Holistic medicine

Ear candles - application and effects

Ear candles - application and effects

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Ear candles or even ear candles are discussed very controversially: Some see them as a pure relaxation agent. Others claim that ear candles have a cleaning effect because they can remove ear wax. For others, they are an alternative healing method that is said to alleviate pressure and pain in the ears and head or even ringing the ears (tinnitus). Critics, on the other hand, warn against the use of ear candles because there is a risk of injury if used improperly. Their origin is also not proven, so that there are also different theories and some myths around them.

But what is it really with ear candles? Do you offer relaxation, ear cleaning, healing? Or are they a health hazard? In the following article we would like to inform you factually about the different approaches.

As with almost all naturopathic or alternative medical methods, it also applies to ear candles that you should seek advice from your family doctor before a planned application as to whether this method is suitable for you or whether health risks speak against it.

What are ear candles?

Most ear candles are made of cotton, which is soaked or smeared with beeswax. Some essential oils, herbs or spices are added to the wax. Ear candles are hollow, around twenty centimeters long and about six millimeters in diameter.

Theories on the origin of the ear candles

There are various theories that the ear candles have a long tradition in shamanic rituals of the Hopi Indians and other primitive peoples. In some cases, there is a report of around nine hundred years of tradition in Asia as well as among the natives of North and Central America. However, these statements have not yet been substantiated. The ear candles are said to have traditionally consisted of leaves mixed with herbs and were used in ceremonies. The fact is that the ear candle entered Europe in the mid-1980s and is still used in many naturopathic practices in Germany.

Possible mode of action of the ear candles

An ear candle is carefully inserted into the ear, rotating slightly, and then lit. According to the manufacturer, this creates a slight negative pressure and “biodynamic vibration waves”, which could have a massage-like effect on the eardrum. In addition, the burning creates heat and this radiates into the ear, which promotes blood circulation.

According to the manufacturer, energy points and reflex zones should also be stimulated by the ear candles. Some therapists compare the effects of ear candling with that of acupuncture, but without the use of needles.

For those candles that contain flavorings, they can have a relaxing or stimulating effect. It depends on the fragrance.

Are ear candles used for relaxation?

The heat emanating from the ear candle can have a relaxing effect. In some cases, the feeling of warmth and relaxation spreads from the ear to the entire body. According to a publication by the Association of Independent Alternative Practitioners, ear candles are used for relaxation. The association states that users “feel lighter, more relaxed and sleepy and experience general well-being” (source: see end of article).

The relaxation effect could be due to the fragrances contained in the candles; for example, some candles are added with lavender essential oil, which releases their fragrances when burned. Put simply, they reach the brain via the nose and trigger relaxation impulses there. This process is explained in more detail in the section "Do ear candles have a healing effect?"

Are ear candles suitable for removing ear wax?

The assertion that ear candles are a suitable means of removing ear wax persists. This is justified by the fact that the heat effect can soften ear wax. The lard is then pulled out of the ear due to the negative pressure created during the application. However, this is demonstrable; Both the heat development and the suction effect are usually too low to solve ear wax.

Ear wax fulfills important functions in the human body: Among other things, it prevents foreign bodies, bacteria or even insects from entering the ear. It contains antibacterial substances that are supposed to ward off inflammation. It also cleans the ear by binding dust, dirt and dead skin cells so that they can be carried out via tiny hairs.

Usually, a healthy ear cleans itself and a healthy organism does not produce too much lard. As with all processes in our body, unfortunately, this can also be disturbed; this means that there is both a production of too much ear wax and problems with the removal of the same. It is also correct that the formation of excessive ear wax can lead to problems: difficult hearing, itching, ear pain, ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and many other unpleasant effects can be attributed to this.

If you suspect that too much ear wax has accumulated in your ears, consult your family doctor or an ear, nose and throat specialist for clarification. If necessary, the ear can be removed from the wax plug with the aid of a suction device. This usually does not cause pain; some people just find the process somewhat uncomfortable.

Under no circumstances should you try to remove the ear wax yourself by inserting objects! There is a serious risk of injury here. Cotton swabs should also not be used to clean the ear canal. On the one hand, they can injure the sensitive area, on the other hand, they can help to push the lard further into the ear canal.

You can find tips on how to properly clean your ears in our article "Ear wax - formation, function and safe removal".

Do ear candles have a healing effect?

There are no clinical studies on the healing effects of ear candles. Therefore, one can only explain theories about how a possible healing effect of this application could come about.

A possible positive effect on certain complaints could be based, for example, on the fact that the inner ear is lightly massaged, warmed and thus better supplied with blood by the vibrations caused by the changed pressure and the development of heat. This is said to have a positive effect on the sinuses. Increased blood flow could also have a beneficial effect on ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and certain headaches.

The stimuli triggered by the ear candle (vibration and heat) could spread through the Eustachian tube (connection between middle ear, nose and throat) to the throat and also stimulate blood circulation here. There is lymphatic tissue, such as the tonsils. These could also theoretically benefit from ear candle treatment.

What is certain is that the effect of added fragrances and those released during combustion means that ear candling can have a positive effect on the psyche. Burning the added herbs or essential oils creates fragrant smoke. The smelling process directly affects our limbic system in the brain. Fragrances trigger a chemical reaction there, which can then affect our emotions, our memory and our mood. Depending on the additive, the parasympathetic nervous system (part of the autonomic nervous system) is stimulated or calmed, which affects our circulation, blood pressure and respiratory rate.

The use of ear candles can have a calming but also stimulating effect on the body and mind, depending on the fragrances added to the candle. For example, an ear candle that contains lavender can help to relax.

The effect of smells on the psyche and body has been well researched; thus ear candles could give healing impulses at least in this point. However, if these consist only of this, the same positive effect could also be achieved via aromatherapy.

How dangerous are ear candles?

Improper use of ear candles can cause burns. If wax drips into the ear, the eardrum can be damaged at worst.

Many ear candles contain herbal additives or essential oils. This can lead to allergic reactions in some people, for example difficulty breathing or severe reddening of the skin.

In this respect, it is correct that the use of ear candles poses health risks. However, most can be avoided with a few simple precautions. So it is best to never use the ear candles alone, but let someone else light the candle, who then supervises their burning and extinguishes the candle in time. It goes without saying that ear candles do not belong in the hands of children.

The selection of candles with a safety filter or other shielding device against running wax is an important protective measure. Many ear candles today also have a marking line that indicates when the candle must be extinguished. The Association of Independent Health Practitioners also recommends only using candles with a patented safety tip and drip-proof wax. You should also use ear candles made of organic cotton if possible to avoid exposure to pesticides released during burning.

Flow of an ear candle application

An ear candle application is usually carried out in the practice of a naturopath. The patient lies on his side and is covered, as desired. The ear candle is carefully inserted into the ear canal, rotating a maximum of two millimeters. The surrounding area is now covered with a cloth to protect skin and hair from hot wax.

Then the ear candle is lit at the top, which is the beginning of the actual treatment. The therapist holds the ear candle for the entire duration of the burn. Most ear candles have a mark at the lower end. As soon as the flame reaches the mark, the candle is immersed in a vessel with water to extinguish the flame. The treatment usually lasts an hour. Each ear takes around twenty minutes, after which there is a rest period.

Possible areas of application for ear candles

As already mentioned, there is no proof of effectiveness for the use of ear candles. However, a relaxing effect through warmth and the addition of soothing fragrances is likely. Accordingly, the ear candles could have positive effects on many stress-related problems such as sleep disorders and nervousness. You have to decide for yourself whether aromatherapy or proven effective methods against stress such as autogenic training, yoga or meditation would not be as helpful or even more promising.

According to some manufacturers and naturopathic practices, further uses for ear candles are headaches and migraines, inflammation of the sinuses (sinusitis), ringing in the ears (tinnitus), ear pain, feeling of pressure in the ears and circulatory disorders.

Due to the lack of proof of efficacy, you should definitely consult your family doctor before using ear candles. If there are no reasons against the use of ear candles after consultation and the safety precautions according to the manufacturer's instructions are observed, there is nothing to be said against trying ear candles and observing whether their use has a positive effect on the individual complaints.

When should ear candles not be used?

Ear candling treatment should never be carried out for acute ear infections and especially not for perforated eardrums. Fever is also a contraindication. Extremely inflammatory diseases of the respiratory tract and the ears belong in the hands of a specialist. For all unclear complaints and when using ear candles against specific complaints, prior medical clarification is necessary.

Final note

If you use ear candles, please pay close attention to the safety instructions of the respective manufacturer and consult your family doctor before use. (kh, sw)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Magistra Artium (M.A.) Katja Helbig, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


  • Association of Independent Alternative Practitioners: Ear Candle Applications (accessed: 10.10.2019), Heilpraktikerverband.de
  • German Professional Association of Otorhinolaryngologists: Tips for proper ear care (accessed: 10.10.2019), hno-aerzte-im-netz.de
  • Thomas Lenarz, Hans-Georg Boenninghaus: ENT, Springer-Verlag, 14th edition 2012
  • Bradley W. Kesser: Ear Canal Obstruction, MSD Manual, February 2018, msdmanuals.com
  • American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery: Experts Update Best Practices for Diagnosis and Treatment of Earwax (Cerumen Impaction) Important Patient Education on Healthy Ear Care, 2017, entnet.org

Video: Do Ear Candles Really Work? FACT OR FICTION! (January 2023).