Ear seeds provide stimulation to the pressure points in the ears. They use a similar principle as acupuncture to help regulate the flow of qi, or energy, in the body.

Traditional Chinese medicine states that a person’s health relies on the flow of qi, or energy, throughout the body. The energy travels along pathways or meridians. Practices such as acupuncture and acupressure attempt to correct any issues with the flow of energy in the body.

Proponents of ear seeds suggest that this method replicates the use of acupuncture in the ears by stimulating the same pressure points.

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Ear seeds use actual or synthetic seeds to stimulate pressure points in the ear. Proponents of auriculotherapy, a form of acupuncture or acupressure focused on the ears, believe that a person can use seeds to stimulate the pressure points and relieve various symptoms throughout the body.

Traditionally, acupuncturists use vaccaria seeds, which come from a type of flowering herb. However, ear seeds may instead be synthetic, commonly metal or ceramic.

Acupuncturists will place the seeds around the outer ear and secure them using medical tape. People can then manipulate the seeds to provide pressure.

An acupuncturist may recommend a person use ear seeds as a form of acupressure on the ear.

The belief behind this practice is that the outer ear resembles the shape of a fetus and that placing seeds at specific points in the ear helps regulate qi. Proponents of this practice believe that placing seeds around the ear can help with a variety of conditions, such as chronic pain, stress, anxiety, and migraine.

However, it is important to note that, while some people report benefits from using ear seeds, few studies investigate the effectiveness of this practice.

Ear seeds stimulate the pressure points on the ears, which may in turn help relieve symptoms of some conditions such as chronic pain.

Acupuncturists attach the seeds to the ears with medical tape. People can then rub the seeds throughout the duration of this method.

People may keep the seeds in their ears for up to 1 week, although some may change them daily.

Advocates of ear seeds state that there are several different pressure points in the ears, and each one connects to a different energy pathway.

A person should contact an acupuncturist who can demonstrate where the seeds may have the most benefit. Some acupuncturists may suggest that a person attaches the seeds themselves once they know where to place them.

Some general tips on applying ear seeds include:

  1. Clean and dry their ear completely.
  2. Identify the correct points to address their concerns.
  3. Use tweezers to attach the seed to the right spots. Some seeds have a self-adhesive backing, or a person may have to use medical tape.
  4. Gently massage the seeds a few times a day.
  5. Switch the seeds every few days using a tweezer.

A person should remove and attach seeds carefully to avoid dropping them into their ears. If a person drops a seed into their ears, they should contact a doctor to remove the obstruction.

Are they painful?

Ear seeds attach to the ears using an adhesive backing or medical tape. Some people may find that the adhesive irritates the skin, causing a rash or other skin reaction.

If a person experiences an adverse reaction to the adhesive, they should immediately remove the seed and tape. Additionally, if the seeds on the ear become painful, people should remove the seeds immediately.

It is not clear how effective ear seeds are at preventing or treating symptoms. Most of the data is either anecdotal or poor-quality clinical evidence.

For example, a 2015 review of studies investigating the effects of ear seeds for insomnia noted that many studies reported positive findings. However, the studies were generally of low quality, with small sample sizes and a lack of adequate controls.

Another 2015 study found that acupressure using vaccaria seeds may increase a person’s pain threshold. However, this study only had 16 participants.

A more recent 2021 review of studies found that ear seeds may be effective in reducing chronic pain alongside other interventions. Common findings across studies include using vaccaria seeds, placing the seeds in only one, or alternate ears, and changing the seeds daily.

There is some evidence that ear seeds may help with the following conditions:

However, most research on the benefits of ear seeds is of low quality. More high quality studies are necessary to investigate the benefits of this practice.

In general, ear seeds are likely safe when a person securely attaches them to the ears. However, a person may react to the adhesive. If this occurs, people should immediately remove the seeds.

If the seed detaches from the ear and falls into the canal, a person should contact a doctor to remove the obstruction. Obstructions in the ear can cause pain, swelling, and redness.

If a person has an infection due to the seed falling into the ear, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics.

Some people may attach small seeds using adhesive or medical tape to the ear to apply pressure and stimulation to pressure points. While there is some evidence that ear seeds can help conditions such as chronic pain, few high quality studies validate these claims.

People should apply caution when attaching or removing ear seeds. If a seed falls into the ear canal, it can cause an obstruction which may lead to pain, swelling, and redness.