Reduce Chemo Side Effects…with Ear Seeds?

If you or a loved one is going through chemotherapy, imagine hearing that a tiny bead attached to your ear with a piece of adhesive tape could reduce chemo side effects.

We’ve all heard the saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

But when it comes to ear acupressure with ear seeds (those tiny beads we just referred to), there’s actually a research study from 2019 called Auricular acupressure: reducing side effects of chemotherapy in women with ovarian cancer.

Does this mean that ear seeds could actually help reduce chemo side effects?

The results of the study are indeed promising, so read on to learn more!

Common chemotherapy side effects and their impact on cancer patients’ lives

Chemotherapy, often called “chemo” for short, is a medical treatment prescribed to fight certain diseases, especially cancer. It involves using targeted pharmaceutical drugs to attack and kill fast-growing cancer cells in the body.

While chemotherapy is a powerful tool against cancer, it can affect your body’s healthy cells, too, leading to unpleasant side effects. The most common side effects include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and other digestive problems
  • Fatigue
  • Temporary hair loss
  • Weakened immune system
  • Anemia
  • Changes in appetite
  • Mouth sores
  • Skin and nail changes
  • Memory and concentration issues

Side effects from chemo vary from person to person. Oncologists and other healthcare professionals work closely with cancer patients to manage and minimize them as much as possible while still effectively treating the disease.

The ear seed approach

Ear seeds, which are little beads or pellets that attach to the ears with adhesive tape and stimulate ear points that correspond throughout the body, have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. Only recently have they started gaining traction in the West, including the United States.

Many people seek out ear seeds as a complementary therapy for a range of health issues, including pain management, stress reduction, and, as we’ll see in the next section, their role to potentially reduce chemo side effects.

Protocol to reduce chemo side effects with ear seeds

Managing side effects from chemo can be done with both medications and complementary or alternative therapies. An example of a holistic approach to chemo management is with auricular acupressure, and specifically ear seeds.

In the 2019 study, researchers conducted a trial to see whether this type of intervention might actually have an impact on reducing the side effects of chemo.

The study’s authors specifically assessed women with ovarian cancer. The participants in the study were divided into two groups:

  • Intervention: 34 women receiving 6 weeks of ear seeding therapy on four ear points; these women were asked to stimulate the points by pressing on them for three minutes at a time, three times daily; the first ear seeding session happened after the third chemo session
  • Control: 31 women receiving standard nursing care alone (no ear seeding)

The majority of the women were diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer, although the other stages were represented, too, to a lesser extent.

The ear seeds did significantly reduce chemo side effects, “with moderate effect,” when comparing the intervention group with the control group. The most noteworthy side effect improvements related to these issues:

  • Disturbed sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of appetite
  • Neuropathic symptoms like pain and tingling
  • General activity
  • Mood and enjoyment of life measures

The peer-reviewed article, which was published in “Supportive Care in Cancer” also gave a nod to ear seeds in that they are able to be managed by oneself, inexpensive, and non-invasive. Ear seeds not being invasive is precisely why they’re more likely to be preferred by healthcare providers over acupuncture as a complementary therapy for cancer patients young and old.

Moreover, ear seeds are within the scope of nurses’ professional treatment abilities, according to researchers Tsao and Creedy; what’s required is that they receive training on auricular acupressure so they can apply ear seeds for the most positive outcomes possible.

Ear acupressure points to reduce chemo side effects

In this study, four acupressure points of the ear were seeded:

This is another one of those studies where the protocol demanded the ear seeding to be alternated between ears (switching to the other ear every three days) rather than having both ear seeded at once.

Integrating ear seeds into your cancer journey

Curious to add ear seeds to your or a loved one’s cancer-treating toolkit?

First and foremost, please consult your healthcare provider before starting a new treatment, even a non-invasive one. And remember, the information shared in this article is for informational and educational purposes only, and is not a replacement for professional treatment, nor is it intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.

With that information in mind and with your healthcare provider on board, we invite you to purchase ear seeds from us at My Ear Seeds.

Additional recommended reading if you’re just getting started with ear seeds:

Two of the most important tips we can give for using ear seeds to reduce chemo side effects:

  1. Putting the seeds on the correct ear acupressure points
  2. Sticking with the protocol

We advise using the protocol in this study, but if it’s overwhelming or hard to understand, feel free to follow our 4-3-1 Rule. Most importantly, stay consistent. Ear seeds are not effective if you just leave them on for a few days and then don’t use them again. Like any health habit in your life, you must decide you’re going to be consistent. Our 4-Week Ear Seeds Tracker will also help.

The effectiveness of auricular acupressure for reducing treatment side effects depends on adherence to the recommended protocol.

Tsao & Creedy

To sum it up

Ear seeds are a unique but proven (at least in the case of female ovarian cancer patients) add-on to standard nursing care to reduce chemo side effects.

Have you seen success with ear seeds? We’d love to hear a positive story from the real world. Email us at to share the great news!

Acupuncture Alternative for Children with Cancer: Ear Seeds


Tsao, Y., & Creedy, D. K. (2019). Auricular acupressure: reducing side effects of chemotherapy in women with ovarian cancer. Supportive Care in Cancer, 27(11), 4155+.

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