At Naturna we love using ear seeds! Ear seeds (or ear beads) are tiny metal balls on adhesive tape used to stimulate the acupuncture points on the surface of your ear. They’re called ear seeds, because historically, the seeds of Vaccaria hispanica (a common flowering plant) were used in auriculotherapy – probably because they are just the right size to stimulate the tiny points. Ear seeds made of vaccaria seeds are still available, but we prefer to use the little gold balls instead for their aesthetic value and durability.
Auriculotherapy is kind of like reflexology for the ear. Different areas of the body and different physiological functions or symptoms can be mapped out on the ear and your acupuncturist will use specific ear points to address your needs.
Acupuncture treatments typically last around an hour, but with ear seeds the calming, zen-like effects of acupuncture can last well beyond the acupuncture session. The seeds can stay on for up to 5 days. After that they should be removed so that they don’t irritate the skin.
We commonly use ear seeds for conditions like anxiety, stress, and insomnia, but the range of application for auriculotherapy is huge. Many clients report better focus at work and a decrease in frustration and stress. A study from Brazil showed that auricular acupuncture with both semi-permanent needles and with ear seeds significantly decreased anxiety levels in a group of nurses. Modern theories suggest that auricular acupuncture works by affecting the vagus nerve, which is the cranial nerve responsible for a wide range of physiological functions including breathing, digestion, speech, heart rate and much more.
Ear acupuncture became well known in the U.S. in the 1970s with the development of the National Acupuncture Detox Association (NADA), which used auricular therapy to help those struggling with addiction manage their withdrawal symptoms and cravings. The same ear points can be used for PTSD, smoking cessation, and weight loss.
Ear acupuncture is also used for anesthesia in some Chinese hospitals, and it is effective for treating pain. See Connie’s post for more information on auricular acupuncture to treat pain conditions. In short, any points on the ear that we can stimulate with acupuncture needles can also be stimulated with ear seeds. What a great way to take your treatment home with you!
Kurebayashi, L. F., Turrini, R. N., Souza, T. P., Marques, C. F., Rodrigues, R. T., & Charlesworth, K. (2017). Auriculotherapy to reduce anxiety and pain in nursing professionals: a randomized clinical trial. Revista latino-americana de enfermagem, 25, e2843. doi:10.1590/1518-8345.1761.2843
Li H, Wang Y. Effect of auricular acupuncture on gastrointestinal motility and its relationship with vagal activity. Acupuncture in Medicine 2013; 31:57-64.
Oleson TD, Kroening RJ, Bresler DE. An experimental evaluation of auricular diagnosis: the somatotopic mapping or musculoskeletal pain at ear acupuncture points. Pain. 1980 Apr;8(2):217-29.
Richards D1, Marley J. Stimulation of auricular acupuncture points in weight loss. Aust Fam Physician. 1998 Jul;27 Suppl 2:S73-7.