While most people associate acupuncture only with needles, there is actually a lot more to this medicine.  Acupuncture in just one component of the larger East Asian Medical system.  Ear seeds, for example, are a popular form of herbal treatment, which gently press on acupuncture points versus needle insertion.  The usual response I get when I mention “ear seeds” is a look of bewilderment, because putting seeds in someone’s ear sounds really odd until they understand what it’s all about.

Vaccaria seeds (Latin name: Semen Vaccariae; Chinese name: wang bu liu xing) are commonly referred to as “ear seeds”.  The seeds, gently pressed against the skin by a very small bandage adhesive, stay particularly well on the ear for up to 5 days or as long as the tape remains sticky. Magnets, other metals and even crystals are sometimes used instead of the seed. This makes them a versatile and minimally visible way of extending treatment beyond a visit to your acupuncturist.

The use of ear seeds is part of a system known as auriculotherapy.  Auriculotherapy is the process of stimulating acupuncture points on the ear. This involves acupuncture needles, electrical stimulation or acupressure from the fingers or ear seeds.  A French Doctor named Paul Nogier popularized auriculotherapy in the 1950’s. Dr. Nogier was able to show how the external ear contains a microsystem of the human body by mapping the anatomy of an inverted fetus to the ear. Acupuncture points on the ear can actually treat different parts of the body. For example, the baby’s head corresponds to the ear lobe, the baby’s back goes up the outside of the ear, and the baby’s feet are mapped to the top of the ear. There are hundreds of points on the ear that correspond to different points on the body. These points connect to nerve endings in the ear that send a signal to the brain. The brain sends a message to the area of the body in need of treatment.

Because the ear contains a microcosm of the body, virtually any issue someone is facing can be supported with ear seeds. This includes conditions like pain, stress, trauma, addiction and emotional issues. They are safe for anyone over the age of three.

Ear seeds can really enhance an acupuncture treatment. The patient leaves the office with ear seeds in their ears and this supplements the therapy in between office visits. Patients can choose to leave the ear seeds alone or give them a gentle squeeze whenever needed to further activate the point. Ear seeds give patients something to do, especially when they are applied to help with stress and anxiety.

In East Asian Medicine, your health depends on the flow of qi (energy) in your body. This energy travels along pathways called meridians or channels that are all named for the internal organs they connect to. These channels are found throughout your body, including your ears. Seeds are placed on certain points proven to balance hormones, calm the nervous system and clear stagnation in the affected channels. Resolving stagnation in these channels can help with a variety of health conditions.

It is believed that massaging the seeds improves peripheral blood circulation by delivering more oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. This stimulated relaxation allows the body to digest food properly, think clearly, adjust to stressful environments, sleep soundly and naturally resolve inflammation.

Ear seeds are a great option for people who are afraid of needles. They are affordable, very easy to use, and extremely effective.  If you have questions about ear seeds or are already a patient and would like them applied, please contact me.

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