auricular therapy

Ear candling

Ear candling, also called ear coning or thermal-auricular therapy, is an alternative medicine practice claimed to assist the natural clearing of earwax from a person's ear by lighting one end of a hollow candle and placing the other end in the ear canal. According to medical researchers, it is both dangerous and ineffective.


One end of a cylinder or cone of waxed cloth is lit, and the other placed into the subject's ear. Usually the subject is lying on one side with the treated ear uppermost and the candle vertical, perhaps stuck through a paper plate or aluminum pie tin to protect against any hot wax or ash falling down the side. However some have the subject sit up, keep the candle nearly horizontal, and watch for dripping wax. Some candles have an internal filter to catch debris. The flame is cut back occasionally with scissors and extinguished between two and four inches from the subject. Its proponents claim that the flame creates negative pressure, drawing wax and debris out of the ear canal, which appears as a dark residue.

An ear candling session can last from 15 minutes to 45 minutes, during which time a series of 1 or 2 ear candles may be burned for each ear.


The Spokane Ear, Nose, and Throat Clinic conducted a research study in 1996 which concluded that ear candling does not produce negative pressure and was ineffective in removing wax from the ear canal. Several studies have shown that ear candles produce the same residue when burnt without ear insertion and that the residue is simply candle wax and soot.

In October 2007, the FDA issued an alert identifying Ear Candles (a.k.a., Ear cones and Auricular candles) as "dangerous to health when used in the dosage or manner, or with the frequency or duration, prescribed, recommended, or suggested in the labeling thereof" ... "since the use of a lit candle in the proximity of a person's face would carry a high risk of causing potentially severe skin/hair burns and middle ear damage."

Prof. Edzard Ernst has published critically of ear candles noting that "There are no data to suggest that it is effective for any condition. Furthermore, ear candles have been associated with ear injuries. The inescapable conclusion is that ear candles do more harm than good. Their use should be discouraged.

A 2007 paper in the journal Canadian Family Physician concludes "Ear candling appears to be popular and is heavily advertised with claims that could seem scientific to lay people. However, its claimed mechanism of action has not been verified, no positive clinical effect has been reliably recorded, and it is associated with considerable risk. No evidence suggests that ear candling is an effective treatment for any condition. On this basis, we believe it can do more harm than good and we recommend that GPs discourage its use.

As of 2008, there are at least two cases in which people have set their houses on fire practicing ear candling, one of which resulted in death.

Legal status

In Europe, some ear candles are regulated as medical devices, tested for safety and bear the CE mark (93/42/EEC). The CE mark is mostly self-issued by the manufacturer.

While ear candles are widely available in the U.S., selling or importing them with medical claims is illegal.

In a report, Health Canada states There is no scientific proof to support claims that ear candling provides medical benefits ... However, there is plenty of proof that ear candling is dangerous. It says that while some people claim to be selling the candles "for entertainment purposes only", the Canadian government consider that there is no reasonable non-medical use, and hence any sale of the devices is illegal in Canada.


Although manufacturers of ear candles often refer to them as "Hopi" ear candles, there is no such treatment within traditional Hopi healing practices. Vanessa Charles, public relations officer for the Hopi Tribal Council, has stated that ear candling "is not and has never been a practice conducted by the Hopi tribe or the Hopi people".

The Hopi tribe has repeatedly asked Biosun, the manufacturer of 'Hopi Ear Candles' to stop using the Hopi name. Biosun has not complied with this request and continues to claim that ear candles originated within the Hopi tribe.


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