Step aside, hoops and diamond studs—ear seeding may have just won the accessory game, and the best part is that they’re an ancient wellness practice instead of just an accessory trend that upgrades your OOTD (cartilage piercing, who?). The internet may be buzzing about these tiny beads that are strategically placed around the ear, but the practice has thousands of years to back up the claimed benefits.
When I first found out about ear seeding, they had me at “stylish ear accessories that can make you happier and healthier,” but if you need a little more info on what they are, how they work, and whether or not they’re worth it, I got you. I asked Gudrun Snyder, a doctor of East Asian acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine expert, and founder of Moon Rabbit Acupuncture, to give me the details on all things ear seeding. Read on for a 101 guide to ear seeding and how to reap the benefits for yourself.
What is “Ear Seeding?”
While the practice of ear seeding has been blowing up on Instagram and in trendy wellness spas as of late, it’s a practice that has been used in wellness routines for thousands of years. “Ear seeding is a technique used in traditional Chinese medicine, which is a 3,000+-year-old system of health techniques that also uses acupuncture, herbal medicine, and other modalities to care for the mind and body,” Snyder explained. “The original ear seeds were seeds of the Vaccaria Plant (thus the name “Ear Seeding”), which is a plant that is native to Eurasia and was most often used with traditional acupuncture.”
So why stick “seeds” (today, everything from 24k gold to Swarovski crystals are used to add an element of style) on our ears? It’s a practice of acupressure, which is acupuncture’s less invasive sibling (and no, needles or piercings are not involved—the beads simply apply a light pressure you barely feel). There are said to be more than 200 pressure points in the ear that correlate with conditions throughout the entire body. When you place the bead in a specific spot, you’re triggering the nervous system to benefit various parts of the body that correlate with each tiny spot. “Like acupuncture, ear seeding works on the meridian system, which is a series of energetic pathways that are found throughout the body,” Snyder said. “Stimulating certain points on the ears will help with the flow of energy and restore balance in the body.”
What are the benefits of ear seeding?
According to TCM, every system of the body (digestive, respiratory, reproductive, hormonal, etc.) is energetically connected to pressure points on the ear, meaning activating those pressure points can provide everything from pain relief to less stress. Snyder explained that ear seeding is similar to auricular acupuncture (or ear acupuncture), which has been used for many benefits like decreased cortisol, fewer addiction cravings, better sleep, and healed pain. While many of Snyder’s clients get ear seeding to help ease anxiety and stress, she said that ear seeds are also a great way to help treat digestion issues, insomnia, weight issues, addiction, and chronic pain. They can work to benefit both the mind and body.
While the results of ear seeding may not be as drastic as regular acupuncture appointments with a professional, many people use ear seeding as a way to extend benefits between acupuncture appointments. Better yet, ear seeding is a way for more people to get some of the benefits of acupuncture and acupressure at a cheaper cost from the comfort of their own home in a safe, effective, and even stylish way.
Are there any possible risks?
Since ear seeds are essentially tiny beads that gently stick to the ear for light pressure, there are little to no risks, and you shouldn’t feel any pain. “Given that ear seeds do not puncture the skin, there are no long-term or serious risks with ear seeds,” Snyder said. “Even if you do place the ear seeds in the wrong area, the worst-case scenario is that nothing happens.” However, any fabric, formula, or adhesive you put on the skin can cause allergy or sensitivity for some people. Snyder recommended if you do develop an irritation to ear seeds (like itchiness, redness, peeling, or pain), remove them as soon as you can and contact a doctor or dermatologist. To decrease the risk for irritation, quality matters—real gold and sensitive-skin-friendly adhesive (like Snyder’s ear seeding kits) are less likely to cause irritation than plastic or metal.
How long do the effects last?
Ear seeds typically stay on for three to seven days and will either naturally fall off on their own or can easily be pulled off. Just like most health practices, the results and length of effects depend on each individual body. “Some people are incredibly responsive to acupuncture and ear seeding, so they will likely see results the same day and the effect will last longer than those who may take a few applications to see a difference,” Snyder said. In other words, you may notice results on the day of application or after a few days with the ear seeds on, and benefits can last during the days the ear seeds are on or even for weeks after. As with any other health practice and wellness routine, talk to your doctor or acupuncturist about the best practice for you and how long to leave ear seeds on.
If you’re interested in trying ear seeding for yourself…
Talk to your doctor or acupuncturist to come up with a plan that’s best for you.
Snyder recommends ear seeding to her clients to either bridge the gap between acupuncture sessions or for clients who aren’t into acupuncture and would much rather go a non-invasive route but talk to your acupuncturist to identify if ear seeding is right for you and what the best approach, plan, and pressure points based on your body, health concerns, and goals (individual kits will come with maps so you know where to place ear seeds based on your health goals as well). Ear seeding is also a great option if you are interested in acupressure but cannot visit an acupuncturist in person. Talk to your doctor about a plan that would be best for you, and if you have sensitive skin or are prone to irritation, check in with your dermatologist on what type of adhesion is best for you.
Find an acupuncturist or brand that you trust for application.
Of course, the best results come from seeing professionals, so if you already have an acupuncturist or TCM doctor you trust, ask them about services or which brands they recommend. Since ear seeding is fairly easy to apply, you can also purchase an at-home kit to do it yourself, which will typically include instructions and tweezers to make the application as easy as possible. Snyder warned to be wary of seeds or adhesives that are of poor quality, as they may be less effective or cause skin irritation. Look for a brand with pure gold, Swarovski Crystal, or hypo-allergenic beads for the best results.
Care for them properly.
If you are applying the ear seeds yourself, simply press each seed gently against your skin for 30-60 seconds in the desired location and take deep breaths for extra connection to the nervous system. “The best way to make your ear seeds last the longest is to apply them to a clean ear,” Snyder recommended. “This can be done by wiping your ear with an alcohol swab prior to application.” Snyder also suggested taking breaks in between applications, though they can be worn as often as possible. “Ear seeds can be applied as often as needed, but try switching sides to give your ear a break or leave at least one day between applications.”
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Please consult a doctor before beginning any treatments. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read in this article.