Woo Reviews: Ear Seeding – an ancient cure for anxiety?
Can tiny crystals in your ears reduce stress? One writer puts ear acupuncture, or auriculotherapy, to the test
image Franco Antonio Giovanella
words Heather Gwyther
Upon first glance, you could easily misinterpret ear seeds as something purely decorative. Once in place, they make the average ear look like the bastion of an upmarket Claire’s Accessories but, as it turns out, there’s a lot more to them than their aesthetic value.
Ear seeds are an extension of acupuncture which, if you don’t know, is a component of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Historically, they lived up to their name and were in fact actual seeds from the vaccaria plant. While they now come in all manner of materials from 24 karat gold to Swarovski crystals, their purpose remains the same: to balance qi (energy) and thus resolve an array of health problems from anxiety to chronic pain by restoring homeostasis (the body’s balancing act for creating optimal health).
A type of auriculotherapy (a form of alternative medicine which views the ear as a microsystem that reflects the entire body), ear seeds are strategically placed over certain acupressure points on the ear relating to different parts of the body. If you’re wondering how they stay put, the answer is adhesive backing. However, they’re not meant to stick around forever and will generally fall off of their own accord after about three to five days (often sooner if you wash your hair with alarming frequency). While they are in situ, massaging them gently every few hours is the key to ensuring they do what they’re supposed to: balance the corresponding organ by addressing its qi issues. Obviously, auriculotherapy – and acupuncture in general – is complex. As ear seeds’ success depends on them being put in exactly the right place for your needs, it’s best to get a professional to do it – or at least let one help you via video call.
Although scepticism towards medical treatments that divert from Western practices is common (and certainly levelled at ear seeds), there are several studies that demonstrate ear seeds’ efficacy – particularly with regards to psychological issues. For example, both applying ear seeds and massaging them once on has been shown to release endorphins to the brain and pituitary gland, making you feel “quite good actually” (as you might say in a rare moment of sincere positivity when engaging in small talk). They’re also beneficial for the neural pathways that connect the ear to the brain, which is useful for mental clarity and whatnot.
Indeed, some people even prefer to be treated with things like ear seeds rather than with more conventional solutions such as antidepressants. After all, the latter are sometimes accompanied by unwanted side effects.
Ultimately, as a non-invasive treatment, ear seeds are an accessible and safe option for people to experience acupuncture at home - no needles necessary.
Initially, the treatment takes the form of a brief therapy session covering subjects such as: My misery! My rage! My period! Being a scorpio! Then, before cleansing my ears “so that there’s no oily residue”, Sarah informs me that she’ll be using a laser. “It doesn’t hurt, it just means that actually we can penetrate deeper into the acupressure point without using a needle and then place the ear seed on top.”
As for the ear seeds themselves, I have a choice: plain gold studs or pink diamanté crystals. I opt for the latter (heaven knows why, since I am not a cast member of Euphoria)
When the laser pen is used in each ear, I don’t just feel the sensation there but throughout that entire side of my body - I fizz from forehead to foot. “That’s your qi,” Sarah explains. By the time each ear seed has been applied, I am in a state of bliss - and not just because Sarah tells me I “look lovely”.
My ear seeding experience began at the Belgravia branch of Hershesons. Yes, Hershesons as in the fancy hair salon, but with renowned cosmetic acupuncturist Sarah Bradden in the basement, it’s also somewhat of a wellness centre.
I’m there because dread drowns me. Whether I’m idling by the fridge or out with friends, I fear the worst. Anxiety is not so much something I have as something I embody. It’s in my manic walk and the tension of my jaw. As Sarah says in our session, I am “fuelled” by it. Part of a broader treatment featuring several elements intended to “give the body a bit of a reboot” and promote “glowing skin”, ear seeds offer the possibility of relief.
For me, the effects of ear seeds were immediate. When the session was complete, I felt markedly different. Upon picking up my phone to leave, it slipped from my hand onto the floor, which is definitely a metaphor for something. But the only thing that separates ‘being in a state of bliss’ from ‘being spaced out’ is the return of whatever reality you were trying to escape in the first place.
As soon as I accepted that I could not reside beneath a weighted blanket having my hand massaged in the basement of Hershesons Belgravia forever, the nice feeling faded slightly and I began to feel delirious - my voice had even transformed into a bit of a drawl.
“You’re not spaced out, you’ve just been taken out of your head a bit,” Sarah reassures me. “Now the energy’s a bit more evenly distributed rather than top-heavy,” she continues. “Enjoy it, it’s not a feeling you feel a lot.”
Either because of my mask or because I have ears like a fennec fox, one ear seed became dislodged shortly after. I endeavoured to put it back where I thought it had been and hope for the best. Later in the week, another escaped during sex. I let that one go in peace.
Out of the clinic, ear seeds are ‘activated’ with pressure. Whenever I’d get bored or angry or anxious, I’d give them a rub. Did they rid me of anxiety? Maybe. What they definitely did, however, was give me something else to focus on when something was bothering me. Here is where Traditional Chinese Medicine meets Western approaches. In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, patients will often be encouraged to adopt certain actions (such as snapping an elastic band against the wrist) that transfer difficult emotions into something felt physically in the body. As someone who dabbled in self-harm for years, I wonder if ear seeds might have stopped me reaching for sharp objects every time I felt the aches and stings of being human. Who knows, maybe it was my imbalanced qi trying to ruin my life that whole time. The bastard.
£120 for The Bradden Method Boost (which includes ear seed application)
Where to go: Available exclusively at Hershesons Belgravia, 8A West Halkin Street, London SW1X 8JE