What Are Ear Seeds? Meet the Newest Wellness Trend That Stems from Acupuncture

FYI: They're all over Instagram right now.

Move over earrings, it looks like ears have a new trendy accessory for 2020—and they might actually have some health benefits, too.

Ear seeds—the attention-grabbing specks strategically placed in and around the ears—have been making the rounds on Instagram lately among wellness gurus and influencers alike. But it turns out these tiny statement pieces do more than add a little sparkle to your daily look. Here, experts explain what exactly ear seeds are, and how they might benefit your overall wellness practice.

What are ear seeds, anyway?

So, ear "seeds" is a term used to describe seeds that come from the vaccaria plant, used in place of acupuncture needles in the ear, Tsao-Lin E. Moy, an alternative and Chinese medicine specialist and founder of Integrative Healing Arts, tells Health.

Those seeds, which are small, hard, round objects, can be applied to different pressure points in the ear with adhesive tape, says Moy. The patient can then press the points where the seeds are and stimulate the acupuncture or acupressure points that way.

This is a type of auricular therapy—an idea rooted in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). "There are mapping systems located on several areas of the body with the ear being one of them that reflects the whole body and organ system,” says Moy. Ear seeds are placed in areas according to the traditional beliefs of the practice, taking into consideration the individual and what they are being treated for.

“Ear seeds can magnify the effects of acupuncture points and can be used as a stand alone treatment, or as support for a treatment,” she explains. “The ear is a microcosm of the body, similar to reflexology on the hands and feet it is a way to tap into the nervous system and promote self healing.”

Mona Dan, founder of Vie Healing, a company that makes ear seeds out of gold-plated magnets, adds that these ear seeds—and their position on pressure points—can help regulate the body's nervous system and reflexes.

So, what can ear seeds do for the body?

According to Moy, ear seeds, along with other forms of auricular therapy, are used to help relieve back pain, neck pain, weight loss, anxiety, PTSD, insomnia, depression, stress and many other conditions.

“When your body is in a parasympathetic state which is the processing state, the body is able to properly function, meaning we digest food better, we think more clearly, we respond better to the environment around us, we sleep better and are able to naturally process inflammation, amongst many other benefits,” adds Dan. “They’re great for stress, anxiety, pain, sleep and digestive disturbances and even more.”

Something to note: Like many forms of alternative medicine, the scientific evidence supporting many of the purported health benefits of ear seeds is limited and often overstated, according to a 2014 systematic review in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

Moy points out, however, that a few preliminary studies have found auricular therapy to be beneficial. One such study, published in the Clinical Journal of Pain found that, combined with exercise, ear acupuncture can help treat chronic low back pain, while another published in the journal Pain Medicine says it can be helpful in treating acute pain.

As far as whether or not you should give ear seeds a try, they're generally safe to use, since they're noninvasive. The seeds themselves, depending on what they're made of, may also cause irritation if you're too often applying pressure, but overall, they're fine to try if you're looking for a more noninvasive approach to acupuncture.

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