Ear seeds. Heard of them? No? Well, we guarantee you've seen them on your socials because people are low-key obsessed with them.
Not only do they look really cool (more like fancy jewellery than a wellbeing treatment), but these tiny little metal ear seeds have been attributed to easing everything from pain to anxiety, fatigue and stress.
And did we mention how ~pretty~ they look?So, what actually are they? What do they do? How do you stick 'em? So, here's absolutely everything you need to know about ear seeds before trying them.
What exactly are ear seeds?
In short, ear seeds are like little metal (gold-plated) pellets that adhere to the ear for therapeutic benefits - and they're completely non-invasive.
Ear seeds are a form of auriculotherapy acupressure - so there are no needles involved. When applied to specific points in and around your ear, the seeds provide a continuous gentle pressure that "helps stimulate nerves.
It may surprise you to know that the use of ear seeds for acupressure is not a new obsession – it's actually something that's been around for yonks, originating from Chinese medicine.
Traditionally, they were made by the vaccaria flower seed and that would be covered by a piece of bandaid tape or some kind of adhesive. So, they were pretty ugly back in the day, but they had the same effect - the modern version is the same size as the traditional seeds and they kind of just apply this gentle pressure on your ears.
So, what do they actually ~do~?
"The traditional philosophy is that it opens up your meridians and helps promote the flow of qi (energy) throughout the body," explains Halliwell.
From a more modern scientific point of view, our ears are so highly innovative. They're connected with so many nerves. For example, our vagus nerve controls our rest-and-digest through the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).
If the above kinda went over your head (our ears control our digestion??), basically our ears are connected to a nerve called the parasympathetic branch, which calms the body. This is the opposite of the sympathetic branch - which stresses us out
What are the benefits of ear seeds?
Good question. Important question.
Ear seeds boast a whole heap of different benefits, but some of the most common are things like migraines, back pain, arthritic pain, stress and anxiety - which is something Halliwell said she experienced on the reg, before turning to ear seeds.
Ear seeds can also be used for so many other different things - from fertility to weight management and insomnia. Even libido.
As someone who suffers from migraines, Jessica Staveley from Mamamia used ear seeds to help ease the pain. "I've had them a few times during days-long migraine attacks and they definitely alleviate the pain/pressure [for me]," she said.
They don't completely get rid of the migraine obviously, but it helps a lot. And then throughout the day, you can continue to lightly press on the ear seeds to hit those pressure points!However, ear seeds aren't a cure-it-all treatment for everyone and to keep your expectations realistic. They're great for people who don't want to rely on pain killers all the time, but it's important to keep in mind that it's not going to work for everybody. After being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, Lucy Neville, who also works at Mamamia, tried ear seeds for an alternate form of pain relief.
"I was lucky enough to have Elle herself place the ear seeds on me. I have an autoimmune inflammatory disease called Palindromic Rheumatism, and at the time I visited, I was in the midst of a flare-up," she said.
"Elle explained that she could see signs of inflammation in the body on my ears, which I found so interesting because I hadn't yet informed her of my condition which is not visible to the eye in any way."
"I wore the seeds for the recommended days, and I can't say I saw an enormous relief, however, I'm very realistic in my expectations when it comes to managing a serious disease, and that to put pressure on ear seeds to relieve my pain would be fairly optimistic. I'd love to try again (not during a flare-up) and see if I feel relief from day-to-day stresses."
How do you use ear seeds?
Alrighty! When it comes to actually applying these cute little drops of gold, you can either get it done professionally or do it at home yourself.
You can go to an acupuncturist and get them to do it for you. I find a lot of people do this - they buy the ear seeds so they can take them to the acupuncturist and they'll apply them after their appointment (so it helps continue the effects of the session)
Alternatively, you can use them at home.
The great thing about being able to do them at home is that it's gentle. So you're not piercing your ear of puncturing your skin or anything - they're just stickers essentially. A little gold ball, with a sticker on top.
When it comes to applying them at home, Halliwell said you clean your ear and simply apply them with tweezers (a mirror will help, too!).
They should stay on your ear for around five days, and you simply just tear them off and dispose of them. If you want to keep doing that same protocol, all you do is get some new sides and apply them to the other ear," she said.
Is there any evidence to back up ear seeds?
While there aren’t many high-quality studies surrounding ear seeds and other forms of auriculotherapy, there is evidence out there that supports the benefits of acupuncture.
"Acupuncture is one of the most heavily researched alternative therapies out there," said Halliwell. "It's a therapy that a lot of conventional doctors and the medical community and doctors would say has shown [promising evidence] that it works."
"The funny thing is that no one knows exactly how it works, but there have been some studies that have been done that show it always seems to trump the placebo effect or sound (vibrational) acupuncture when applied."
"There are lots of studies, but there's always going to be a need for more. The problem is, the big pharmaceutical companies can't really monetise acupuncture," she explains.
So, what studies are there when it comes to ear acupuncture?
Well, in 2013 a study looked at people with chronic low back pain, concluding that seeds could help reduce pain and improve mobility. In another review in 2015, researchers found a combination of ear seeds and acupuncture worked to reduce the symptoms of insomnia. Further to this, a 2015 study found ear seeds could increase pain tolerance, while a 2016 paper from the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) in New York looked at the positive benefits of ear acupuncture in substance abuse and behavioural therapy programs.
However, it's important to keep in mind that more research still needs to be done to support the effectiveness of auricular acupuncture for many of these purposes.
"There are hundreds of years of tradition behind acupuncture and acupressure. But at the end of the day, even if it is a placebo effect for someone and it's working for them then great," said Halliwell.
"My opinion is that if there was only one therapy that would fix everyone, there would only be one on the market. So, it works for some people and it doesn't work for others. I like to be completely up front with that because I think there's a lot of misinformation and a lot of marketing around alternative therapies - and it can be confusing."
"I hope that ear seed therapy is only going to become better understood and people are going to see the benefits a bit more. Because the best thing about it is that it puts the control in your hands and you can't really get it wrong - it's such a gentle treatment."