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Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) has garnered significant attention for its potential to provide relief for a variety of nervous system conditions, including stress and anxiety. Despite its promising benefits, there are several common objections and concerns that often arise. Critics worry about: 

  • Potential heart-related side effects such as skipped beats and bradycardia, 
  • Fear that the treatment might "fry your brain,"
  • Question whether it can cause lasting damage to the vagus nerve itself,
  • and have apprehensions about the risk of addiction to VNS therapy. 

This blog will address these top objections to VeRelief, a popular VNS device, by examining the underlying concerns and providing evidence-based responses to each point.

It can cause heart related side effects

Traditional knowledge among the medical community is that vagus nerve stimulation can be dangerous due to direct connections with the heart. This is somewhat true but also highly misunderstood. 

Proper understanding comes down to the anatomy of the vagus nerve and which branches of it you are stimulating. There are two main branches of the vagus nerve that are used for vagus nerve stimulation: the auricular branch and the cervical branch. VeRelief targets the auricular branch of the vagus nerve. Understanding the different branches provides valuable insight into the safety of the method. 

The auricular branch of the vagus nerve is found in and around the ear area. It is purely an afferent nerve, meaning it only travels towards the brain. It can be found on both sides of the head. There are no connections to the heart, lungs, or gut, so it can safely be stimulated without any risk of heart-related side effects. The auricular branch of the vagus nerve connects to the emotional control centers of the brain, particularly those that control the release of serotonin and gaba, meaning auricular vagus nerve stimulation is the best target for reducing stress and anxiety. 

Systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials indicate that aVNS can lead to a safe reduction in heart rate and modifications in heart rate variability, suggesting increased vagal activity without significant adverse effects on the heart. These studies reinforce the safety profile of aVNS in managing various conditions without posing major cardiac risks (Hua et al., 2023).

The cervical branch of the vagus nerve is found on the front side of the neck over the carotid artery. This branch does have direct projections to the heart, lungs, and gut, and at least one cervical vagus nerve stimulator is contraindicated for people with heart disease or high blood pressure, which is over half the country. Because of the direct projections to the heart, cervical vagus nerve stimulation is more likely to have heart-related side effects, such as causing bradycardia, arrhythmia, or syncope. 

Studies have shown that tcVNS can lead to significant bradycardia (slowed heart rate) in some patients. This is primarily because the cervical branch of the vagus nerve, when stimulated, directly affects cardiac function, potentially leading to a decrease in heart rate (Redgrave et al., 2018).

Conclusion: There are no direct heart-related side effects with auricular vagus nerve stimulation devices, as the anatomy of the nerve does not allow for direct effects on the heart. VeRelief is an auricular vagus nerve stimulator that has been demonstrated to be safe and effective in multiple placebo-controlled studies. 

Vagus Nerve Stimulation Will Fry Your Brain

The concern that auricular vagus nerve stimulation could "fry your brain" is a common misconception.

Auricular vagus nerve stimulation is a non-invasive method that targets the auricular branch of the vagus nerve. This approach is designed to avoid deep tissue penetration and high-intensity stimulation, thereby minimizing any risk of brain damage (Verma et al., 2021).

The mechanism of aVNS involves mild electrical pulses that modulate vagal activity to influence various physiological processes. Functional MRI studies have shown that aVNS can safely activate brain regions associated with autonomic regulation without causing structural damage (Badran et al., 2017), (Yakunina et al., 2017).

Research indicates that aVNS can positively affect brain function without causing harm. For example, aVNS has been shown to improve neuroplasticity and enhance cognitive functions in both healthy individuals and patients with neurological disorders, demonstrating its beneficial effects without adverse impacts (von Wrede et al., 2021).

It is important to consider vagus nerve stimulation uses the same technology as a TENS unit, which has been around for decades as a method to treat pain. 

VeRelief applies a small amount of electrical stimulation at the surface of the auricular vagus nerve, which triggers a chain of action potentials along the nerve and naturally activates brain structures. This is a naturally occurring phenomenon, but in no way will it “fry your brain.” When you apply stimulation to the nerve, the stimulation only occurs at the site of stimulation. There is no electricity that goes into your body and into your brain. It only reaches the surface of the vagus nerve. 

Vagus Nerve Stimulation Can Damage My Vagus Nerve

The objection that auricular vagus nerve stimulation (aVNS) can cause vagus nerve damage is based on concerns about the safety and potential adverse effects of the technique. However, current research indicates that auricular vagus nerve stimulation is a safe and well-tolerated method with a low risk of nerve damage.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that aVNS is a non-invasive and safe procedure. It is designed to stimulate the auricular branch of the vagus nerve without causing significant adverse effects or nerve damage. Clinical trials and reviews have consistently reported minimal side effects, with no significant nerve damage observed (Verma et al., 2021).

The technique of aVNS involves the application of electrical stimulation to the auricular branch of the vagus nerve, which is a superficial nerve. This approach avoids the invasive nature of traditional VNS, significantly reducing the risk of nerve damage. Studies using functional MRI (fMRI) have shown that aVNS can effectively modulate brain activity without causing structural damage to the nerve (Yakunina et al., 2017).

VeRelief uses small amounts of electrical energy to stimulate the vagus nerve. Over the last decade of independent research, studies show that you can safely stimulate the vagus nerve with 55mA of current or more without causing any damage to the vagus nerve. In fact, one vagus nerve stimulator that produces 55mA of current is FDA approved for safety. 

VeRelief has a maximum output of 16mA and an average use of 8mA during treatment. This power level is far lower than other FDA-cleared vagus nerve stimulation devices. VeRelief is considered a low-level vagus nerve stimulator. 

In multiple clinical studies with VeRelief as well as decades of research with low-level stimulators, there has never been nerve damage reported due to low-level stimulation. 

Vagus nerve stimulation is the fastest growing wellness trend in the country, and many thousands of people are now using devices such as VeRelief to calm their nervous systems in a safe and drug-free way. Note: if you already have nerve damage, you should not use a vagus nerve stimulator as it has not been studied for nerve repair capabilities. 

Auricular vagus nerve stimulation is a safe and non-invasive method with a very low risk of causing vagus nerve damage. Clinical and preclinical studies have consistently demonstrated its safety and effectiveness.

You Can Get Addicted To It

The concern that auricular vagus nerve stimulation (aVNS) might lead to addiction is unfounded, given the nature and effects of this therapy.

Auricular vagus nerve stimulation (aVNS) operates by modulating the parasympathetic nervous system, which primarily influences autonomic functions such as heart rate, digestion, and respiratory rate. These effects are inherently non-rewarding and do not activate the brain's reward pathways associated with addictive behaviors (Clancy et al., 2014).

Research demonstrates that aVNS is effective in treating conditions such as epilepsy, depression, and anxiety without leading to dependency. Clinical trials and studies show high adherence and tolerability without reports of addiction or withdrawal symptoms (Bauer et al., 2016), (Rong et al., 2016).

The physiological mechanisms of aVNS involve modulation of the autonomic nervous system, specifically increasing parasympathetic activity and reducing sympathetic outflow. This has therapeutic benefits for various conditions without inducing the psychoactive effects associated with addictive substances (Kaniusas et al., 2019).

Unlike addictive substances, aVNS does not trigger dopamine release in the brain's reward circuits. Studies in both humans and animals have shown that while aVNS can improve mood and cognitive functions, it does not produce the euphoria or reinforcement that characterizes addictive behaviors (Broncel et al., 2017).

Auricular vagus nerve stimulation is a safe and non-addictive therapeutic intervention. Its mechanisms of action do not engage the brain's reward pathways, making it unlikely to lead to addiction.


Auricular vagus nerve stimulation (aVNS) has proven to be a safe and effective therapeutic intervention, addressing various medical conditions with minimal risks. The objections regarding potential heart-related side effects, such as bradycardia, arrhythmias, or syncope, have been found to be rare and manageable with proper monitoring. Concerns about brain damage and nerve damage are unfounded, as aVNS involves non-invasive, low-intensity stimulation that avoids deep tissue penetration and significant adverse effects. Additionally, the fear of addiction to aVNS is unsupported by evidence, as the procedure does not activate the brain's reward pathways. Overall, extensive clinical trials and studies have consistently demonstrated that aVNS is a well-tolerated, non-addictive, and safe method for treating various conditions, offering substantial benefits without significant risks.

If you are looking for the most effective, convenient, and easy-to-use auricular vagus nerve stimulator, VeRelief is by far the best option on the market. 

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