How to use ear seeds for sleep, calm and so much more

The ancient practice of using ear seeds can have a range of benefits, from helping with sleep issues to reducing stress and anxiety

Wooness - using ear seeds
photo: Miguel Tovar / Getty
Wooness - using ear seeds
photo: Miguel Tovar / Getty

The ancient practice of using ear seeds can have a range of benefits, from helping with sleep issues to reducing stress and anxiety

By Sophie Lou Wilson25 Jan 2023
5 mins read time
5 mins read time

Sleep is pretty important for our overall health and wellbeing. Yet studies show that up to 1 in 3 adults aren’t getting enough of it. Perhaps you can’t wait to get back into bed, but once you do, you find that stress and racing thoughts keep you awake. If you’re at a loose end or fancy trying a different approach to getting a good night’s sleep, ear seeds might be just what you’ve been looking for. Ear seeds are a Traditional Chinese Medicine practice that promote a wide range of benefits, including getting a better night’s sleep. If you’re wondering how to use ear seeds for sleep, calm and so much more, read on.

What are ear seeds?

Ear seeds became popular on TikTok last year with the hashtag #earseeds amassing more than 100 million views, but what actually are they?

Ear seeds are a kind of auricular acupuncture used to stimulate pressure points in your ear. This is a Traditional Chinese Medicine practice dating back to 221 B.C. Traditionally, ear seeds are plant-based vaccaria seeds attached to small square plasters, but gold and crystal ear seeds are also popular today for their aesthetic.

UK-based Traditional Chinese Medicine acupuncturist and founder of AcuPips, Zoe Young, describes them as “a needle-free alternative to acupuncture.” They were developed based on the Chinese meridian energy system known as qi.

“The ear is a microcosm of the body and is the shape of an upside down baby,” Young says, “so the theory is that whatever you can treat on the body using Chinese medicine, you can treat the same on the ear.” They can be used alone or combined with traditional acupuncture to prolong its positive effects.

How do ear seeds work?

The aim of ear seeds is to offer a natural way to reduce stress and anxiety, manage chronic pain and improve sleep. They sit on specific pressure points on the outside of the ear, such as the ear lobe or antihelix.

The pressure points they are applied to depend on the benefits you are seeking, such as headache relief, better sleep or stress and anxiety. When massaged gently, these pressure points can stimulate the nervous system and endorphins to bring balance to the body. You can apply them yourself at home, but it’s important to always follow the advice and instructions. Ear seeds are not advised for anyone with a latex allergy and consulting your doctor before use is advised during pregnancy.

According to Young, “Ear seeds offer a huge amount of health and wellness benefits. The ear seed combinations I’ve used in clinic for stress and anxiety have helped many young people manage their mental health. Many report feeling an instant calm feeling wash over them with the application of ear seeds.”

How to use ear seeds

To use ear seeds at home, start by thoroughly cleaning your ear with a cleanser or alcohol wipes so it’s free from natural oils. Using the tweezers provided, carefully peel the ear seed from its casing. Place the ear seed on the correct pressure points using the instructions provided and make sure you don’t put them too close to the ear canal. Press each ear seed firmly so it stays stuck. Massage the ear seeds a few times a day to feel the benefits. You can keep ear seeds on for 3-5 days then wait 24 hours and reapply if necessary. You may start seeing results within a few days to a few weeks.

Ear seeds for sleep

“There is a point called Shenmen which is used in all of our protocols to calm a person,” says Young, “and when combined with two extra points called Insomnia 1 and Insomnia 2, along with three other points on the ear, it can really help a person fall asleep and stay asleep.” To target these points, AcuPips’ ear seeds for sleep come with instructions so you apply them to the right part of your ear so you can set the tone for a great night’s sleep.

“Many people find they can’t sleep because their mind is whirring,” Young continues. “In Chinese Traditional Medicine this is said to be caused by an overactive liver.” Consequently, acupressure on the liver point on the ear can help reduce stress and anxiety you might have left over from the day, helping you drift off into a calm, relaxing sleep.

A 2015 meta-analysis of 15 studies found that auricular acupressure had a positive effect for primary insomnia. After using them, participants found there was a significant improvement in sleep duration, number of awakenings and sleep onset.

More benefits of ear seeds

According to Young, ear seeds have many more benefits and can help with the following:

  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Addiction management
  • Migraines
  • Allergies
  • Body aches and pains
  • Tiredness
  • Digestion
  • Fertility
  • Memory
  • Irritability
  • Concentration
  • Sleep
  • Weight loss

So, do ear seeds actually work?

A 2021 review of studies found that ear seeds may be effective in reducing chronic pain alongside other interventions. Meanwhile a 2020 review of studies found that ear acupuncture improved PTSD systems in patients with PTSD after disasters.

As far back as 1972, a surgeon discovered a link between ear acupuncture and lessening of withdrawal symptoms for heroin and opium addicts. Since then, they are often recommended as an alternative addiction treatment used alongside other addiction treatments.

There is also plenty of anecdotal evidence that ear seeds can work for sleep, stress and more. Shop AcuPips ear seeds below to give them a try.