They’re fast becoming the hottest wellness trend thanks to social media, an a-lister fan and the fact that they can help with a whole host of issues. Here’s everything you need to know about ear seeds and why you might want to give them a go.
If you haven’t heard of ear seeds before then buckle yourself in, because you’re going to be bombarded with information about them. Ear seeds - small metal half-balls, almost like ball bearings - have been used as part of traditional Chinese medicine practice for centuries but now go by the name of 'auricular acupuncture', as Chinese Medicine practitioner, Katie Brindle explains: “Carefully stimulated points on the ear have been used as part of Chinese medicine practices to enhance health and wellbeing for thousands of years. They were first mentioned in the ancient medical text, The Huangdi Neijing (The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine), in 500 BC.
Like the feet, the ear is considered to be a reflection of the whole body, with each tiny point relating to a specific area or organ, she says. Ear seeds are placed on various pressure points in the ear and have been claimed to help with all kinds of ailments and issues from insomnia and lack of focus to fertility and hormone imbalance.
And it’s perhaps unsurprising that they’re having a serious moment. After all, having a ‘curated ear’ of carefully placed piercings is the hottest way of accessorizing. It's often asked whether piercings themselves can have self-care benefits. If you want to know, can daith piercings help with headaches and migraines we've got you covered.
Unlike a piercing, ear seeds are not permanent but as many of them come in silver and gold and even coloured crystals, they can look insanely cool in your ear.
And to really seal ear seeds’ must-have status, Kendall Jenner shared (on the Kardashian-Jenner annual gift guide at poosh.com) that all she wanted for Christmas 2023 were the Wthn Silver Ear Seed Kit, £40, because “I love anything that lets me care for myself holistically, and these ear seeds have so many benefits. I also like that they’re silver and kind of look like a stud earring on”. But she's not the only a-lister ear seed fan. Kate Moss is reportedly a fan, Penelope Cruz was spotted sporting some and perhaps unsurprisingly, Gwyneth Paltrow is also partial to some ear seeding.
Oh, and did we mention that #earseeds has over 129 million views on TikTok. Told you this is a trend that you need to know about.
What are ear seeds?
“Ear seeds are a form of auriculotherapy or ear acupressure,” explains auriculotherapist Giselle Boxer and founder of ear seed brand Acuseeds. “Ear seeding is an ancient art of healing used to restore balance and well-being by applying pressure over specific points on the ear. The ear contains over 200 acupoints, each of which corresponds to different parts and organs in your body.” And while ear seeds may be new to you, they have a long-standing history. “According to traditional Chinese medicine, stimulating these points through pressure can bring balance back to qi or vital energy pathways, allowing natural healing processes to begin from within,” she continues.
Today various metals are used as ear seeds, but this has not always been the case of course. “Traditionally the dried ripe seeds of the flowering vaccaria plant were used as ear seeds. A powerful and widely used plant in Chinese medicine, vaccaria seed, or wang bu lui xing, is most associated with the stomach and liver meridians and used for harmonising the energies of the organs." Not just that, but these seeds are also built to last. "It is the robust and sustainable nature of the seeds that made them an obvious choice for auricular therapy,” explains Brindle.
Are ear seeds effective?
As with any traditional wellness practice, there are always going to be those that give it credit and those that don’t. I have personal experience with ear seeds. A few years ago I suffered a miscarriage I went to see renowned acupuncturist, John Tsagaris. I was meant to be reviewing a new acupuncture facial he had developed but after telling him what my body had just gone through he offered me some fertility acupuncture instead.
Part of his treatment was placing ear seeds in my ears. He used a small metal wand to press on various spots in my ear. He asked me to say when I felt a sharp stabbing sensation from the wand, as these tender spots were where would place an ear seed. After what felt like quite a long time of what just felt like dull prodding - no stabbing sensations and I thought I was going to have to lie, it happened. I could have sworn he had pierced my skin, but he hadn’t.
I had five sensations like that, three in one ear and two in the other. He placed an ear seed on each point and I was instructed to press down on each one with my fingers for a few seconds a couple of times every day until they fell off. The following month, I fell pregnant with my daughter. Who knows if it was the ear seeds, who knows if it was the acupuncture? But the ear seeds made me feel as though I was actively doing something to help my body, and mind, recover from something awful. There was value in that for me.
Brindle has important advice if you want to turn to ear seeds for anything related to pregnancy or breastfeeding. “It is important to seek the guidance of a qualified practitioner before using ear seeds if you are pregnant, trying to conceive or breastfeeding. This is because there are certain acupoints on the ear that may be contraindicated. If in doubt, avoid using ear seeds until another time.”
What are the benefits of ear seeds?
There are many other reasons why you might turn to ear seeds. “Although there is currently limited research to categorically prove the efficacy of ear seeds and auricular therapy, anecdotally the practice has been widely lauded, with advocates reporting that symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, weight issues, grief, headaches, depression, chronic pain and even infertility have been greatly improved,” says Brindle.
“Interestingly, the very shape of the auricle, the outside of the ear, is reminiscent of the Kidney – the Root of Life, or an inverted foetus in the womb where the lobe would relate to the head and upper body, the middle area of the ear representing the abdomen and torso, and the upper ear relating to the lower areas of the body. Certainly, with more than 100 acupressure points on the ear area, the practice will beneficially support all the key meridians of the body – paramount for good health and wellbeing,” she explains.
"There is a particular point which is excellent for coping with overwhelm," adds ear seed expert, Sarah Bradden. "The brain point is on the upper section of your earlobe and it really helps with aid the 'filing cabinet' of the brain so when we have too much to do and feel like we can't manage, applying some pressure to an ear seed on that position will help bring some clarity."
How long can you keep ear seeds in?
Ear seeds will naturally fall off after a few days so they are not a permanent fixture in your ear. Brindle has a word of warning if you are removing ear seeds yourself. “It is a good idea to hold your head so that your ear is facing the ground, just to make sure that it doesn’t drop into the ear itself. Although you can reapply fresh seeds straight away, it is advisable to have a day off and give your ears a rest so that any minor skin irritation or sensitivity to the adhesive can have a chance to calm down.”
What do you do once your ear seeds are in?
"You can then gently rub the seeds in a circular motion to stimulate the targeted area - this can be done up to five times a day for a minute at a time,” explains Brindle. “Although it might be tempting to continually rub the seeds, it is important to avoid overstimulation as this may make you feel unwell or cause soreness, irritation or redness to the ear skin.”
Do ear seeds pierce the skin?
No, they are stuck onto the skin. Most ear seeds come with self-adhesive tape on the flat side so that they stick directly onto the skin. There are also some that you apply tape over the top of as well.
Which ear do you put ear seeds in?
Both! Placement of ear seeds is what is more crucial and whilst you may think they would be tricky to do yourself. “It's super easy to apply ear seeds on yourself,” says Boxer. “Studying your ears is probably something you've never done before, so applying the first couple of times might be tricky. But once you're comfortable with the shape of your ear, as long as you have a pair of tweezers and a freestanding mirror, you'll be fine! The acupressure points are actually slightly bigger than you think, so it's quite hard to get the placement wrong.”
Ear seed kits
Containing 20 ear seeds as well as instructions and eight ear maps to show you where to place the seeds for various different issues. You can also sign up for a monthly subscription service.
This kit has a slightly more targeted approach, there are also Relief, Happy and Calm packs you can choose from and comes with 20 seeds along with a map specifically to help you find the points in your ears to aid digestive health and seasonal and skin allergies.
Wthn Ear Seeding Kit, £40
From the brand that Kendall Jenner favours is this set that has both gold as well as coloured crystal ear seeds as well as tweezers to help apply them.