Acupuncture Alternative for Children with Cancer: Ear Seeds

If you have or know a child who has been diagnosed with cancer, we’re sending you abundant love and prayers. We won’t pretend to know what it’s like to get that initial diagnosis and have a wave of emotions overcome you in that moment. We’re holding space for you and encourage you to get connected with local groups, churches, and other support systems to provide the care you need during this time.

More than 15,000 children and adolescents under the age of 20 are diagnosed with cancer each year, but the survival rate has increased from 10% to more than 85%, according to CureSearch for Children’s Cancer. With it being the leading cause of pediatric “death by disease,” it’s no surprise that many parents will pull out all stops and do whatever they feel is best to help their child overcome this disease.

Quick disclaimer about this post

We want to to get this out of the way really fast: this blog post is in no way suggesting acupressure products, such as ear seeds, are a treatment or cure for cancer or any other condition or disease. But keep reading because you’ll find this interesting…

When parents choose alternative treatments, safety is paramount

A 2023 qualitative study set out to determine the sentiments, broadly-speaking, of 22 oncology-related healthcare providers toward supportive care and Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) treatments for pediatric cancer patients.

Prior to this study, a 2010 study already identified reasons why parents choose the route of CAM treatments, such as herbal remedies, special diets, and faith healing:

  • To help battle their child’s cancer
  • To help relieve symptoms associated with the cancer
  • To support the ongoing conventional cancer therapy

So with the understanding that many parents do opt for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) with the intention of bolstering their child’s body during a fight with cancer, let’s go back to the 2023 study.

Several themes and subthemes emerged from the study, but overall, healthcare providers were especially invested in safety based on a risk-versus-benefit analysis. Open and equal communication with parents was the key, in these providers’ minds, to increase safety.

Why ear seeds are an acupuncture alternative for children with cancer

Here’s where ear seeds come in.

In the study, one of the three themes was “Causing No Harm,” and within that theme, “Minimizing adverse effects.” Auricular acupuncture, which falls into the category of CAM and uses needles, cannot be used if the patient’s absolute neutrophil count or platelets fall below a certain threshold. Having this safety measure in place mitigates infections that could result from the acupuncture.

The acupuncture alternative for children with cancer, therefore, is…you guessed it…ear seeds! In the interview with the researchers, one of the providers actually mentioned ear seeds being a preferred option over acupuncture when parents seek auriculotherapy for their children with cancer.

To sum it up

Childhood cancer is a thief, and something that no parent or child ever imagines they’ll be faced with. But if it’s our battle to fight, don’t go it alone. Also, if you are interested in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), specifically acupuncture, you might consider ear seeds as an acupuncture alternative for children (with sign-off from your child’s doctor or healthcare professional, of course!). This is not medical advice — simply what was shared in the study from an interview with a real healthcare provider.


Bishop FL, Prescott P, Chan YK, Saville J, von Elm E, Lewith GT. Prevalence of complementary medicine use in pediatric cancer: a systematic review. Pediatrics. 2010;125(4):768-776. doi: 10.1542/peds.2009-1775

Mora, D. C., Kristoffersen, A. E., Jong, M. C., Hervik, J. A., & Stub, T. (2023). A Qualitative Study Among Healthcare Providers on Risks Associated With the Use of Supportive Care for Cancer Treatment-Related Symptoms in Children and Adolescents. Integrative cancer therapies22, 15347354231192959.

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