Everything old is new again. Case in point: gua sha and ear seeding—both skin-care trends that are popular right now but originated thousands of years ago. While ear seeding may sound gross or confusing at first, it’s actually quite simple and satisfying. A needle-free acupuncture alternative, ear seeding can be done at home and help you begin a healing journey with everything from your gut to your mind.
What is ear seeding?
Ear seeding is a form of auriculotherapy where experts “use acupressure points on the ear to stimulate certain channels of the body,” says Gabriel Sher, director of acupuncture at ORA. Ear seeding works similarly to acupuncture, but the mechanism is different. “Instead of using needles on the ears, in ear seeding, we use small metallic balls that adhere to the specific points on the ear,” explains Sher. Various points in the ear can help address different parts of the body, says co-founder of WTHN and licensed acupuncturist Shari Auth, DACM. “Ear seeds work by putting light pressure on specific acupressure points on the ear to stimulate that point, and modern clinical research has shown the effect these points have on neurological pathways,” explains Auth.
Although ear seeding is currently trending, it’s an ancient practice. Auth explains that ear seeds are part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that dates back thousands of years. “In TCM, the ears are considered to be a microcosm of the body, so when we work on certain points on the ear, we can work on every organ system of the body,” says Sher.
“Originally, ear seeds used in TCM were the actual seeds from the Vaccaria plant (native to Eurasia and also known commonly as the prairie carnation),” says Auth. “Today, both plant-based Vaccaria seeds and metal beads are used for the same effect.”
What are some of the benefits?
Just like acupuncture needles, ear seeds are meant to be placed on specific parts of the ear to pinpoint individual concerns. “There are dozens of acu points in the ear, so it’s best to determine your key health objectives and strategically place the seed where it can help you the most,” says Auth. Ear seeds have been shown to reduce pain, balance hormones, calm the mind, improve digestion, support immunity, help detox and increase focus, according to Auth.
“Depending on where the ear seed has been placed, you may feel calmer, in less pain or feel an increased sex drive,” says Auth. Sher says ear seeds can also help manage stress, anxiety, addictions, overthinking, insomnia and grief. Auth notes that, for some people, ear seeds have immediate results, while in others with more stubborn conditions, results may take a few weeks. She adds that ear seeds work best in combination with acupuncture and herbs. If you want to tackle multiple conditions at once, you can load up your ear with seeds. “For example, you can use a seed to balance hormones and calm the mind—the two points will work together to produce a greater result,” says Auth.
Who is a good candidate?
Sher says people who are new to Chinese medicine, especially those that are apprehensive about needles, are great candidates. However, almost anyone can benefit from ear seeds. “They are good for essentially everyone with an ear and health goals,” says Auth.
However, if you’re pregnant, you need to be wary about where you place ear seeds. “I recommend that if you’re pregnant and wanting to try ear seeds, it’s best to have them applied by a licensed acupuncturist as certain points may induce early labor,” warns Auth.
Who can apply ear seeds?
“Ear seeds are considered so safe you can do them yourself! They are a great DIY biohack and the ultimate look-good, feel-better bling,” says Auth. While you can go to an expert to apply ear seeds, you can just as easily do them yourself in the comfort of your home. “While wearing ear seeds, you can apply light pressure to activate the effects of the seed for an extra boost,” she adds.
How long do they stay on? How do you remove them?
Sher recommends removing ear seeds with tweezers after three to five days “so as not to irritate the skin or desensitize the point.” She notes that they may fall off before five days, but they tend to be surprisingly “resilient, even with regular activities like showering, sleeping and working out.” They can be worn regularly, but Sher suggests waiting 24 to 48 hours before applying new seeds to avoid desensitizing the point.
Expert-approved ear seeds
Sher suggests the WTHN Ear Seed Kit ($45). The kit includes two sets of ear seeds, adhesive and 24k gold plated beads and Swarovski crystal beads for a chic look. If you want an expert to apply your ear seeds in-office for your first time, check out ORA, which also offers Swarovski crystal beads or your local acupuncturist.
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