Ear Seeds: What to Know

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on June 21, 2021

What Are Ear Seeds?

Ear seeds are seeds placed on your ear to serve as tiny acupressure devices. They’re a type of auriculotherapy, a traditional Chinese medicine technique that focuses on areas in your ear. They're thought to promote comfort and relaxation. People may use them to help with pain, insomnia, substance abuse, and mental issues ranging from anxiety to grief.

These seeds traditionally come from an herb called vaccaria but can also be made of ceramic or metal. They're placed on the outside of your ear over certain acupuncture points. They’re usually held in place by waterproof tape and stay on your ears for up to a week.

Ear seeds are safe for just about anyone, although it's always a good idea to tell your doctor about any alternative treatments you try. Some people use ear seeds along with acupuncture treatments. They may help the effects of acupuncture last longer between sessions.

How Ear Seeds Work

After cleaning your ear with an alcohol swab, a practitioner places the seeds on the outside portion of your ear. It doesn’t hurt, but you may feel some tenderness or warmth.

Once they're in place, you massage them two to three times a day. To do this, apply gentle pressure to the seeds and move them in small circles.

Auriculotherapy is meant to promote the release of natural endorphins, "feel-good" chemicals in your body. Experts don’t fully understand why or how ear acupuncture or acupressure may help with certain conditions. But there's some evidence that auriculotherapy can relieve symptoms.

In one small study, researchers found that ear seeds made people more tolerant of pain. We need much more research, but these findings suggest that ear seeds might help people better deal with chronic pain.

Health Benefits of Ear Seeds

While they can't cure chronic pain or other conditions, ear seeds may be a helpful addition to your medical treatment. There aren't many studies of auriculotherapy. But it might help with:

Risks of Ear Seeds

They don't have any known serious side effects. But you might have minor symptoms after you use ear seeds. They include:

  • Discomfort or skin irritation around the seeds
  • Minor bleeding
  • Dizziness
  • Infection
  • Sleepiness

If you have a latex allergy or sensitivity, ask your practitioner to use latex-free tape to secure your ear seeds.

Show Sources


Duke University School of Medicine: “Drive-through help for anxiety.”

Kent Community Health: “Acupuncture and Auriculotherapy for chronic pain.”

Yale School of Medicine: “Ear Acupuncture: A Tool for Recovery.”

Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: “Auricular Acupressure Can Modulate Pain Threshold,” “A Randomized Clinical Trial of Auricular Point Acupressure for Chronic Low Back Pain: A Feasibility Study,” “Adverse Events of Auricular Therapy: A Systematic Review.”

Johns Hopkins Nursing: “All Ears: Seeds of Breakthrough on Chemo Side Effect.”

BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine: “Auricular acupuncture with seed or pellet attachments for primary insomnia: a systematic review and meta-analysis.”

Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing: “Effects of Auricular Acupressure on Obesity in Women with Abdominal Obesity.”

Lakewood Community Acupuncture: “What are Ear Seeds & How Can They Help.”

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