Thermal auricular therapy, better known as ear candling, has to be one of the most maligned and misunderstood therapies, but in my experience when performed correctly and in the right circumstances, it is one of the most beneficial therapies that I give in the salon!
If you Google ear candles, it would be hard to find a positive article on them these days, however it is an ancient therapy, and one that has stood the test of time, but how they work needs to be fully understood, when to use them, and, more importantly, when NOT to use them.
Firstly, many people refer to them as “Hopi” ear candles, but this is incorrect. The Hopi nation have gone to great lengths to disassociate themselves from them. Yes, the culture may have used them, but so have many cultures, from the ancient Greeks and Egyptians to the Far eastern cultures, China, Japan, and Tibet, there is evidence of historical use of ear candling.
One of the biggest myths is that they remove ear wax – EAR CANDLES DO NOT REMOVE WAX!! There is NO SUCTION created by the candle. There are also many documented cases of serious damage caused to people by the incorrect use of ear candles, such as people perforating their ear drums, and setting fire to their hair and clothing!! So, you can see their bad reputation is sort of justified!!
Another reason for their bad press is that people just use them when it really isn’t necessary, and totally inappropriate, for example when they have an ear or sinus infection! Because they can be bought almost anywhere, people, who are untrained in their use, assume they are harmless and safe, and use them in place of seeking medical advice.
If you have unexplained pain, or an ear or sinus infection, ALWAYS seek medical advice before looking to complementary therapies. A fully qualified, professional, knowledgeable, holistic therapist will never give an ear candling treatment without a thorough consultation and confirming that there is no infection or pain present. (they are also not suitable if you’ve recently had your ears syringed, have a perforated ear drum or have grommets)
When to Use Ear Candles
I personally recommend ear candles to be at their most effective after a heavy cold, when the sinuses have been congested, and the ears and sinuses still have that blocked feeling. After an ear or sinus infection, but only after all signs of the infection and the cold have passed and any courses of antibiotics finished.
How Ear Candles DO Work
The “candle” is basically a natural cloth, soaked in beeswax, and sometimes essential oils, and rolled up into a long cone shape. Modern professional ear candles have a safety filter in the end, which not only stops melting wax from entering the ear but is also more comfortable.
Before lighting the candle the therapist places it very gently in the outer external auditory canal, (NEVER inserted INTO the ear) and checks that it is comfortable for the client. Once the candle is lit it is placed back into the ear and the therapist holds it in place securely, forming a seal around the face.
As the candle burns down, the essential oil infused smoke, which also carries the healing properties of the beeswax, gently filters through the ears and sinuses. It is the action of the warm smoke that is therapeutically working through the eustacian tubes that leads to relief, along with the head and facial massage and sinus drainage massage that the therapist does before and after the candling.
If there is blockage in the tubes, the smoke from the end of the candle will not be able to pass through them freely, this will lead to the candle burning down slower, which leads to the wax from the candle building up inside the candle instead of burning away cleanly. It is this that gives rise to the myth that its ear wax in the candle, (when the candle is unrolled at the end of the treatment) but it is from the actual candle itself, not the ear!
When given as a professional treatment, with the scalp and facial massage and drainage, thermal auricular therapy can be a really relaxing, safe and therapeutic treatment, that can provide relief from blocked ears and sinuses. It is one of my most popular winter therapies, and is also available as part of my holistic therapy training for those interested in providing ear candling to their own clients!