Ear seeding is the two thousand years-old practice of gluing seeds of the Vaccaria plant on specific areas in the inner and outer of your ear. The majority of practitioners today use tiny metal beads that are attached to sticky stickers. The Chinese therapy, officially called auricular pressure, is essentially acupuncture without needles. This is a benefit as it allows people to perform the treatment at home. It’s built on the meridians (or channels) system within the body that functions like an energy highway. Many cultures believe that the life force that flows through these channels, also known as Qi (pronounced “chee”) and is the one responsible for the function of your physical and emotional health.

Although you may dismiss this as a typical health trend, numerous studies show that ear-seeding can reduce the intensity of pain and improve the quality of life and decrease the use of opioids and pain medication in people suffering from various ailments such as cancer-related fatigue knee osteoarthritis and nausea, insomnia, anxiety constipation, constant headaches and brain injuries and many more.

Acupuncture of the ear (which is focused on the same areas as the acupressure) has been shown to cause the brain to alter its activity offering proof of the “body-ear-brain somatotopical link,” as per at least two studies using the functional magnet resonance technique.

From a Western medical view, these brain changes could alter the way your central nervous system handles pain, and trigger the release of natural endorphins for pain relief. This theory is built on the theory of gate control that states that applying pressure at specific points transmits “pleasurable signals into the brain four times higher than pain-inducing stimuli.”

As a health journalist, I embarked on my own journey to find ear seeds with a lot of doubt. When I began to study the literature I was pleasantly surprised to see a handful of warning signs and some encouraging results. Although the majority of studies on auricular pressure are clinical trials controlled by randomization that are considered to be considered to be the “gold gold” of research design in science and involve tiny samples. They do, however, contain control groups who underwent “sham” treatments, but exclude those who have received other treatments to evaluate ear seeding’s effect in pain relief.

The evidence for the mechanisms of the treatments and their advantages isn’t yet clear as per Gudrun Snyder. She holds completed a doctorate in acupuncture. She also runs Moon Rabbit, a Chicago-based clinic that provides Eastern treatment options and kits for ear seeds. There are fewer studies on the topic of ear seeding due Western medicine’s inability to accept it, and a lot of studies are been translated to English, Snyder told me.

Social media is altering that. The hashtag #earseeds is gaining 13 million visits on TikTok which allows users to record their experiences getting seeds planted by professional experts, and record them adhering them to their homes.

“Acupuncture and Acupressure are getting more popular, and as a result, more research studies are being conducted to prove the validity of our treatment,” Snyder said. “Only today, thanks to social media do people come to my clinic and asking for ear buds and also wanting to learn about the benefits of science.”

I sought out I asked Dr. Ellen Rosenquist, a doctor who specializes in the field of pain treatment at Cleveland Clinic, for her opinions on the topic of ear seeding. She stated that they would suggest it to patients with the majority of painful conditions.

“Because the whole body is located in the ear, any discomfort can be treated with the auricular acupuncture point,” Rosenquist wrote in an email. “Ear seeding is as effective as traditional acupuncture but might be a better choice in certain circumstances.”

Rosenquist stated that this kind of treatment, based on the specific condition and the condition involved, must “absolutely” take into consideration prior to more invasive procedures or ones which have more negative side consequences.

My ear-seeding treatment worked to treat back discomfort.

I’ve been suffering from an lower back injury since the beginning of December. It is preventing me from sitting too long and exercising to the best of my capacities, and even sometimes doing dishes without feeling a dull, painful discomfort.

I was offered the ear seeds to test, however they typically cost around $45 for a set that contains about 40 seeds as well as an ear Tweezers. Prior to my first session treatments, I consulted the map of ear seeds to determine where I should put them. I then cleansed my ears using alcohol. I placed an ear seed at the level which corresponds to my lower back on both of my ears along with points for focus and stress which totaled six seeds. (Stimulating one point will not reverse the effects of the other, even if they’re located near each other.) I then put the seeds with my fingers for approximately 30 minutes.

In just five minutes, my ear syringes intended to treat lower back pain began to become extremely sensitive, akin to the sensation of a freshly cut. When I accidentally struck one while changing my hair , or swapping clothes the discomfort was…bad this meant that listening to music and sleeping felt extremely uncomfortable.

I battled through the pain for two more days , until I was forced to take them off. My ears were too sensitive. Even smiling can cause pain. Other spots on my ear were numb but easily manageable. Then, to my delight the seeds didn’t lose their elasticity no matter how clean my hair was, working out and resting on them.

Snyder claimed that my experience was normal , and an sign the fact that my back is in pain to a certain extent. “The places we need to be the most will be the most uncomfortable and often we’ll become worse before getting better on our healing process,” she said.

In a study from 2013 an academic team from University of Pittsburgh. University of Pittsburgh tested a four-week treatment for ear seeding on 19 patients (10 in the group that was experimental and 9 in the uncontrolled group) suffering from back pain that was chronic. back pain. The study found that patients who had the treatment experienced 70% less the intensity of pain that was the most severe as well as a 75% decrease in pain intensity overall. These improvements lasted until you returned after a one month follow-up. However, participants who were in the sham group experienced an improvement of 18% in the worst pain and a 29% less intensity of pain. Participants from both groups complained of the ear becoming sensitive and sore, along with the itchiness and difficulty sleeping but they claimed that the discomfort was bearable when compared to back discomfort.

To be truthful, it was difficult to determine if the ear seeds actually helped. I’m also receiving acupuncture treatments as well as physical therapy two times every week and daily stretching for the entire body. But I think the seeds might help reduce the fatigue and soreness I normally feel following the acupuncture or exercise session even though I wasn’t feeling immediately pain relief when I attached the seeds. Regarding my stress levels and concentration I didn’t notice any significant change, even though I don’t typically have any problems with this.

Ear seedings are considered to be an accessory treatment, which means they’re best utilized in conjunction with other treatments. But, Snyder said they may provide benefits on their own: “Ear seeds are a gentle contact,” she said. “If you’re suffering from persistent pain or have difficulty sleeping for long periods of time it could be that ear seeding can aid however I’d suggest exploring other options since they won’t solve a problem that is deeply rooted.”

After a break of two days I applied fresh seeds to the same spots. In a matter of minutes, the painful sensitization on my ears resurfaced, but I was in my ability to manage the issue. I’ve worn these for the past four days and the pain has decreased as time passes (although sleeping can be uncomfortable). There hasn’t been any changes regarding my lower back discomfort, however it’s possible that I’ll need to spend more time to work with the seeds.

Certain studies have shown that individuals are able to notice pain relief within one to two minutes after applying ear seeds. However, Snyder stated that some people might require two weeks or more for a noticeable change to be felt. “Use them for as long or as small as you’re comfortable. It’s possible to rest to avoid excessive stimulation, but every person has their own preferences,” she said.

Ear seeds, for majority of the time, are simple to apply and allergic reactions are not common. If they are applied incorrectly, it will not cause injury or at the very least, one might experience reactions to adhesives or the metal inside the seed. Additionally, nearly anyone can use these seeds.

There is always a chance to make exceptions.

For instance, I glued extra seeds to random places on my ear, just to make it look cute (some seeds have Swarovski crystals on the top to make they appear similar to earrings). Then, shortly afterward, I began experiencing cramps that resembled menstrual cramps. I didn’t have any menstrual cycles or ovulations however, and cramps aren’t a typical symptoms for me at all. I didn’t think to put the blame on seeds, until later in the evening, when the cramps grew more intense. To test my curiosity I rechecked the point I had placed the seeds on and found that it was in the uterus. The seeds were removed and, within 5 minutes, the cramping stopped and did not return.

Snyder explained that putting earseeds on various points could result in “unintended adverse consequences. However, the probability of experiencing such a strong reaction is very low. The small amount of stimulus given to the ear is the only way to trigger a low-level response.”

Perhaps I could have imagined all this? A lot of people believe that the benefits of traditional Chinese treatments are based on”the placebo effect. If I asked my physician for his thoughts on acupuncture, his response was that the only pain relief I might experience is likely to be “in my mind.” (In actual the acupuncture treatment has been the only remedy that has provided me with enough relief that I can complete daily chores without discomfort.) However, not all doctors agree. Rosenquist stated that she doesn’t think the”placebo effect” is why why some patients feel more relaxed after having ear Acupressure.

If it doesn’t, Snyder said, it can’t hurt to try it considering how costly medical care has turned out to be. “If it’s affordable and something you like and has minimal to negative side consequences, why not try it if it helps make your pain lessen? If it’s a placebo effect or a real scientific mechanism, I believe this is worth the effort.” (Although Snyder doesn’t believe that the placebo effect plays a role as well.)

The term “placebo” used to have an unfavorable image however, Western medical practices are becoming more open to the idea, Snyder said. It is being recognized as a highly effective treatment of its own and demonstrates the importance of the body-mind connection.

As a person who is driven by science and has moderate anxiety about health I’m always willing look into less-invasive options prior to more invasive drugs or injections that may cause unwanted adverse consequences. (My doctor advised me to have a shot of steroid in my spine and was proven by research to offer pain relief, but no thank you!) It’s not common that any treatment can provide quick pain relief, so my disappointing experience with ear seeding will not hinder me from trying it repeatedly and for longer durations of time.

If you’re looking to test these out to help with pain relief or any other reason, here’s a few ear seeding suggestions:

  • It was hard to see in my ear as I applied the seeds, which is why I suggest having someone else apply them to your ear to ensure they are placed correctly. You could also employ a professional to apply the seeds.
  • Be aware that you only get what you get for your money, Snyder said. Ear salves that appear to be less expensive than others may contain less durable adhesives or fake metals that could cause irritation to the skin.
  • Consider ear seeding for at least a month in order to see if they can help you. You should take breaks between treatments in case you feel that the points of pressure are stressed.