|Not my ear, but a good example of ear seeds. Image source here.|
I have seeds in my ears!
It's true: my partner puts some ear seeds in my ears on Thursday during our TCM practical class. Ear acupuncture involves putting needles in the ear. The needling of ear points is useful in reducing anxiety, treating mental/emotional ailments, and in combating addictions. In fact, there is lots of research supporting the use of ear acupuncture in the treatment of addictions, such as smoking, overeating, and alcoholism. Read some research here and here and here, and there is a good an explanation of the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association's (aka NADA) protocol here.
There are three tools used to perform this type of acupuncture: using needles, tacks, or seeds.
Needles - Treatment with needles is just like any other acupuncture treatment. Insert needles, let sit for 15-30 minutes, then remove the needles. However, because the ear is tiny, so are the needles (smaller, compared to regularly sized needles).
Tacks - These tacks look just like what they are named after: like little, itty-bitty thumb tacks! They are so, so small. The practioner simply sticks the tack into the ear at the correct acupuncture point for the patient and then puts a piece of tape over top to secure the tack in place. The cool thing about ear tacks is that you can send your patients home with the tacks still embedded in their ears. This way the treatment continues longer. Eventually the ear tacks simply fall out on their own (some say they fall out 'when the body is ready') or the patient can remove them themselves after a day or two.
Seeds - With ear seeds, you can send your patients home with the seeds still attached to their ears. That way your patients can stimulate the points at home (to continue the treatment and to help them cope with their health struggle) by simply applying firm pressure on the points for 30 seconds, three times a day. E.g. whenever a cigarette craving hits, apply pressure to your ear seeds. When you use ear seeds, you don't actually perform acupuncture, but acupressure (the seeds never penetrate the skin). The "seeds" aren't actually "seeds"; they look like poppy seeds, but they are made with either silver or gold metal (see the above picture to see the seeds). However, I have heard of people using mustard seeds and simply taping them to the ear using surgical tape.