the most fascinating medical techniques developed in recent years is auriculotherapy. This impressive technique is used for treating various conditions – from muscle and skeletal pain, asthma, allergies, to cigarette addiction – through treatment of the ear.

In the history of the development of this technique, the figure that most convincingly proved a connection between parts of the ear and parts of the human body was Dr. Paul Nogier (1908-1996) of Lyons, France. In 1951, Dr. Nogier began to take interest in the connection between the ear and the rest of the body after reports from some of his patients concerning a woman named Madame Bronne, who was apparently able to rid people of lower back pain by creating small, repeated burns on specific points of her patients’ outer ears (nowadays auriculotherapists use either electrical stimulation, needles, laser, or massage). Dr. Nogier investigated this matter extensively, testing every portion of the outer ear, and ultimately coming to the conclusion that each part of the body is linked to a specific point on the ear. This connection is so sensitive that when a certain part of the body falls sick, treatment of the ear at the corresponding point can restore a person to health. In connection with this it is interesting to note that the general shape and contour of the ear closely match the shape and contour of a human fetus.

What does all of this mean? Do Dr. Nogier’s discoveries make sense?

Here are the words of our Sages from Midrash Rabbah:(1)

“The ear is to the body like a clothesline is to clothes: Just as all of the clothes hanging on a line receive a nice smell from incense burning beneath them, so a person’s two hundred and forty-eight limbs(2) depend upon the ear, which gives them all life.”

In other words, just as the clothesline can be used for scenting all the clothing hanging on it, so too, the ear provides a means for treating and healing all of the parts of the human body.

Was Dr. Noiger’s discovery truly a revelation, or did he simply chance upon a truth known to the Sages of Israel millennia before?

 

Notes and Sources

(1)Midrash Rabbah, Ha’azinu 10:1.

(2)The Sages divide the human body into 248 limbs and 365 sinews; however, the tradition specifying the exact physiological correspondence of this division has been lost to us.

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