Could ear seeds help with anxiety?
Anxiety – as sufferers will know – can be debilitating. Physical symptoms include hyperventilation, nausea, choking sensation and palpitations, according to Anxiety UK, and in 2016, the charity found that anxiety affects around five people in every 100. So coping mechanisms can be really beneficial. Are ear seeds a good option? We asked the experts…
What are ear seeds?
A good question.
Kate Freemantle is an acupuncturist, herbalist and reiki practitioner.
“Ear seeds are small round metal pellets or natural vaccaria seeds (from the vaccaria plant) that are placed on acupressure points in the ear and fixed with a piece of adhesive tape. They create a little bit of pressure on the acupressure points to stimulate them at all times but if you press them you can create an extra boost of stimulation,” she says.
It’s essentially acupuncture for the ear, which is called auricolotherapy. The seeds work by stimulating specific pressure points, like acupuncture. They can redirect and change flow of energy, or qi as it’s called in Chinese medicine. Ear seeds are carefully paced along the pathways this energy flows on, which are called meridian lines. There, they work to clear up blockages.
They should be applied by a trained practitioner on the outside of your ears, and should be removed and reapplied after three to five days.
What do they look like?
Pretty, actually, like little gold stud earrings.
Why is the ear so important?
You can tell a lot about the body from the ear, apparently – certain ear points correspond to certain parts of the body, so it’s like its own microsystem.
Gerad Kite is a top acupuncturist who trains students in it, too. “In Chinese medicine the ears are particularly important in that they are the sense organs that ensure our survival. Hearing for danger (even when we’re sleeping) keeps us safe but they are also associated with the two kidneys that govern the balance of water in our body – also essential to keep us strong and well.”
He goes on, “the shape of the ears is the same as the developing embryo – a microcosm of the whole body (the earlobe being the head and the curled spine the edge of the ear winding back). The ears therefore have a direct connection with the organs of the body and how they work to balance each other. All of the internal organs are represented by points on the ear that match the shape of the body. By stimulating certain points with ear seeds or fine (drawing pin like) needles we can stimulate those organs and restore the natural balance.”
Where EXACTLY on the ear?
There are lots (like, hundreds) of available acupuncture points in the ear, and a few are particularly beneficial. Sanae Baba is an acupuncturist at Cloud Twelve. “When you place a seed on that part of the ear and apply slight pressure or massage the area, usually with just the fingertips, you can affect the corresponding part of the body,” she says.
She goes on, “usually you use the ear point call Shen Men (神門)which corresponds to the heart in the body. It has benefit for a calm mind, to reduce pain, and to help regulate the sympathetic nervous system. Auricular (Ear) Acupressure has been shown to lower cortisol levels in the body which in turn decreases stress and inflammation.”
Are there any downsides?
“In all my years of treating with ear seeds I have never had any issues with patients. I would just make sure that before you use them you get help from a trained practitioner as to where the seeds should be positioned specifically for your energy, ailments and concerns,” Kate says.
What else can ear seeds be used for?
“They have also been used extensively by the National Association of Drug Addiction (NADA) to help alleviate the side effects of coming off drugs. In addition, there is a method called ‘Battlefield acupuncture’ which uses points to alleviate pain following acute physical trauma,” Kate says.
Does it work?
Always remember that acupuncture should be used holistically and as part of a treatment. It’s not necessarily going to ‘cure’ anything alone or overnight. But it can certainly be a useful aide and as a non-invasive therapy, “it’s great for people who are not comfortable with needles or who have an actual fear of the needles used in acupuncture,” Sanae says.
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