Ear acupuncture, also known as auriculotherapy, is a form of alternative medicine that involves placing small ear seeds on different points of the outer ear. Ear seeds are often made from the tiny seeds of the vaccaria plant or beads or pellets on a sticker affixed to specific points in the ear, which serves as a switchboard to the brain and a microcosm for the body. As the ear seeds apply light pressure to the acupuncture points, they can help treat various ailments while promoting an overall sense of well-being.
“Ear acupuncture has been used for centuries as part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, but was studied more extensively in the 1950s by a French neurologist named Paul Nogier,” says Zen Tuan, an acupuncturist, herbalist, and clinical doctor who owns Healing with Zen in Pasadena. “Since then, studies have documented specific points on the ear that correspond to every part of the body. In the 1980s, ear acupuncture was popularized for treating many types of addictions—everything from drugs and smoking to eating disorders and gambling. Today, we use ear seeds as a great tool to enhance and prolong results from our patients’ acupuncture treatments.”
According to Tuan, ear seeds are a non-invasive, safe, and effective tool that can be used to treat just about any health condition. Many of her patients wear ear seeds to combat aches and pains, improve sleep and immunity, manage stress and anxiety, assist with digestive disorders or hormonal imbalances, and even stimulate weight loss. Prior to getting ear seeds, she recommends consulting a licensed acupuncturist who will diagnose any issues and locate the most effective acupressure points to target specific health concerns, as they can be difficult to find.
“Ear seeds stimulate pressure points, which send signals to the reflex centers of the brain to regulate the body,” adds Mona Dan, an herbalist, acupuncturist, and founder of Vie Healing in Los Angeles. “They help regulate blood flow in the body, and the brain is able to send the proper chemicals and information to the body to help boost the proper flow of our organs. Healthy blood flow supports both our overall health and elevated beauty.”
Ear seeds also come in a variety of designs for those looking to make a fashion statement. Tuan offers gold, silver, and Swarovski crystal upgrades for a more stylish look, while Dan has her own line of 24k gold-plated magnet ear seeds. She suggests applying them once a week and wearing in one ear for three to five days, then switching to the opposite ear.
Aside from some tenderness upon pressure of the ear seeds, Tuan says that there are no risks or side effects. Typically, they can stay on for up to five days and will fall off on their own. Ear seeds can be worn while performing all kinds of daily tasks, including exercise, in the shower, and during sleep. If they become bothersome, they can easily be removed by hand.
“The tenderness of certain points actually means that you are on the correct point and that it’s working,” Tuan points out. “As your body readjusts and balances out, you’ll notice the points are less tender.”
Because of the gentle and non-invasive nature of ear seeds, both Tuan and Dan use them on patients of all ages—even children and expectant mothers. “We often use this modality on kids and those who may be sensitive to acupuncture needles,” says Tuan.
Adds Dan, “They are very safe for pregnancy, we just recommend you consult your doctor. And for babies, we recommend removing them after one to two days and only apply one to two seeds at a time. Ear seeds are absolutely incredible to add to your wellness routine. They are beautiful, but the functionality is what sets them apart.”