Part 2 Homecare Tools for Anxiety - Auricular Acupressure
The amazing ear helps to manage anxiety at home!
In part 2 of the series on homecare tools for anxiety, I will be discussing how auricular acupressure using ear seeds is another effective option for helping patients manage anxiety between acupuncture sessions.
Previously, the CES Ultra Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulator, which is clipped to the earlobe, was discussed in Part 1.
Why the Ear?
It is said in East Asian Medicine (EAM), that the Kidneys "open into the ears" and Kidney Essence nourishes the ears for proper functioning and hearing of the five sounds.
But, could certain types of ear stimulation positively influence the function of the Kidneys?
According to Foundations of Chinese Medicine by Giovanni Maciocia, "The Fire of the Gate of Life has to ascend from the Kidneys and communicate with the Heart, to provide it with the heat necessary for its function. Because of this, the Fire of the Gate of Life assists the Heart in housing the mind."
When the Kidneys become deficient from fear, stress, overwork, poor diet, etc., they stop sending adequate heat from the Fire of the Gate of Life, and thus the mind becomes unrooted and anxiety and worry predominate.
Could this be why, from an EAM perspective, the ears are so powerful in helping resolve anxiety? Perhaps ear stimulation helps strengthen the kidneys and marrow, thus helping the Heart properly house the mind again.
From a Western physiological perspective, the auricular branch of the vagus highly innervates the concha and to some degree the tragus (see the photo below where green indications vagal innervation).
One of the KEY roles of the vagus nerve is to end the body’s fight-or-flight response once the trigger for the stress has passed.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)
Due to its effectiveness, vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is becoming an increasingly popular technique for reducing stress, anxiety, digestive issues, depression, epilepsy, and insomnia. Devices like the CES Ultra use cranial electrotherapy stimulation on the vagus nerve.
Acupuncture can also be used for VNS. For a full review of the vagus nerve, acupuncture points to stimulate it, and its functions, please read the full article Vagus Nerve Regulation: An Integral Part of Healing Stress, Anxiety, Inflammation, and Chronic Illness.
Research on Auricular Acupressure
In a preliminary study on auricular acupressure for anxiety and sleep disturbance, researchers found reductions in serum cortisol levels and subjective markers of anxiety and stress (1). Another study on women with anxiety post-cesarean section found similar benefits (2).
Acupressure on the ear has a profound impact on the body and the evidence is clear that the ear is the central way to regulate the vagus nerve, whether with cranial electrotherapy or auricular acupressure.
Ear seeds are a low cost, high impact way to induce VNS.
They can be worn for up to 3 days at a time, although I have found many patients wear them for 7 -10 days before they fall off (not recommended, but it does happen).
Applying ear seeds to points on the concha causes continuous low-level VNS, helping turn off the body's stress response and activate the parasympathetic nervous system.
Recommended Points to Apply Ear Seeds for VNS:
- Point Zero
- Sympathetic Autonomic
You can find the points in the picture below. On your patients, look for marks, discoloration, or tenderness around the areas that correspond to the points.
A microcurrent device with a point detector, such as the StimPlus Pro, is extremely helpful to quickly find the points. When you find a point that reads on the detector, apply some pressure, and ask your patients if the spot is tender. If it is, then apply the ear seed to that location.
Anxiety Earseed Kit
After several days, your patient will need to give their ear a rest before replacing the ear seeds. I found it saved me a ton of time to send my patients home with an Anxiety Earseed Kit.
It comes with detailed instructions, tweezers, and earseeds so that they can reapply the earseeds as needed.
Plus, they also limited edition ear seeds for kids along with gold, stainless steel, and crystal ear seeds, which look attractive and stylish to wear.
Due to the powerful effects of auricular acupressure, I strongly encourage acupuncturists to incorporate ear seeds into their healing programs for patients with anxiety. It is an effective and easy homecare tool that can enhance your treatment and help your patients manage anxiety.