If the idea of laying on an exam table and getting needle-poked like a porcupine gives you the heebie jeebies but you still want to reap the benefits of acupuncture, a rising wellness trend may be for you.
The ear is a hotbed of nerves and blood vessels, making it one of the busiest and most sensitive points on the body. There are one hundred and fifty pressure points on the ear, each one corresponding to another part of the body. Ear seeding, or auriculotherapy, is the application of microscopic “seeds” to a number of pressure points on the ear, which purportedly dispatch endorphins to heal relative organs, hormones or systems.
Stephanie McGuirk of Totem Acupuncture in Prairie Village says the most common reasons her customers get ear seeds are to help with addictions, sleep, high blood pressure, stress management, nausea, detoxification and pain. She instructs customers to press the seeds like a button throughout the day to stimulate the pressure.
“Say someone is working on weight loss and they know there are certain times where they want to snack, like at night,” she says. “I’ll tell them to do their stimulation at night so they get a flow of endorphins and dopamine. Their system will get used to this, as opposed to the carbohydrates that can create the same effect.”
Acupuncturists often use silver or gold pellets or vaccaria plant seeds in ear seeding. “The vaccaria plant is in the Chinese pharmacopoeia, so it’s one of the herbs that we often use in Chinese medicine,” McGuirk says. At her practice, the tiny, uniform seeds are applied to the ear with tweezers and adhesive and typically stay put for three days to a week.
Records of auriculotherapy in Chinese medicine date as early as 100 B.C. The practice resurged in the 1970s when acupuncturists noticed how strong of a sedative effect the points on the ear had on people going through withdrawal of drugs or alcohol.
McGuirk thinks that Chinese medicine is becoming more acceptable in general, and the visibility and on-the-go nature of ear seeds is what’s making the reflexology practice more trendy.
“More and more people are using acupuncture and other supportive modalities as part of their wellness regimen,” she says. “I’ve had people that travel and get motion sickness or jet lag. They may not be able to make it in for an acupuncture appointment, but they can use their ear seeds.”
And then there are those who would rather suffer than willingly poke their skin with needles. “Those people can have non-needle treatment and still experience the benefit of Chinese medicine.”