Before the wellness boom began, alternative therapies were just that — alternative. Now you can pick up a turmeric latte in Pret, cure post-workout pains with CBD oil and find crystals in the most unexpected places, from water bottles to face creams. It is this growing acceptance and accessibility of all things mystic and holistic that has turned many practices that once elicited little more than an eye roll into mainstream movements. The latest example is ear seeds.
Rooted in the world of acupuncture — the ancient Chinese medicine that works on the theory that blockages in the flow of energy can cause health problems, and can be cured with the insertion of fine needles into certain points on the body — ear seeds involve no pin pricks or clinics. Instead, the tiny seeds can be planted at home and are claimed to help with issues from stress to jet lag, while boosting your mood and instilling a sense of calm.
Auriculotherapy, much like reflexology, works on the principle that the ear is a microsystem that reflects the entire body. By mapping these auricular points — there are around 100 in the ear — the seeds are used to apply a light, continuous compression that is believed to help alleviate symptoms.
“Ear seeds are tiny balls of pure silver or 24-karat gold attached to an adhesive sticker,” says Olivia Inge, a former model turned acupuncturist who practises at The Berkeley Clinic in Marylebone and Hammersmith’s Brackenbury Natural Health Clinic. “24k gold is warming, stimulating and boosts blood supply, while silver is known for its cooling and dispersing properties.”
Penélope Cruz and Kate Moss are fans, while at Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop wellness summit in New York this year, ear-seeders from Manhattan’s Yinova Center acupuncture clinic placed crystal-encrusted seeds onto three points to settle the mind, balance the nervous system and help create focus.
When I pay Inge a visit at her Hammersmith clinic, she uses the 24k gold ear seeds from LA’s Vie Healing — a brand founded by Beverly Hills acupuncturist Mona Dan — which are available to buy in packs of 20 for £29 from Cult Beauty (the etailer that happens to be run by Inge’s sister Alexia).
“They work well on needle-phobic patients and children,” says Inge. “I used them on a one-year-old who had caught a pathogen that kept her awake at night coughing. The next night she slept through.” Inge also suggests them to frequent flyers. “One patient suffers from jet lag so I marked up the points where she ought to place each seed pre-flight. When she landed in Los Angeles, her body clock had been aligned, increasing her concentration and enabling better sleep patterns.”
For ongoing concerns Inge recommends using ear seeds in conjunction with regular acupuncture appointments. She references another patient who she treats once a month to help with depression and mood swings, as well as irregular periods and headaches. “To help prolong her acupuncture, she places the seeds on the ‘Great Surge’, ‘Wind Pool’ and ‘Shen Men’ points to regulate her cycle, reduce the frequency of her headaches and calm her mind.” They can also be used as a tool to stop smoking. “One patient still presses his ear at the Lung point when he gets the nicotine urge. He hasn’t smoked for three years.”
For those who wince at the words chakra healing, look away now. For everyone else, Inge recommends the Shen Men — a point located above the antihelix — as “a great all-rounder” to begin your journey. “Roughly translated as ‘Spirit Gate’, Shen Men is the master point of auricular acupuncture. It is powerful because it balances and anchors the spirit. Anxiety, insomnia, pain and depression can all be relieved with this point.” She also suggests using it to calm pre-exam nerves or before a big meeting.
Beginners are encouraged to first visit a fully trained acupuncturist (check the British Acupuncture Council site), who will tailor a treatment plan and show you the most effective points to place the seeds. Each pack also comes with a detailed diagram. A pair of tweezers will help with precise application, and check the seeds every 12 hours before replacing after a week.
“I haven’t been without these little seeds since I first bought them,” says one review on the Cult Beauty site. “These have helped me with everything from post-wisdom teeth removal pain to day-to-day stresses.” Another member writes: “Initially I was sceptical that placing these tiny, barely there seeds by my ear really would suppress my hunger. I found that within 24 hours I felt less like snacking. It doesn’t hurt either that if you do notice them, they’re very chic.”