I always remember being tired; being trapped at school with no place to nap felt unjust. I was so sleepy, in fact, that I diagnosed myself with chronic fatigue syndrome in high school. (When I sought a medical opinion, I was told I was likely depressed and ready to move on from Waco, Texas.) Relocating from Austin to London to Manhattan and still experiencing what I call low pep ushered in an Adderall prescription. After just a few months, as the amphetamines started to lose their initial powers and I realized that Big Pharma would have a lifetime hold if I continued our relationship, I searched for more natural stimuli. The first time I tried ear seeding was at Chicago’s Chuan Spa, known for its award-winning traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practices. Tiny black seeds (which sometimes come in the form of 24-karat gold beads) were taped into my ears at the end of an acupuncture appointment, meaning that at the time, I was unable to tie my blissed-out mood to their specific potential .
Last year, though, I started at-home ear seeding and haven’t stopped talking about it. At a backyard gathering in the West Village, I passed a kit around to confused partygoers. I’ve carried a pack of Swarovski-and-gold seeds from New York to Paris during fashion month twice now. To fight jet lag or meet a writing deadline, I peel off the small beaded sticker and place it on the focus area of my ears, which is located on the upper earlobe, right above where a traditional piercing might be. Within a few minutes, I can feel heat where I’ve applied them and, over the course of the day, experience a kind of flow and attention span that rivals coffee or the aforementioned meds. If people want to call it a placebo effect, let them. The placebo is an undersung hero, producing results without whispered-over-commercial side effects. Still, there’s a real science to the practice.
At Moon Rabbit Acupuncture in Chicago, founder Gudrun Snyder, a doctor of East Asian acupuncture inspired by her grandmother’s knowledge of TCM, found ear seeding so essential for her patients that she created an at-home kit. “Stress and insomnia are some of the most common issues we treat via ear seeding,” she says, adding that headaches, detox, and digestion can also be addressed, depending on where seeds are placed. “Acupressure has been used for thousands of years in many cultures,” she notes. “It is a great way to enhance focus and relieve aches and pains.” Snyder explains that in traditional Chinese medicine, ear seeding follows the same principles of acupuncture, which works on energy (or qi) channels.