With interest in wellness surging, ear seeding is the latest trend popping up all over social media.
The practice, which has been around for years, is seeing a resurgence now in the era of Instagram. It is a form of auriculotherapy, or ear acupressure, where a seed is used to help stimulate pressure points in the ear.
The seeds, made of magnets or vaccaria flower seeds, are often covered in gold or crystal, making both a subtle fashion and health statement. Like acupuncture and reflexology, the seeds purportedly stimulate relaxation, helping with anxiety and spiritual healing.
But is the hype actually real? We asked the experts and turns out they’re pretty divided. Though there are claims of health benefits, the science does not back up the hype.
Here's what you need to know.
What are ear seeds and where do they come from?
Ear seeding, a form of auriculotherapy, draws inspiration from the ancient Chinese tradition of acupuncture and acupressure, according to the US National Library of Medicine. Its goal is to stimulate the reflex centers of the brain to relax the nervous system.
"The ears hold a reflexology map just like the hands and feet," Mona Dan, acupuncturist and founder of Vie Healing, an acupuncture spa and clinic based in Los Angeles, told "Good Morning America."
French neurologist Paul Nogier was among the first to map the ear in the 1950s, according to the journal of Medical Acupuncture, and determined that each part of the ear affected a corresponding part of the body.
The seeds, a magnet or vaccaria flower seed, are non-invasive and placed on top of the skin at pressure points.
The treatment is available in specialized spas, clinics and salons and kits are also sold to do it yourself at home.
What are the purported benefits?
Through this process, ear seeds claim to help with both physical and spiritual healing. Some say that ear seeding has helped them with stress and anxiety levels, muscular discomfort or made them feel "grounded."
"The ears have over 200 pressure points that do everything from calming the mind and alleviating PMS symptoms, to treating lower back pain," said Shari Auth, a holistic health practitioner at WTHN, a New York acupuncture and holistic medicine center.
Mary Schamber tried ear seeding for the first time after a recommendation from her acupuncturist and said she felt a difference in terms of her stress levels.
"I do believe that there are energy points on the body that can help with different physical and emotional issues, but at the very least, they cause the wearer to stop and take a moment, especially when dealing with stress or anxiety," Schamber told "GMA."
Overall, acupuncturists say that the process is non-invasive and can be a good choice for someone interested in trying acupuncture but who has reservations about big needles.
“When I have a child (or an adult) who is hesitant to try acupuncture, we start with ear seeds,” Angela Sinnett of Magnolia Wellness Center, a holistic healing collective, told "GMA."
Sinnett also notes that if the client feels any discomfort, they can simply remove the seeds themselves.
There's some limited scientific studies to support the health benefits, but more research is needed and the biological reasons for why ear seeds may work has not yet been discovered.
Nutritionist Nikki Ostrower practices ear seeding at her wellness clinic, NAO Wellness, in Manhattan and says, "ear seeding may help relieve or treat chronic pain, insomnia, stress, migraines, infertility," but other doctors say that's not necessarily the case.
No studies to confirm the benefits
There are currently only limited scientific studies about ear seeds and other forms of auriculotherapy that back up the claims that it can help with serious health conditions including chronic pain, insomnia, stress, migraines or infertility. Many doctors embrace wellness practices in addition to traditional methods.
Consumers should be aware of the limited research in this field and a doctor should always be consulted when it comes to these types of chronic or severe health concerns.