As the world embraces age-old ways of healing, the practice of ear seeding is gaining popularity. We demystify the ancient therapy for the modern era. By Bayar Jain
Ear seeding—a form of auriculotherapy—is believed to have roots in Chinese medicine. While in the acupuncture procedure, different kinds of seeds—natural or metallic—are non-invasively punctured to the exterior of your ear to apply pressure, relieving pain in different parts of your body, the acupressure method involves massaging seeds onto the ear for the same results. “There are two methods of acupressure: one that stimulates points throughout the body, and the second is a microsystem where you map points on a small region of the body like the palm, soles of your feet, or scalp,” says Antriksh, the founder of Adyant Health (adyant.business.site), an acupuncture clinic in Delhi. “Auricular acupressure, such as ear seeding, maps just the ear and treats the whole body through it,” he adds. The oldest record of auricular acupuncture is found in Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine), the earliest and most important written work of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). A chapter in the book written around 100 BC talks about a physician who blows air through a tube into the ear to revive an unconscious patient. In another book, Zhou Hou Bei Ji Fang, a mention of using gladiolus and sesame oil to treat ear pain has been made. However, in modern science, the journal Medical Acupuncture credits a French doctor, Dr Paul Nogier, for bringing forth the connection of the ear to other parts of the body.
A study titled The History, Mechanism, and Clinical Application of Auricular Therapy in Traditional Chinese Medicine reasserts auricular therapy’s connection with the body’s nervous and neuroendocrine system. Dr Sahil Kapur, pain specialist and acupuncturist at New Delhi’s Kapur Acupuncture Clinic (kapuracu.com) draws an analogy to explain, “The ear is like an inverted foetus, which has specific points marking the back, feet, hands, and other organs. Applying pressure to these points soothes pain.”
Today, auriculotherapy uses various tools and methods to relieve ailments. These include needles, magnetic stones, lasers, ultrasound, electric treatments, and applying pressure using hands. “How you stimulate the points depends on your understanding and comfort level,” explains Antriksh. Despite these variations, ear seeding has the perk of being largely painless, and relatively risk-free, owing to its non-invasive nature. The loss of blood during piercing, if any, is minimal.
In the non-piercing version, metal or seeds are put on an adhesive tape, which is then stuck onto key points of your ears. In the needle technique, a small piercing is made using a 0.5-millimetre micro-needle before putting the studs or seeds in place. The angle for piercing requires utmost precision to avoid damage.
The choice of seeds also plays a key role. “It is not just pure pressure that is working in the area,” explains Antriksh. Seeds have inherent polarities and varying dormant energies, which work their magic in curing ailments. Generally, mustard or fenugreek seeds are used since they are non-polar. The final decision, however, is taken based on what the required outcome is, with consideration given to the physiology and medical history of the patient. It takes only 10 minutes to get the seeds in place, and they are kept there for two weeks. Sustained use, if not done with caution, could result in infection, especially in the case of metallic studs.
Currently, this traditional practice is backed by limited scientific knowledge, particularly in treating chronic ailments. While some claim to treat all possible diseases using ear seeding, others warn of its limited potential. Dr Kapur claims that ear seeding can alleviate any pain that regular acupuncture can treat. Think back pain and neck ache, and even sleep disorders and lung-related ailments such as asthma. “Ordinarily, it is used in conjunction with other body acupunctures for holistic healing, except when treating addictions,” adds Dr Kapur. Additionally, it can be used to treat cervical or groin pains, where remote healing through ear seeding is a great option.
Although the process is harmless, the ear is a sensitive region as it is mostly cartilage. “In case you choose needles for your procedure, you need to be careful for the first 24 hours and avoid applying any external force on that ear, such as sleeping on that side or rubbing it,” warns Dr Kapur. Antriksh points out that pain sensitivity increases as one grow older. An adult aged 18 or more may be more susceptible to aches following an ear seeding procedure, compared to a younger patient. “A sharp-edged seed, irrespective of age, could momentarily damage the cartilage, causing pain,” he adds.
Over the years, bling alternatives such as gold-plated studs, crystallised versions, and colourful metallic balls have replaced the natural variations, bringing an element of style to ear seeding. Today, many wellness enthusiasts have taken to this form of healing for its visual appeal. Ear seeding is also gaining momentum on social media, as celebrities like Penélope Cruz, Kate Moss, and Gwyneth Paltrow have jumped on the bandwagon.
Sir Ganga Ram Hospital (sgrh.com), New Delhi, India; Dr Orawan Holistic Dermatology and Anti-Aging Institute (drorawan.com), Bangkok, Thailand; Eu Yan Sang Integrative Health Pte Ltd (sg.euyansangclinic.com), Singapore.
While the cost of ear seeding procedure differs from one clinic to another, it is considered largely inexpensive. NAO Wellness (naowellness.com), New York City, United States, for instance, does the procedure for approximately INR 2,500.