Dr. Melissa Carr BSc (Kines), DrTCM, RAcAcupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine

If you look really closely, you may notice a friend, family member, or celebrity wearing little stickers on their ears. The stickers aren’t very visible, so look closely. Penelope Cruz and Matt Damon have both been photographed wearing ear seeds, but many others have probably been wearing them, and just covering them up with a nicely styled hairdo.

Ear seeds and ear needles are also known as a therapy called auriculotherapy. Though some of the principles of auriculotherapy have been present for centuries, the theory and development of the practice began in France during the 1950s by a western medical doctor, Dr. Paul Nogier. After careful observance, study, and trial, he developed a map on the ear—a map representing the whole human body.

Picture how you start your life, upside-down in fetal position, as you are about to be born (ideally, anyway). Now place an image of that soon to be born baby over the image of an ear. This map forms the basis of placement for either needles or press points for auriculotherapy.

Image from http://auriculotherapy.info

Image from http://auriculotherapy.info

What happens with auriculotherapy treatment?
Of course, the most important part about using any form of treatment is a proper assessment. Though I may simply choose the anatomical point related to your key symptoms—e.g. neck point to treat neck pain, stomach and/or intestines points for digestive issues, or eye point for vision issues—I would also do an evaluation to consider not just the symptoms, but also the root cause.

Once I know what points to choose, I have to choose my treatment method. Are needles the best option? Are press seeds a better choice? Should I combine it with body acupuncture, Chinese herbs, supplements, biopuncture therapy, and/or nutritional suggestions? What I love about auriculotherapy is that it’s treatment to go. Once I complete a treatment session, I can send patients home with these little wearable health tools to extend the health benefits.

Sometimes, especially for those who are sensitive to stronger treatments or who are afraid of needles, ear seeds can be my full treatment.

For ear needles, they are (of course) removed before you leave the treatment room. But for ear seeds or press needles, you’re instructed to wear them for at least a few days, up to a week. You could wear them longer, but I find the benefits start to fade. Press on the points either when you feel you need them or at least a few times a day. For example, press points for suppressing cravings can be pressed when you feel temptation rising.

What does auriculotherapy treat?
A wide variety of conditions can be addressed with this treatment form, from pain to digestive issues to hormonal imbalance, and more. The most common things treated with ear needles or ear press points are addictions, cravings, PTSD, stress, and anxiety.

The Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Northern Washington has used it to treat PTSD, helping to reduce the suicide rate and address insomnia, nightmares, and pain. Studies have been done to verify the benefits of ear acupuncture for treating addictions, including these studies on smoking addiction, cocaine addiction, and alcohol addiction. Other studies have investigated the use of auriculotherapy for addressing anxiety, including pre-operative anxiety and general anxiety.

For a quick video about auriculotherapy, check out this episode of The Doctors.

I may also recommend ear seeds to be worn for a nervous flier, anxious public speaker, or twitchy test taker. They are also great for general stress management support.

A fashionable option
Maybe you like your ear seeds hidden. That’s okay, I still do those. I’ve used discreet-looking ear seeds for a long time.

But if you want an ear seed you’ll wish to show off, these Swarovski crystal ear seeds come in clear or colours. And, instead of an actual seed, these fancy doodads have a 24K gold little ball as a pressure point.

A quick auriculotherapy story
My husband recently had a tooth extracted, and just this past month had the starting preparation for a tooth implant. Of course it didn’t hurt during the procedure because of the local anaesthetic that was injected. However, it’s normal for pain and swelling to occur after the anaesthetic wears off. The thing is, I don’t want him to use ibuprofen because I don’t want to suppress the inflammatory response that’s part of the healing process.

Because I was prepping this article, I thought to try the point “anaesthetic point for tooth extraction (upper).” I used a little press needle (I have both needle and seed press stickers) on each ear. It pinched a bit at first and if he presses on it, but it’s otherwise comfortable—and more importantly, it’s helping. Unfortunately, he’s still on soft foods for a bit, but at least his swelling is minimal and his pain is better managed.

Try it for yourself
If you want to try auriculotherapy, I can include it at the end of your regular acupuncture treatment or Traditional Chinese Medicine consultation. Just let me know, bling or no bling.

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