Listen Up!

Important information about ear candling that retailers need to know.

Written By:
Henna Kathiya
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Ear candling is an alternative medicine practice claimed to support one’s health and well-being. Much has changed in this category over the past year, so it’s key that retailers selling such candles be up on the newest information available for this market.

Traditional Uses of Ear Candles

The practice of ear candling dates back to about 2500 B.C. Ancient cultures, including the Egyptians, Greeks, Aztecs and Mayans, made reference to this practice of placing one end of a hollow candle in the ear canal and lighting one end in an attempt remove impurities from the ear. Parchment scrolls discovered in the Orient also described the procedure for ear candling, also known as ear coning. These ancient civilizations believed that convection heat from the lit end drew out softer waxes and toxins from the ear which were then oxidized and turned into vapors during the procedure (1). The ancients believed the practice would help open the body’s “spiritual center.”

This ancient therapeutic art may have been developed with the domestication of the honeybee. Beeswax was—and still is— a key component to making the hollow cylinders used in the procedure. The principal cloth used by ancient Egyptians was linen made from flax. These “candles” were really 10-inch hollow cones and were made from a fabric tube or reeds soaked in beeswax and paraffin.

By no means is ear candling a new process. But today, views on candling differ somewhat from their historical use.

Holistic Candling Today

Recently, concerns have been raised about whether ear candling could be dangerous and even ineffective at removing earwax. Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned consumers of several “dangers” it believes are associated with ear candling (2). A main concern of the agency is the chance of burns to the face, ear canal, eardrum and middle ear. It should be noted, however, that proponents of this technique believe the chances of burn are slim. They say this technique should be done under the guidance of an experienced candler and not by oneself. Also, those in favor of ear candles say a flame-retardant protective shield should be placed around the candle to protect against falling hot wax and ash.

FDA says it has received reports of burns, punctured eardrums and blockage of the ear in the past decade, and the agency doesn’t believe that ear candles produce a measurable vacuum pressure or suction on a model of the ear. This is a point that several candle manufacturers agree upon, noting that earwax is not drawn out during candling. Rather, the warm air promotes relaxation, comfort and overall well-being (3).

The agency, however, issued a consumer alert identifying ear 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.” It also issued warning letters to several ear candle manufacturers for unsupported product claims (which it says places them in the medical device category), and are suggesting that they change their language from “ear candles” to “candles” (4). In response, several manufacturers joined together in a law suit against FDA in an effort to stop their products from being considered medical devices.

In Your Store

Even with this backdrop, many of your clientele may want to continue holistic candling. Be careful how you talk to your clientele about ear candling; while FDA views it as a medical process, others say it is a holistic modality that improves overall well-being. Again, proponents of ear candling believe it is relaxing and therapeutic. Ear candling does not remove wax buildup, purify the blood, treat sinus infections, strengthen the brain or treat cancer (as some Internet sites may have you believe). Industry ear candle manufacturers stress that the technique offers holistic energy benefits, and though the risk is small, clients should take suitable precautions before trying ear candling. It warrants repeating that the technique is best handled under the guide of an experienced candler, who understands how to avoid burns and damage to the ear canal. WF

References

1. A. Tatum, “Ear Candling,” VI (2000).

2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, “Don’t Get Burned; Stay Away from Ear Candles,” Consumer Health Information, February 2010.

3. “Ear Candles Under Fire from FDA,” WholeFoods Magazine, 33 (4), 10 (2010).

4. Let the Truth Be Told, letter to retailers from Harmony Cone.

5. Global Health Freedom, www.healthfreedomusa.org/?page_id=5209, accessed October 28, 2010.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, December 2010