Ever see a friend or coworker walking around with what looks like tiny pieces of tape inside their ears? They may be covering up a regrettable piercing, or they could be enjoying the health benefits of auricular acupuncture or acupressure with the use of ear seeds!
Auricular, (ear), acupuncture is a diagnostic and treatment method using the ear as a microcosm for the body, similar to reflexology of the hands or feet. That means that the whole of the body is represented on different parts of the ear. Auricular acupuncture is credited to Paul Nogier, the father of modern ear acupuncture, and dates back to 1950, although there is some evidence that it may go back to the origins of acupuncture over 2000 years ago.
The diagrams showing ear acupuncture points sometimes show an upside down body of a newborn child, as this is where many of the points on the ear will correlate to the body (of an adult of course). For example, the ear lobe is where the eye and mouth points are and the points that connect to the feet or ankle are closer to the top of the ear.
A licensed acupuncturist may look at the ear and see discolorations or irregularities on the ear that can help them to diagnose the etiology of pathology. Auricular points can also be stimulated with needles or “ear seeds” to treat pain anywhere in the body or for internal organ imbalances. Ear acupuncture is often used to help alleviete anxiety and stress, in the treatment of infertility and even for addiction or smoking cessation. Often auricular acupuncture is the primary form of acupuncture used by acupuncturists volunteering in disaster relief settings to help people cope with the stress of the devastation.
During an acupuncture session I will sometimes use short and very fine needles in the ear to stimulate certain points, then remove them at the end of the session. Other times, I like to leave a patient with “ear seeds”, those small pieces of tape I mentioned before. “Ear seeds” are often Vaccaria plant seeds that are attached to a very small, sterile piece of surgical tape. When a patient presses on the tape covering the seed, it stimulates the point.
These seeds can be left in place for a few days, or up to a week. Of course you should remove them if they start to feel painful or cause skin irritation. Sometimes they will fall out on their own. I like to call leaving ear seeds in the ears DIY acupressure, because the patient can stimulate the seeds themselves whenever they feel like they need a little stress relief or healing!