At-Home Acupuncture, Sort Of


I was always... skeptical of acupuncture. Did I believe it helped people? Absolutely. But was it because of anything concrete, provable, real? I wasn’t sure. You know how when you get off of a treadmill or a cruise ship you kind of still feel like you’re moving? When I stood up from the table after my first acupuncture treatment, I felt like that—floating, somehow. My voice was softer, and quieter, and by the time it wore off I had walked the three miles back to my apartment. The feeling was very real indeed.

Acu-land, is what we traditional Chinese medicine practitioners call it,” says Mindi Counts, who's based in Colorado. “It makes you feel as though everything is going to be OK.” For many, acupuncture is as much a part of regular self-maintenance as therapy, or exercise. And though you might want to book a trip to Acu-land now more than ever, you can’t. But you can use ear seeds.

“In traditional Chinese medicine, the ear is a microcosm of the body,” Counts explains, “and there are hundreds of acupressure points found on the ear to treat everything from low back pain to headaches.” Traditionally, an ear seed is a black radish seed glued onto a little piece of skin-safe tape—when you press it into your ear, it stimulates a specific acupressure point that corresponds to a place on your body an acupuncture practitioner might place a needle. “I use ear seeds on many of my clients to enhance and prolong the effects of their treatments,” says Counts, “But they’re also a wonderful way to self-treat from the comfort of your home.”

To do it, first pick a few points to treat. “Sometimes more is not better,” adds Counts, who recommends treating four or fewer points at a time. Here are some of her favorites, and how, according to traditional Chinese medicine, they might make you feel a little better.

Mindi's Ear Chart

ear chart

1: If your eyes love spring foliage but not pollen

Then this point, number 1 on our chart at the top ridge of the ear, is for you. “It reduces inflammation and our reaction to mild allergens,” explains Counts, “so it’s excellent to treat if you have seasonal allergies.”

2: If you've moved on from sheep to ceiling specks

Point 2 is on the outer edge of your ear, where you might get a cartilage piercing.“This point supports the transition from wakefulness to deep REM sleep,” says Counts, and adds very specific instructions: “The best way to treat it is to start pinching it in the evening, every hour before bedtime.”

3: If you’ve been feeling untethered

You’re in need of a little grounding. “This point is called Shen Men, which translates as ‘Heavenly Gate’,” says Counts of the acupressure point smack dab in the middle of your upper ear. “Stimulating this point reminds us of who we are and provides a sense of belonging.”

4: If your recycling looks like a wine bottle graveyard

You can try supporting your liver with our 4th point, located on the ridge inside the curve of your ear. It’s also a point that Counts recommends when you're stressed out.

5: If your hormones are out of whack

Hello, point 5! “The endocrine system point is often used in cases of infertility, thyroid imbalances, and menstrual concerns,” says Counts, and you might find it helpful if you have an inkling your hormones are doing something funky. This point is at the inner top corner of your lobe.

6: If you’ll try anything to support your natural immunity

Traditional Chinese medicine suggests stimulating the this spot, our point 6, helps enhance your immune system. It's located right in the inner divot of your ear.

7: If you’ve been feeling anxious

Well, who hasn’t? With TCM, you’d treat this feeling with a point right above point 6. “The anxiety point quells an anxious mind and heart,” Counts explains. “It brings a sense of groundedness, strength, and trust into our being.”

8: If you feel a little funny, but can't place why

This is our 8th point, but in traditional Chinese medicine it's actually called Point Zero. Stimulating it brings us back into physical and emotional alignment. “It also reduces pain and deepens relaxation,” she adds. Find it where the outer cartilage of your ear branches into the center.

9: If your period is acting like a horror movie villain

Your pelvis might just need to chill out. “The menstrual cramps point moves stagnant energy out of the reproductive area to support relaxation in the pelvis.” Counts recommends this point, located on the inner back wall of your ear, if you currently have your period, or if you’re just about to get it.

10: If you miss hugs

Try stimulating a point to help you feel safer, like a big hug would. “The nervous system point regulates resilience in our emotional health,” says Counts. You can find it right above point 9.

Picked your points? Great. Now, to place the seeds: while looking in the mirror, find the corresponding spots from the chart on your own ear. You want to get a good lay of the land before you try and place them. Then clean your ear with either soap and water or alcohol on a cotton pad. Once your ear is dry, grab the edge of your ear seed’s tape with tweezers and place it directly onto the point you identified. Traditional seeds are secured under the tape (as if they're covered with a Band-aid) and more decorative seeds sit on top of the tape, like a sticky rhinestone. But both are essentially the same. Press the seed into your ear once you’ve placed it to make a seal. Finally, take a deep breath, and pinch.

Your ear seeds will stay on for up to five days, and before placing new ones, Counts recommends waiting a day to give yourself (and your ears!) a bit of rest. She also notes that if you’re pregnant, or if you experience irritation from the seeds, ear seeds might not be the best method for you. Is the relief they offer real? Well, it's up to you to be the skeptic. It's also up to you to control if, when, and how you use ear seeds, which is kind of their beauty. “This treatment puts the power back into the client’s hands,” says Counts. And a little more control over our daily lives is just what the doctor ordered.

—Ali Oshinsky

Want to try it at home? Shop ear seeds here:

Photo via ITG