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Why acupuncture ear seeds are great for people with anxiety

You’ve probably heard about acupuncture. The ancient Chinese medicine practice involves using needles to pierce the skin to heal aches and pains — and not just the physical kind. Studies show it can aid in stress and anxiety reduction.

Recently, you may have started seeing photos and videos of the latest wellness and acupuncture trend: ear seeds. They look more like a social media-friendly fashion statement than a self-care technique. The tiny, metallic balls go around a person’s ear and could double as a pretty constellation of earrings. However, people swear they’re helping reduce anxiety, much like traditional acupuncture. So, how do these seeds work? More importantly, do they work? Let’s explore what we do and don’t know about this buzz-worthy treatment.

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a woman with blonde hair displaying acupuncture ear seeds

How acupuncture ear seeds work

These seeds use the same principles as traditional acupuncture, and more specifically, auricular acupuncture. Auricular acupuncture applies pressure to certain points on the ear. The thought you can relieve symptoms in another part of the body by stimulating specific points within the ear. The seeds attach to certain parts of the ear with adhesive and stay on for about three to five days. After that, you can dispose of them and reapply new ones. While there, they help improve the flow of qi (or energy) throughout your body, reducing anything from chronic pain to providing stress relief in the process.

Can they really help treat anxiety?

Though there are studies on acupuncture and stress relief in general, the research on these tiny (but reportedly mighty) seeds and anxiety is still limited. However, there have been some promising reports that indicate it might be helpful for people with anxiety. In April of 2015, a small study of 150 people with hypertension published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine found that people who received auricular acupressure saw improvements in their mental health and quality of life. However, the researchers didn’t specify if they used ear seeds. A review of 15 studies also indicated that seeds attachment helped with insomnia, which is a common symptom associated with anxiety. At least anecdotally, some people have mentioned it’s helped them.

There doesn’t appear to be much harm in trying them, though you should consult with your doctor, particularly if you have an allergy to adhesive tape, get frequent dizzy spells, or are pregnant or trying to conceive.

woman with acupuncture ear seeds in. the adhesive is still on the seed.
Tatiane Silva/Shutterstock

Big pro: This is a DIY treatment

Though we can’t say for sure that these seeds will help your anxiety, there’s no denying that they are convenient and accessible. You can apply them in the comfort of your own home and whenever you have time. For some people, this ease of use makes them at least worth a try for anxiety treatment. If you’re on board, here’s how to do it:

1. Ensure your ears are clean and dry. Use lukewarm water to rinse the ear and dry thoroughly with a towel. Taking this step will help the adhesive tape stay on.

2. Pick your points. Though you can put ear seeds in both ears, some practitioners suggest putting them in the ear that corresponds with your dominant hand when trying to gain mental health benefits. If you’re left-handed, you might experiment with only trying seeds in your left ear. Sometimes, your ear seeds will come with a specific chart highlighting recommended points to try. If they do not, consider consulting with a professional acupuncturist for the most benefits.

3. Grab some tweezers. These seeds are small, and touching the adhesion can reduce their stickiness. Use tweezers to remove the back of the adhesion and place them on your chosen points. Press down firmly to help them stick.

5. Massage daily. Massage gently in a circular motion for about one to three minutes each day until the seeds eventually fall off. You can do this once per day or when you are feeling anxious.

6. Remove. If they haven’t fallen off on their own after five days, remove the seeds with tweezers.

7. Repeat. If you find these seeds work for you, you can put new ones in after a day or two.

Struggling with stress and anxiety is complex, and it’s understandable to want to seek out and research a variety of treatment methods. Traditional acupuncture has been something people have used to treat anxiety for years. These days, it’s become seemingly more accessible with a new trend: Acupuncture ear seeds. Though the concept is similar — apply pressure to certain points to relieve physical and mental stress — the research on these seeds is limited. Nevertheless, some people swear it’s helping treat their anxiety, and there’s likely no harm in giving it a shot. The bottom line? If it works for you, great. If it doesn’t, know you don’t have to live with untreated anxiety. There are many other ways to cope, heal, and manage symptoms, including speaking with a therapist, yoga, or meditation.

BlissMark provides information regarding health, wellness, and beauty. The information within this article is not intended to be medical advice. Before starting any diet or exercise routine, consult your physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician, the United States Health & Human Services department has a free online tool that can help you locate a clinic in your area. We are not medical professionals, have not verified or vetted any programs, and in no way intend our content to be anything more than informative and inspiring.

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