You meditate to manage your anxiety, you take probiotics to keep your gut health in check and you foam roll to soothe sore muscles. But what if the secret to tackling all of these issues was hiding in…your ears? That’s the general idea behind ear seeds, a wellness treatment we first heard about (sorry, had to) from acupuncturist Shellie Goldstein. Since then, it’s popped up on TikTok feeds everywhere, and like you, we’ve had plenty of questions about the practice. Here’s the deal.
What Are Ear Seeds (& Do They Actually Work)?
What are ear seeds?
According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), different areas of our ears correspond to different organs and systems within the body. Stimulating these parts of the ear can treat ailments in those various organs and systems. That’s the gist of auriculotherapy, a form of TCM that’s practiced via acupuncture or ear seeds, which are tiny seeds of the vaccaria plant that are stuck onto key points of the ear using adhesive tape. Ear seeds can be left on for up to five days (you can shower and sleep as usual while wearing them), but they may fall off sooner, depending on where they’ve been placed.
Proponents believe that ear seeds can help with chronic pain—especially lower back pain—insomnia, depression, anxiety, infertility, addiction, weight loss and more.
How can I try them?
If you’re into acupuncture, some practitioners will apply ear seeds at the end of a session to prolong the effects of the treatment. If you’re more of a do-it-yourself type, many brands (like the ones at the end of this page) sell sheets of seeds attached to adhesive tape that you apply yourself at home. (Don’t worry: They also come with detailed instructions on how and where to place the stickers.) And if you’re feeling weird about wearing vaccaria seeds on your ears at work, there are also versions that use Swarovski crystals. Fancy.
Do ear seeds actually work?
The short answer is…maybe. According to a 2017 study at the University of São Paulo that sought to treat anxiety in nurses using auriculotherapy, “the best result for reducing state anxiety was produced by the auriculotherapy with needles. Similarly, in a study conducted in a university hospital, there was a greater reduction of stress by auriculotherapy with needles compared to that with seeds.” Researchers didn’t rule out auriculotherapy with seeds completely, but decided that further studies would be necessary to classify ear seeds as an effective treatment.
Still, if you’re interested in giving them a shot, here are four ear seed kits you can shop right now.