Ear Seeds for Kids—Everything Parents Need to Know

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Although ear seed trending is a recent phenomenon, this traditional Chinese medicine technique has existed for thousands of years. Here’s how ear seed can help.

Gudrun Snyder is a doctor of East Asian Acupuncture. She often uses ear seed on her patients. She also uses the small seeds or beads, which are applied to acupuncture points on the ear, on herself and on her two kids—ages 7 and 4. Although traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), dates back thousands years, many parents are now learning more about this therapeutic technique.

“Sometimes I’ll be going for a playdate and the other moms are like, ‘Oh, can you bring the ear seeds so we could do them on all the kids?” says Snyder, D.Ac., MSAc, LAc, founder of Moon Rabbit Acupuncture Chicago “It’s an easy, fun way for the kids to be involved in their health and it’s effective.”

Recently, ear seeds have been trending on TikTok. The #earseeds hashtag has been viewed more than 93,000 times. It’s possible your child has seen them. For Snyder, whose grandmother is from Shanghai, China, and father was a physician who believed in acupuncture, it’s been part of her life since she was a young child. Snyder believes in the healing powers of ear seed and hopes parents will be aware that it can help with anxiety and other digestive problems.

Here’s what your family needs to know about ear seeds.

Related:Meditation for Kids: A Beginner's Guide

What are Ear Seeds and How Do They Work?

To treat various ailments throughout the body, vaccaria seeds were used in ancient Asia to place seeds on the acupressure points of the ears. For this painless form, you can also use crystals, gold beads, silver beads, and other materials.

“Ear seeding works in the same way that an acupuncture treatment works,” explains Snyder, who treats children as young as 4 in her practice. Instead of using needles, ear seed are applied to the ear using adhesive stickers.

What is the Use of the Ear?

In Chinese medicine, the ear is powerful; it’s considered a microsystem of the body. “We use the ear to treat just about every location of the body,” says Megan Scott, LAc, a licensed acupuncturist with the Cleveland Clinic’s center for integrative medicine. It includes the body’s extremities, the spine, organs, as well as different brain functions.

How to Apply Ear Seeds

The majority of ear seed treatment is patient-focused. “A patient will come in, they will tell us what their main complaint is, and then much like any type of clinical appointment, we will ask questions to get a better understanding of how they’re experiencing things and how it translates into traditional Chinese medicine,” explains Scott. “We diagnose from there, and then we create a treatment plan. That person will then have that auriculotherapy based on their unique needs.”

Some clinics do ear seeding by themselves, but at the Cleveland Clinic, ear seeds are used in conjunction with acupuncture. The stimulation that needles provide is strong for the points of the body. “An ear seed, or any type of bead placed on the body, would act as more of a low level constant stimulus for the system,” says Scott. If a child visits Scott for acupuncture to treat allergies or asthma, she may give them a few beads to improve their respiratory function and resilience during difficult allergy seasons. 

For more stimulation, many acupuncturists advise that people gently press on the ears throughout the day once they have left the clinic. It’s important not to apply too much force so the skin isn’t irritated and beads don’t get dislodged. Scott recommends that patients do this if they experience a sudden increase in pain, such as a spike, or if they need to stimulate their skin at a higher level.

Related:How to Help Kids Deal with Social Anxiety

How long should a child keep their ear seed on?

It’s typically recommended to keep ear seeds on for no more than five days. Scott, an acupuncturist recommends that you keep the adhesive on for no more than three days. Things like sweating and bathing can strip the adhesive. People can remove them by gently pulling them off their ears.

Ear Seeds Benefits

The use of ear seeds is thought to ease the symptoms of many conditions such as anxiety, stress, pain, digestion issues, and insomnia. You can also use it to treat addiction. “I have patients that are using the ear treatment for addiction; they’re trying to quit smoking,” says Scott. “Adults will come and they’ll do acupuncture, and then they’ll leave with these seeds because they can decrease cravings.”

Scott, who sees children as young 6 years old at Cleveland Clinic, claims that patients returning have noticed improvements in their ability and pain management, such as nausea, upset stomachs, constipation, and relaxation, as well as improved motion sickness.

Snyder claims that she has seen similar results with her children and patients at Moon Rabbit Acupuncture. Snyder also said that she has seen children feel empowered by the fact that they believe they have a role in their own health.

Rashmi Jain M.D. is a concierge pediatrician in Irvine and the founder of BabiesMD, isn’t opposed to parents using safe complementary or alternate approaches to treating things like anxiety or pain in children. “While research on the benefits of ear seeds is limited, there is data (albeit in small sample sizes) to suggest relief of pain Children and infants can experience anxiety and panic attacks. the neonatal intensive care unitShe says. “Given its topical application and non-invasive approach, it is very reasonable to try auriculotherapy in children who are experiencing anxiety, pain, or apprehension.”

Rebecca Fisk, M.D., a pediatric hospitalist at Lenox Hill Hospital in the Northwell System, adds, “There are not many large medical studies published that attest to defined benefits of ear seeding in these conditions; there is limited information in children. TCM is a holistic system that has been used to treat many psychological and physical ailments. There are hundreds of years of evidence supporting its effectiveness.

Parents should be aware of some important points. For one, Dr. Jain emphasizes that some children may need more help to manage their anxiety and it’s important for parents to be in tune with their child’s emotions to see if further treatment like therapy or medication is needed. 

Dr. Fisk also says parents should know this isn’t a cure-all, just a practice that may help ease symptoms in a variety of circumstances. “I would caution patience and advise trying such a treatment with the understanding that it likely would require multiple treatments/visits,” she says. Dr. Fisk tried acupuncture and ear seed for migraine support therapy, but it took several months to get the results she wanted. It helped her feel better and made it easier to take less medication.

Related:When to Worry About Your Child's Anxiety

Risks of Ear Seeds

Ear seed are generally safe. Some people may experience irritation from the materials used. If the stimulation is not done correctly, it can lead to nausea and dizziness. Cleveland Clinic.

Scott advises that patients not leave the ear canal for more than three days. There is also the possibility of losing an ear seed. That’s a fear for Dr. Jain, too. “As a pediatrician, my mind does monitor for safety. Small seeds like these can get dislodged and end up in the ear canal requiring removal in a physician’s office,” she says. “Additionally, if these seeds fall on the ground, they can pose a choking hazard for infants and young children.” Also, Scott adds that keeping an ear seed on too long can potentially cause it to become embedded in the skin.

Dr. Fisk adds, “I would exercise caution in those children whose parents feel their child might fidget with the ear seed due to concern for moving its position or affecting the adherence of the overlying tape, as this can increase the risk of the seed falling into the ear canal.”

Where to Buy Ear Seeds

Ear seeds can be purchased online but experts recommend that you visit a qualified acupuncturist to apply them to your ears. “The ear is a pretty complex place that’s why it’s so valuable to have the actual practitioner who is very knowledgeable about the function, and how these points are combined to create an individualized treatment for you,” says Scott.

Patients may be given a map to help them apply the ear seeds in the future after they have been treated by an acupuncturist.

The Bottom Line

Ear seeds can be used safely to reduce anxiety, stress, insomnia, and pain in children, teens and adults. A licensed acupuncturist should apply them. To make sure your child isn’t in need of more support, monitor their symptoms.

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