What are ear seeds, and why I'm giving them away to support racial battle fatigue and social justice
Updated: Oct 23
I'm giving away ear seeds, completely free, to support protesters in the movement for racial equity and the protection of Black lives
We all have roles we can play in the movement to create a just and equitable society, and not all of them have to be on the front lines. However, it is important to offer services to those who are actively fighting for justice by protesting. Because I have a responsibility to my family, children, and patients, I decided that I could contribute by giving ear seeds to protesters for free. I began mailing out ear seeds in June to people that reached out to me, and I sent them a code, via email, to access instructional videos for application.
So what are ear seeds?
What are ear seeds?
Ear seeds are tiny, black, perfectly spherical seeds from the vaccaria flowering plant. They are typically attached to a small, medical-grade tape, and then placed on various points of the outer ear. The placement of the ear seeds determines the effects on the body. Different points can help with stress, anxiety, insomnia, and pain, among many other things.
Other ear seed materials
Ear seeds are not always made from vaccaria seeds. They can also be made from beads/pellets of gold, titanium, or silver, or even tiny crystals. The properties of different materials can provide slightly different results for the wearer. For example, gold is said to be more tonifying, which means it provides something to the body energetically speaking, versus a material that is diffusing or reducing.
How much do ear seeds cost?
The seeds that I send out are from the vaccaria plant, and are typically the least expensive type of ear seeds. One note about ear seed products you might buy online: Some companies are starting to sell ear seeds at a premium. Even with products made from gold or crystals, you should not spend $45 for a pack of 24. Keep an eye out for prices that have been driven up by fancy branding. $12-$20 is a descent range and you should expect to receive at least 100 seeds at that price. For pellets or crystals, the price should still not exceed $30.
How to use ear seeds
Prepping the ear
Before you apply ear seeds, you need to start with a clean ear. An alcohol swab is ideal, because you want to remove any dead skin or oils present. Any oil on your skin will affect the adhesive. Ear seeds will fall off sooner on oily skin versus dry skin. You should remove your ear seeds after a week at the latest if they don't fall off on their own. Dirt, dead skin, and oil will be trapped underneath the adhesive. You won't want to keep that on your skin for too long.
Applying the ear seeds
When you apply ear seeds, they should not hurt or feel too uncomfortable. If you experience redness, irritation, pain, or discomfort that doesn't subside in a few minutes, I recommend that you remove them. You may have an allergy to the adhesive. Some of the tape used contains latex, so if you have an allergy to that, look for a brand that is latex-free.
Press on the points where you've placed the ear seeds periodically throughout the day - they work by applying pressure to specific points on your outer ear. The ear is highly innervated, which means there are many nerves that are very superficial on the ear. Having ear seeds is like having an extended acupuncture or acupressure treatment. By pressing on the seeds, you're stimulating those points again.
Removing the ear seeds
Ear seeds usually fall off on their own after 3 to 5 days. If you have oilier skin, they may fall off sooner rather than later. When you bathe, don't clean your ears too vigorously while they are applied, or they may come off right away. After 6 days, if they haven't fallen off, all you have to do is peel them off and discard them. Give your ears some time to breathe before applying new seeds. Make sure you wash your ears well after you take the seeds off!
What can you use ear seeds for? And do ear seeds really work for all of those things?
The Vagus nerve (also known as Cranial Nerve X), one of the most important nerves in the body, has a branch that reaches the outer ear. This nerve is the only one of the cranial nerves that goes beyond the head and facial region to the body. Cranial Nerve X innervates several organs in the abdominal cavity. It's this connection from the vagus nerve that helps stimulate and reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety that may present as digestive disturbance, shortness of breath, increased blood pressure, heart flutters, or difficulty sleeping. Stimulating the points on your ears, by way of the vagus nerve, can help to initiate parasympathetic response in many of your internal organs and impact different organ functions in the body.
While ear seeds do work, and can be very effective at managing symptoms, they aren't recommended as a standalone treatment. If you have severe or ongoing symptoms, it's best to pair treatment like ear seeds with professional help of some kind. At the very least, I recommend that patients journal or engage in mental health therapy to manage their anxiety or depression.
How can I get free ear seeds?
As a thank you to everyone working so hard on the front lines, fighting for justice, equity, and an end to police brutality, I am offering to ship a supply of ear seeds, along with a code to instructional videos for anxiety and depression applications, free of charge. There are no strings attached to this gift.
I wanted to make sure I was contributing to the movement in my own way, and this felt like the appropriate avenue for me. All you need to do is fill out the form below with your name and address, and your seeds will be mailed to you in 7-10 days. If you know other people who might benefit from ear seeds, please send them a link to this blog!
Shout out to supporters of the Social Justice Ear Seeds!
Sisterhood of Philanthropists Impacting Needs (SPIN) & Collaborative Healing Initiative within Communities (CHIC)- for $500 grant that started it all!
Mai Acupuncture Clinic (Sandi Lyman) - for matching $500 grant
Acupuncture Association of Colorado (ACC) - for spreading the word
Erik Johnson - support
Leslie Wagner - support
Ariana Thompson-Lastad - support
Marieke Schwartz - support
***Your name could go here! Please message this site if you'd like to support
Ear seed research and resources
Wei He, Xiaoyu Wang, Hong Shi, Hongyan Shang, Liang Li, Xianghong Jing, Bing Zhu, "Auricular Acupuncture and Vagal Regulation", Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol.2012, Article
Lee, M. S., Shin, B. C., Suen, L. K., Park, T. Y., & Ernst, E. (2008). Auricular acupuncture for insomnia: A systematic review.International Journal of Clinical Practice, 62(11), 1744-1752.
Nixon, M. K., Cheng, M., & Cloutier, P. (2003). An open trial of auricular acupuncture for the treatment of repetitive self-injury in depressed adolescents.The Canadian Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Review, 12, 10-12.
Sinclair-Lian, N., Hollifield, M., Menahce, M., Warner, T., Viscaya, J., & Hammerschlag, R. (2006). Developing a traditional Chinese medicine diagnostic structure for post-traumatic stress disorder.The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 12(1), 45-57.