A variation of traditional acupuncture is called auriculotherapy or ear acupuncture. It is a method of diagnosis and treatment based on the unsubstantiated belief that the ear is the map of the bodily organs. For example, a problem with an organ such as the liver is to be treated by sticking a needle into a certain point on the ear that is supposed to be the corresponding point for that organ. (Similar notions about a part of the body being an organ map are held by those who practice iridology [the iris is the map of the body] and reflexology [the foot is the map of the body].) Staplepuncture, a variation of auriculotherapy, puts staples at key points on the ear hoping to do such things as help people stop smoking.
Traditional Chinese medicine is not based on knowledge of modern physiology, biochemistry, nutrition, anatomy, or any of the known mechanisms of healing. Nor is it based on knowledge of cell chemistry, blood circulation, nerve function, or the existence of hormones or other biochemical substances. There is no correlation between the meridians used in traditional Chinese medicine and the actual layout of the organs and nerves in the human body. The National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF) claims that of the 46 medical journals published by the Chinese Medical Association, not one is devoted to acupuncture or other traditional Chinese medical practices. Nevertheless, it is estimated that somewhere between 10 and 15 million Americans spend approximately $500 million a year on acupuncture for treatment of AIDS, allergies, asthma, arthritis, bladder and kidney problems, bronchitis, constipation, depression, diarrhea, dizziness, colds, fatigue, flu, gynecologic disorders, headaches, high blood pressure, migraines, paralysis, PMS, sciatica, sexual dysfunction, smoking, stress, stroke, tendinitis, and vision problems.
Empirical studies on acupuncture are in their infancy. Such studies ignore notions based on metaphysics (such as unblocking chi along meridians) and seek to find causal connections between sticking needles into traditional (or nontraditional) acupuncture points and physical effects. Even so, many traditional doctors and hospitals are offering acupuncture as a "complementary" therapy. The University of California at Los Angeles medical school has one of the largest acupuncture training courses in the United States for licensed physicians. The 200-hour program teaches nearly 600 physicians a year. According to the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, about 4,000 U.S. physicians have training in acupuncture.