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What is Ear Candling?

Michael Pollick
By
Updated May 17, 2024
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Ear candling, also called auricular candling or coning in holistic circles, is a controversial homeopathic treatment said to draw out toxins trapped in the ear canals, Eustachian tubes and sinus passages. Ear candling involves placing a hollow candle, usually made from cloth and paraffin wax, into the ear of the client and lighting the other end to create a gentle vacuum, along with a certain amount of beneficial smoke and heat. As the candle burns down, a therapist trained in the art of ear candling supervises the procedure to ensure the safety of the client. Once the candle has been extinguished, the therapist and client examine the candle's conical filter for ear wax and other toxins said to be drawn out of the ear canal.

The practice of ear candling has a murky history. Proponents of the practice claim any number of ancient cultures used ear candling as a holistic cleansing exercise, but independent confirmation of these claims is difficult to obtain. The use of fire as a healing element is certainly well-documented, but the actual practice of ear candling may or may not have ancient roots. The modern day form of ear candling appears to have become popular during the New Age movement of the 1980s and 1990s. Along with colonic cleansing, ear candling sessions were seen as safe methods for ridding the body of yeasts, toxins, natural allergens and other poisons accumulated over a lifetime.

Mainstream interest in the ear candling phenomenon appears to have waned in recent years, especially after several controlled experiments demonstrated that the material collected in the bottom of ear candles was primarily residue from the candles themselves. Scientists also concluded that the fire generated during ear candling could not generate the level of vacuum necessarily to remove ear wax from the ear canal. Such a vacuum would also permanently damage the ear drum and other tissues. The heat and smoke given off by the ear candle also had no measurable effect on the contents of the test subject's ear or sinus passages. If anything, the possibility of injury from a stray ash or misplaced flame far outweighed any benefit from the ear candling procedure.

Proponents of the ear candling practice claim that other parts of the body besides the ears do benefit from the treatment. Toxins trapped inside the sinus cavities and even the brain are believed to be drawn through permeable membranes and into the ear candle's filter. Many practitioners of ear candling consider it to be a spiritual cleansing as well as a physical one. They often report feeling a sense of relief from sinus pressure and blocked Eustachian tubes.

Obtaining the materials needed for ear candling can be somewhat problematic in the United States and Canada, since both countries have prohibitions on the retail sale of the ear candles themselves. Certain health food stores and holistic healing centers, however, do stock ear candling supplies, and some practitioners have even managed to create suitable homemade candles themselves. It is important to have some training in the art of ear candling before attempting the procedure without supervision. A protective metal or paper plate is often used to protect the client's ear and scalp from stray ash or embers. The remnants of an ear candle should be doused in water before examining the contents. When in doubt, it may be best to leave the ear candling therapy to trained holistic medicine or alternative health practitioners.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to WiseGEEK, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Michael Pollick

Michael Pollick

As a frequent contributor to WiseGEEK, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range...
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