Put a Seed on It: Earseeds and Needle-Free Acupuncture

Many people think acupuncture and immediately think needles, but there are a wide variety of tools at our disposal, many of which stem from Eastern medicine’s herbal traditions. Earseeds, for example, are a popular form of herbal treatment which gently press on acupuncture points versus needle insertion.

Vaccaria seeds (Latin name: Semen Vaccariae; Chinese name: wang bu liu xing) can be prescribed for internal use to reduce breast and testicular swelling and move blood to promote lactation or menstruation. They are also handy little round seeds that can gently stimulate acupuncture points on the ear or body to provide treatment that lasts several hours to days. This treatment is safe for all patients and, like most acupuncture treatment, has only a low risk of minor side effects.

Vaccaria seeds are commonly referred to as “earseeds” since we often use the microcosm of the ear to treat conditions throughout the body. The seeds, gently pressed against the skin by a very small bandage adhesive, stay particularly well on the ear, but earseeds can be applied to any acupuncture point. Magnets or other metals are sometimes used instead of the seed. This makes them a versatile and minimally visible way of extending treatment beyond a visit to your acupuncturist. I prefer to use the gentlest possible form of effective treatment, a hallmark of Japanese medicine, and to make sure my patients are empowered to treat themselves with the knowledge they glean from our sessions. I love giving out earseeds so symptoms like insomnia, nausea, headaches, jetlag, neck and shoulder pain, and anxiety are continually improving or being prevented between sessions. That way we don’t lose ground, patients have a new appreciation for what their body is capable of doing with little assistance, and they have more freedom to travel.

Free Earseed Treatments Sunday July 16

I will be giving free earseed treatments at the Herbal Medicine (and then some!) Fair on July 16, sharing a booth with my San Francisco officemates Back to Life Physical Therapy. There are many other ways to treat without needle insertion in an acupuncture session as well, including moxibustion, contact needles, and a variety of diagnostic massage techniques including cupping. Come feel how earseeds can treat a wide variety of symptoms and conditions and ask any questions in person!

5th Annual Herbal Medicine (and Then Some!) Fair
Sunday July 16, 2017 10am – 5pm
Temescal Alley (486 49th St in Oakland)


Shawna Seth, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. is a California state licensed and nationally certified acupuncturist focused on promoting women’s health, especially surrounding menstrual health and fertility. She uses the gentlest effective methods possible to guide her patients to balance. Shawna sees patients in her private practice on Sutter Street in San Francisco. Make your appointments online or email To learn more about Japanese medicine and the world of acupuncture, follow her blog A Cuppa Qi.

This write-up was originally written for Homestead Apothecary's July 2017 newsletter.

Needle Free if Need Be: Gentle Japanese Acupuncture Alternatives to Needles

Cupping has had a news moment lately with Michael Phelps and it has been fun to hear from many friends and patients wanting me to see that what they already know is great is being shared more widely. I wanted to take the opportunity to share back that cupping is just one of the many ways that Japanese Medicine can help that has nothing to do with needles!

When I tell people I am an acupuncturist, I often hear some variety of statement about how they've heard good things about acupuncture, but..."I'm scared of needles."

I myself was terrified of needles* when I first started going to acupuncture and there was no way I was going to drink bitter herbs!** Luckily, I was met with a first acupuncture practitioner who was open and wanted to help me based on my comfort level. She didn't mind my many questions about why she wanted me to do something or how that was going to help. Given how successful that was for me (I ended up training as an acupuncturist, after all!) I believe in working just that same way. I will meet you where you are and use the wide variety of tools at my disposal to treat you. And believe it or not, that means we can do entire treatments with absolutely no sharp objects! Perhaps that means we have an eventual goal of using needles (maybe just one?) or maybe you don't even want to put that on the table. Either is absolutely fine.

What can we use instead of inserted needles?