Let Me Plant A Seed In Your Ear, Literally!
Auriculotherapy is the practice of stimulating acupoints on the external ear surface to promote healing. The ear is believed to be a microsystem of the entire body, much like the foot in reflexology. Typically, ear points are stimulated with acupuncture needles, electrical stimulation devices, or ear seeds. With ear seeds we traditionally use the seed of the vaccaria plant, which sits on sticky material just like a typical bandage. We press the seeds to the points where they will stay for about 2-3 days until they either fall off, or you can remove them.
Once the ears seeds are in place, periodically take a moment to massage the seeds to stimulate the acupoints. You may notice that some points are more tender than others, which is normal. Use this time to take some deep breaths, notice negative thoughts or emotions, or acknowledge anything for which you are grateful.
Out of the dozens of points that exist on the ear, we have selected five common points to relieve stress and promote relaxation. Watch the video or download the pdf of the ear point locations to help you place the seeds.
The first is shen men. This point is located in the triangular fossa, which is the valley formed where the antihelix splits into the superior and inferior crus. If you follow the antihelix up to the split, continue a little bit into the valley, then move a little bit up to locate the point. Shen men roughly translates as “spirit gate” or “divine gate”. It is the most common point used in auriculotherapy, if you only have time to place one point, use this one! When you feel stress, anxiety, or panic coming on, it is easy for your fingers to find the depression of the fossa in your ears. Massage the area, take some deep breaths, and allow your body to return to a more regulated state. In addition to treating stress and anxiety, shen men is used in combination with other ear points to treat pain, inflammatory conditions, and addictions.
The next point is the kidney point. Come directly down from shen men, go underneath the inferior crus of the antihelix, and place the point there, on the ceiling of the cartilage. This point isn’t directly visible, you need to curve under the inferior crus, so it is notated on the picture with a dotted line.
The kidney relates to emotions like fear of the unknown, dread, and the anxiety that results from that insecurity. By treating the kidney point we help to transform the fear into a trust in our ability to utilize our experience and wisdom to overcome whatever obstacles may present themselves. When we feel safe the kidney can relax, taking pressure off the adrenal glands that signal threat.
The next point is the parasympathetic point. For this point just follow that inferior crus to where it meets the helix, and place your point on the wall of the inside of the helix. When we talk about relieving stress, we are essentially talking about regulating the nervous system. When we go through life in a state of hypervigilance, constantly anxious about the next threat, demand, or deadline, we get exhausted and burned out. Our bodies can’t maintain this state, and over the long run we develop chronic disease. Activating this point helps us to move from hypervigilance, fight or flight response into the parasympathetic state of rest, digest, and relaxation.
For the next point, called point zero, follow the helix all the way to its root, right in the middle of the ear where the helix emerges. As you might imagine from the location, point zero is centering and grounding. It helps to restore homeostasis to the body, bringing body, mind and spirit back into balance.
Finally, we have the heart point. From point zero come down into the concha, the deep valley in the basement of the ear. The heart point is located deep within the concha, sometimes there will be a bright shiny area there. Most often the point isn’t on the floor or the wall of the concha, but right in between, often referred to as the deepest point, but not the lowest point, of the concha.
In Chinese medicine the heart relates to our deepest knowing of what is appropriate for ourselves, just like the expression “I know in my heart”. An open heart is available to give and receive love, and does not cling to the wounds of the past. We treat the heart point to release the stress that can cause issues like insomnia, palpitations, and anxiety.
Ask your acupuncturist to prescribe a custom set of points to use for your unique conditions and concerns. Adding ear seeds to your self-care routine is a lovely way to promote healing in between your treatments, and create moments of intervention in your daily life so that you can maintain a calmer and more peaceful existence.