Gosse Talks to Parade Magazine about Auriculotherapy

‘Ear Seeding’ Is All Over TikTok, and That’s Because It May Come With a Lot of Health Benefits—Here’s Everything You Need to Know

By Erica Sweeny at Parade

Whether it’s on social media or while out and about, you may have seen photos of people’s ears dotted with gold, silver, or colorful beads and wondered if it’s the latest fashion accessory. These ear seeds are actually a wellness trend, rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and they offer a range of benefits.

“Ear seeds are tiny adhesive beads on acupressure points that stimulate your brain,” says Dr. Shari Auth, DACM, LAC, LMTco-founder and chief healing officer at WTHN, a wellness brand that offers acupuncture and other treatments. “Our customers love that they can wear their wellness and feel the benefits.”

The seeds help stimulate pressure points in your ear, which can reduce stress, relieve pain, and restore hormonal balance, she explains. Ear seeds are typically worn for three to five days and then reapplied weekly.

Curious about ear seeding? You’re not alone— #earseeds videos on TikTok have been viewed nearly 90,000 times. Here’s a look at what ear seeding is, how it works, the benefits, and how to try it out.

What is ear seeding?

Ear seeding is a type of auriculotherapy, which is a micro-system in TCM that uses the ear to diagnose and treat health conditions, says Barbara Gosse, MSOM, Dipl.Ac., L.Ac., a TCM practitioner, acupuncturist, and educator at Northwestern Health Sciences University. References to the treatment date back to the earliest Chinese medicine texts from the 4th century BC.

“The basic premise of the micro-system in the ear is, the body is observed as an inverted fetus, with the head residing in the center of the ear, and the spine curved in a convex orientation on the concha wall,” Gosse explains. “It’s thought that micro-systems manifest neurological reflexes that are associated with all parts of the body.”

Ear seeds traditionally came from the vaccaria herb. The ear seeds used today are typically metal or ceramic. The seeds are placed at certain pressure points on the ear based on TCM practice and according to why someone is seeking treatment.

What are the benefits of ear seeding?

In TCM, the entire body and its systems, including the reproductive system, nervous system, digestive system, and respiratory system are imaged on the ear, so Auth says ear seeding can be used to relieve stress, decrease pain, support digestion, and improve sleep.

“The ears are a tiny map to your entire body, and can provide (non-invasive) access to address any issue that you might be having,” she says, adding that ear seeds don’t involve, unlike acupuncture, so it’s a great treatment for people with a needle phobia.

Ear seeding can also help anxiety, stress, depression, addiction, and weight loss.

“Ear seeds or beads can be used to treat many physical and emotional conditions,” Gosse says, and many have sought out the treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During these deeply stressful times, ear seeding has included treating health care workers who are overworked and exhausted,” she said. “Providing specific protocols that help reduce symptoms such as stress, insomnia, and anxiety helps calm the sympathetic nervous system and has provided a small sense of care. Ear seeds are easy to administer as well as provide great relief in the severity of symptoms experienced.”

Auth says she’s seen people show more interest in trying new, natural health solutions, like ear seeds, recently.

Are there any risks associated with ear seeding?

Ear seeds are safe overall, but Gosse says some people might have a sensitivity to the adhesive used to place the ear seeds or to the metal in the seeds themselves. If so, remove them immediately.

She also suggests removing them if you’re having an MRI or magnetic imaging procedure, though she says there’s no research suggesting that wearing ear seeds during these procedures is harmful.

The ear seeds should be removed after wearing them for three to five days, Auth says, “After longer than a week, the point can start to get desensitized and the ear seed may irritate the skin.”

How to try ear seeding

It’s a good idea to visit an acupuncturist to be evaluated for ear seeding, Gosse says, “In part, because individuals should ensure that their ear tissue is intact, as well as the placement of the seeds is accurate, and the constellation of points are appropriate for the reason the individual is seeking use.”

There are also at-home ear seeding kits, including the WTHN Ear Seed Kit, which comes with a how-to map showing the points where to apply the seeds.

“It’s important to know where to place the seeds,” Auth says, adding that she uses them on patients receiving acupuncture or cupping treatment to “extend the results of their treatment at home.”