Monday, March 1, 2010

According to FDA, Ear Candling Unsafe and Unproven

On February 20, 2010, the FDA's Medwatch released a report that ear candling is unsafe, harmful, and should not be used. In ear candling, a cone of wax (such as beeswax) is placed in the ear and lit. Supposedly, the pressure difference caused by the heat draws earwax out of the ear and into the cone. In reality, the cones can deposit wax into the ear and cause serious injury. (We're talking surgical removal of cone wax and eardrum rupture.)

I did a review of the literature on Pubmed.gov. Of the seven articles I found, none had found evidence that ear candling is effective, including a trial in 1996 and a review of evidence in 2004. Years ago, I bought a pair of ear cones myself following the glowing recommendations of a shop owner. The science of the therapy seemed sound (the heat is supposed to create a sort of chimney effect in the cone), and the packaging was really persuasive, but I'm a chicken when it comes to fire and never liked the idea of balancing one in my ear. And what, I wondered, would happen if hot wax dripped into my ear?

I'm glad I never tried the things. Not all things "natural" or "alternative" are safe or effective. Seek expert advice, educate yourself, and use common sense. The world is full of people trying to make a quick buck -- yes, even people who sell "natural" products.

If you have suffered an injury from ear candles or any other therapy, consider reporting it to FDA's Medwatch program. It's voluntary, and you may be saving someone else from harm.

Interested in reading more about the harmful effects of ear candling? Check it out here and here.

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