Here's everything you need to know about the ancient Chinese medicine practice that's trending right now.

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Ear seeds
Credit: Tatiane Silva/Shutterstock

I've tried most of the remedies on the market for my chronic anxiety from essential oils to journaling to CBD-infused products. And guess what? I'm still anxious.

So I was skeptical when I heard about ear seeding, which lists alleviating stress and anxiety as one of its many benefits. An ancient Chinese medicine practice similar to acupuncture in nature, ear seeds are tiny seed-like beads that adhere to your ears and stimulate pressure points in your ear. They're used to treat a wide range of health concerns, including chronic pain, infertility, migraines, and insomnia — all without using any needles.

Sound too good to be true? Yeah, I thought so too — until I tried them out for myself and finally found relief from my chronic anxiety. Here's everything you need to know about ear seeds if you're interested in giving the practice a try for yourself.

What Is Ear Seeding and How Does It Work?

A traditional Chinese medicine practice with similar benefits to acupuncture, ear seeding addresses problem areas and concerns by pressing on your ear's acupressure points — but only in your ear.

"The ear in Chinese medicine is a microcosm of the body, meaning our whole body, including our neurological map, is mapped within the ear," explains Gudrun Snyder, a doctor of East Asian Medicine, and the founder of Moon Rabbit Acupuncture in Chicago.

"Through Chinese medicine history, people would place the needles and then see what happened," she says. "And then over time, they found that these certain points worked on certain parts of your body." Basically, this was all discovered by trial and error!

Contrary to traditional acupuncture, there aren't any needles involved in ear seeding. Instead, you're using "seeds" — often 24K gold plated pellets with stainless steel bases — that you place in the specific part of the ear that correlates with the concern you hope to address. (They even look kind of trendy — always a bonus in my book!)

How Do I Apply Ear Seeds?

When it comes to application, Dr. Snyder says it's actually incredibly easy and doesn't have to be super precise, so it can be done either by a professional or in the comfort of your own home.

Here's how at-home application works: Simply clean your ear prior to application — I used witch hazel ($4; target.com) — peel the adhesive off the backing, and place the seeds approximately in the area that treats the concern according to the map provided with your ear seeding kit. And don't fret when it comes to the exact placement of the seeds, Dr. Snyder says, as everyone's ears will be slightly different.

Then, leave them on for five days (through showers, pools, weather, etc.), feel better, peel off, and repeat! If you're looking to get your hands on a pack of your own, Dr. Snyder recommends the WTHN Ear Seed Kit ($45; wthn.com), which you can also purchase from her practice ($45; moonrabbitacupuncture.com), or try the stylish NAO Wellness Swarovski kit ($35; amazon.com).

Ear Seeding Map
Credit: Courtesy

What Are the Benefits of Ear Seeding?

The health concerns that ear seeds target includes infertility, back pain, insomnia, weight loss, anxiety, depression, hormone regulation, and migraines... the list goes on.

One major benefit of ear seeding, and a draw for many, is their ability to alleviate stress, which Dr. Snyder says is addressed through the Shen Men point. "In Chinese, it means spirit gate. That is how we access the spirit to calm your mind." She also tells me that Shen Men can be used to calm your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system (a.k.a., your fight or flight response). Many of Dr. Snyder's patients combine the practice with talk therapy and/or medication for a holistic approach to their mental health, she explains.

Another popular use for ear seeds is balancing your hormones. For this, apply a seed to the pressure point also known as the .0 in Chinese Medicine, says Dr. Snyder, which helps serve as "reset" button to get those hormones back in line.

Dr. Snyder says that while there are studies showing acupuncture can reduce stress levels and increase dopamine and serotonin (our happy hormones), there isn't a ton of scientific evidence to back up the how and why of ear seeding. However, she notes that she has seen them work "magic" on her patients, so she's a big proponent of giving the practice a try if it's affordable for you and fits into your lifestyle.

So, how long does it take to actually notice any effect? Dr. Snyder says that how quickly you notice results can vary from person to person — some people feel it immediately, others need the full five days to feel results. She likens it to exercise: It's best to wear the ear seeds consistently at first to see results and achieve long-term results. Just be sure to switch them out for a new set after five days, as the adhesive can get gunky, says Dr. Snyder.

How Ear Seeds Worked For My Anxiety

When I was deciding where I wanted to place my ear seeds, my main priority was tackling my stress and anxiety, two areas I've struggled with practically my entire life — I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) in elementary school. So I decided to place my seeds in location A on the map above for stress relief, as well as at spot E for hormone balance, and spot J, which is linked to your liver in Chinese Medicine, for a little detox.

While it's impossible to know how much my hormones or liver were really affected in such a short time (unless I were to have my hormones and liver levels tested), overall, I felt healthy and balanced and motivated to keep using them for longer-term results, especially when it came to my mental health.

Like most people, the state of my mental health ebbs and flows, even with traditional talk therapy combined with some prescription meds. Lately, for reasons I will not bore you with, my anxiety has been off the charts, so I was really excited to give this a go. And let me just tell you that my anxiety was pretty much subdued by the next day. Of course, there's no way of knowing if this was the reason for my fleeting stress, but I felt better practically overnight, even after an anxiety-inducing couple of days.

My takeaway from my week with ear seeds is that they're affordable, quick, easy, and trendy in a cool-girl type of way to help alleviate some common problems that a lot of us suffer from. While it's hard to know, or scientifically measure, if the seeds are working, there's no harm in giving it a shot. Because all I know is, I felt less anxious by the next day.

While I was admittedly skeptical going in, I'm counting this ear seeding experiment a success and will continue to (stylishly) treat my concerns with a pack of ear seeds for the foreseeable future.