Are Ear Seeds The Answer To Your Insomnia?

Photo: Courtesy of NAO Wellness.
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You might have seen a few bejewelled ears popping up on your Instagram feed lately. But look a little closer. What appears at first glance to be piercings may actually be the latest wellness trend: a non-invasive form of acupuncture called ear seeding.
Also called auriculotherapy or ear reflexology, the practice originates in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It involves taping actual seeds — or, more commonly nowadays, tiny metal balls — to certain pressure points on your ear.
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"The ear is like the bottom of your foot in the sense that your whole body is represented on it," says William Kaplanidis, a licensed acupuncturist who practices at the Open Center in New York City. There are acupuncture points all over your ear — hundreds of them — that correlate to things like the liver, the lungs, the heart, the back, the ankles, the eyes, and more. Once placed, the seed stimulates these spots to ease health issues, from digestive troubles to anxiety.
To get the full ear seeding experience — jewels and all — I headed to NAO Wellness in New York City. I told the team that my goal was to relieve my anxiety-induced insomnia. They placed four seeds on each ear, at points associated with better shuteye. To use piercing language, one went on my rook, one on my helix, one on my conch, and one on my upper lobe.
The entire process took just a couple of minutes. It might have taken me longer to pick out the colour of the jewels being used (green) than it took to stick them on. And it didn't hurt. There was a slight pressure as the seeds were placed, but besides that, I barely felt a thing.
Kaplanidis says that you can do this yourself at home — all you need is an acupuncture map of the ear (easily google-able) and ear seeds (available online — even bejewelled ones). But before trying it solo, he suggests going to a licensed acupuncturist for application, to get familiar with the correct placements and to learn how auriculotherapy affects you mentally and physically.
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Throughout the day you're meant to press down on the seeds, essentially giving yourself mini-acupressure treatments. One batch will last around five days. They may stay on for longer than that, but Kaplanidis says at that point the seeds may start to get unsanitary.
Ear seeding hasn't been rigorously researched. One review of 15 studies found that the practice does seem to help ease insomnia — but most of the studies the authors looked at were small or poorly executed, so it's hard to draw any real conclusions.
My experience was largely positive. These past few nights I've been sleeping like a baby, and feeling relaxed and happy to boot. But my study methods were flawed too, and whether the results are all down to the ear seeds is questionable. It's certainly possible that they're to thank — at least partially. That said, I recently got a brand-new mattress, which could account for my upgraded zzzs. Plus, this past weekend I visited some old friends, which may be why I've been feeling sunnier.
Still, I'm open to giving them another try the next time I'm having trouble snoozing. After all, they look way cooler than my usual eye mask and white noise machine.

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