What if the secret to curing all of your ailments and jumpstarting weight loss 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. Here’s the deal.
OK, 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 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 on the ear using adhesive tape. Ear seeds can be left on for up to five days (you can shower and sleep as usual), but they may fall off sooner, depending on where they’ve been placed.
So why do people use them? Proponents believe that ear seeds can reduce headaches and back pain, as well as treat addiction and prevent cravings (it’s sometimes used as a weight-loss tool, too).
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, companies like Ear Seeds 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’s also a version—available from Ear Seeds and at practices like True Health & Fitness) that uses Swarovski crystals.
So do they 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.
Until then, we’ll probably just stick to acupuncture.