Practiced by celebrities and wellness warriors alike, ear seeds are believed to help with stress and anxiety, as well as ease issues such as insomnia and joint pain. So, what does the therapy involve and how does it work? We found out…
11th June 2019
If you’re interested in holistic therapies and Eastern medicine, you’re probably already well versed in the health benefits of treatments such as acupuncture and reflexology, but what about ear seeding? Made popular by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, who featured it at this year’s GOOP Wellness Summit, and celebrities such as Penelope Cruz, Elle Macpherson and Kate Moss, ear seeding is the latest trend to travel across the pond.
So, what are ear seeds?
Ear seeds are small beads that are used to stimulate specific pressure points in your ears.
Traditionally, they would have been made from the seeds of a flowering herb called vaccaria (hence the name), but today they’re usually made from metal or ceramics.
Mona Dan is an LA-based herbalist and acupuncturist and the founder of Vie Healing, which has recently started selling 24k gold ear seeds through Cult Beauty for £29. “Ear seeding is based in traditional Chinese medicine,” she explains. “It involves reflexology and stimulating pressure points on the ears that send signals to the reflex centers of the brain in order to stabilise and regulate the nervous system.”
Ear seeds are part of a larger practice called auriculotherapy (or ear acupuncture), which is based on the idea that various points on the ear correspond to different organs and parts of the body. Stimulating these points, either through needles or seeds, is believed to help energy flow smoothly through our organs and strengthen and nourish our bodies’ systems.
Ear seeds are usually given to patients after a session of auriculotherapy with needles, but with the launch of Vie Healing’s ear seeds, and others on the market, individuals are being encouraged to try them at home themselves. These can simply be stuck to clean and dry skin on specific points and pressed to promote their benefits.
How do they work?
To know more about ear seeding, we first have to appreciate the basics of ear acupuncture in general. “To understand how auricular acupuncture works from a Western viewpoint, we have to imagine the outer ear like a switchboard to the brain,” explains acupuncturist Siwan Quinn Bratton, who’s also the co-principal of The College of Auricular Acupuncture in the UK. “There are over 200 acupuncture points on each ear. Points relating to our head, teeth and face are located on the ear lobe, while our internal organs such as the heart, lungs, liver, stomach and intestines are positioned in the deep ‘well’ or conchae region of the ear. Each acupuncture point being treated triggers electrical impulses that travel from the ear via the brain and neural pathways, to the specific part of the body it relates to. Functional MRI (fMRI) shows that auricular acupuncture causes an effect in areas of the brain specific to the corresponding zone on the ear. Each point treated releases endorphins (natural pain-relieving chemicals), blocks pain receptors, and elevates levels of adenosine that affect a change in the targeted area.”
Ear seeds help trigger these points through non-invasive acupressure means, and people using them can rub or press the seeds if they feel as though they need an extra boost.
So, how can they help with stress?
“We produce endorphins naturally when we carry out physical exercise and the effects of the exercise make us feel good,” Siwan says. “Auricular acupuncture has been found to stimulate higher levels of endorphins, which help alleviate both mental and physical pain.”
This alone could help reduce stress – and used in conjunction with the correct points on your ear, it’s believed that auriculotherapy can have a significant impact on your emotional wellbeing. One such area to be aware of is the Shen men point, located near the top of your ear in the middle. “Shenmen, often translated as ‘spirit gate’, allows a connection to one’s inner self, calms the mind and alleviates stress,” Siwan explains. “It’s good for anxiety and insomnia too.” There’s also the heart point (located in the lower concha region) which is believed to help ease palpitations, tightness in the chest and anxiety.
Is there anything else ear seeds be used for?
It is thought that auriculotherapy can help with a huge range of problems. “With ear seeds and ear acupuncture you get the stimulation of the nervous system that assists in regulating the body and brain,” Mona explains. “They can ease a wide range of ailments including PMS, migraines, headaches, jet lag, digestive problems, insomnia and so much more. When the nervous system is able to relax, proper blood flow will assist in all these issues.”
Scientific proof of the impact of ear acupuncture and ear seeds is still somewhat lacking, but some research has found that it can be useful for easing pain and a 2017 study from the University of Sao Paula found that auriculotherapy helped reduce anxiety in nurses.
Try it yourself
Buy your own_ Ear seeds from Vie Healing can be bought on Cult Beauty’s online store. It’s recommended that these 24k gold-plated magnets are used for two to three days at a time, and experts suggest that you see a trained acupuncturist before trying them at home yourself.