Ear seeds can play a part in auriculotherapy, a type of acupressure therapy that focuses on the ear. Clinical research into the effects of ear seeds on anxiety is limited.

Supporters of the technique state that the ear provides a sort of map to the natural energy — which some people call qi — that circulates throughout the body. By manipulating or stimulating certain points on the ear, they believe that qi can flow naturally through the body and therefore treat various health conditions, including anxiety.

Ear seeds’ role in the therapy is to provide a means to apply pressure to the specific pressure points. This will reportedly restore the flow of qi that affects a person’s anxiety or stress levels. While many people believe ear seeds can be helpful, research is generally lacking and of poorer overall quality.

This article reviews ear seeds, their use in anxiety, what the research says, and more.

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Ear seeds are actual or synthetic seeds or very small, seed-like objects that a person or therapist can use to stimulate pressure points in the ear. People who support auriculotherapy believe these seeds can promote health by altering the flow of energy in the ears.

A person or an acupuncturist can place the seeds directly on the ear. Once in place, they can use their fingers to manipulate and provide pressure to the ears.

Each point corresponds with different areas of the body and symptoms associated with various conditions. An individual can work with a trained acupuncturist to place the ear seeds in the right spots to potentially help with anxiety symptoms.

Ear seeds come in either natural or synthetic forms. Many of the synthetic forms come with self-adhesive backing, which allows a person to place them directly where they desire without needing to use tape.

Natural ear seeds use Vaccaria seeds. Manufacturers may produce seeds using metal, glass, or other materials. A person can find ear seeds to use at home on Amazon.

Clinical evidence suggesting ear seeds can treat or positively affect anxiety is lacking. In fact, studies confirming their benefit for any condition are lacking and often of poor clinical quality.

Proponents of ear seeds claim that they can help improve a person’s anxiety and yield several other potential benefits.

The clinical evidence on ear seeds is lacking. What evidence exists is not overwhelmingly positive and also does not necessarily address anxiety directly.

For example, in a 2020 review of 15 studies, researchers looked at the results of using ear acupressure to help with trauma-related mental disorders following large-scale disasters. They found that evidence in the studies did not provide adequate evidence on its effectiveness or safety in people living with post-traumatic stress disorder.

A 2018 study looking at the use of auriculotherapy on anxiety during labor had more promising results. In their triple-blind study, the researchers noted and recommended the use of ear acupressure to reduce anxiety during labor.

In a 2019 article, experts pointed out that ear seeds represent the latest, “exotic” form of ear acupressure, which may influence users or study participants to report feeling that it has helped their symptoms. More importantly, they noted that earlier and existing studies were of poor clinical quality, smaller in size, and often contained biases where the researcher wanted to prove that they worked.

However, proponents of ear seeds promote their use in reducing stress and anxiety. Since they are generally safe, a person who tries them may find that they help despite a lack of reliable clinical data.

First-time users of ear seeds or auriculotherapy should consult an acupuncturist to learn how to correctly place the ear seeds. These practitioners can help find the correct pressure points that may influence and treat their anxiety.

If a person wishes to speak with an acupressure or acupuncture practitioner, they should check whether they have a board license to practice in their state.

According to the Public Health Acupuncture of New Mexico, to treat anxiety or stress with ear seeds, a person needs to place them on three points:

  • Shen Men: The Shen Men pressure point is roughly in the center top portion of the ear, a short way down from the top of the ear.
  • Insomnia point: This point is almost parallel with the opening to the ear, just on the inside of the outer ridge of the ear structure.
  • Point zero: Lying almost exactly in the center of the ear, it is on the end of the cartilage ridge that runs from the center of the ear and around the outside of the structure.

Seed placement can vary according to the product a person uses. Many ear seeds feature self-adhesive backing, so a person only needs to place the seed using tweezers. Others, such as natural seeds, may require medical tape to secure them in place.

A person should follow all instructions on the packaging of the seeds to ensure safety when using them. The largest likely risks include irritation at the site of placement and dropping a seed into the opening of the ear.

Once in place, a person can apply gentle pressure to the seeds to stimulate the pressure points, reportedly reducing anxiety.

Ear seeds provide a newer form of auriculotherapy, a type of acupressure that focuses on the ear. Proponents claim that using the seeds in certain spots can stimulate the pressure points to help reduce anxiety and stress.

While this may work for some, clinical evidence is lacking and generally of lower quality. A person who wishes to try ear seeds to treat their anxiety should consult an acupuncturist first. This is to learn the exact positions to place the seeds for anxiety relief.