Natural medicines and procedures are a big market and many consumers are buying into the results being promised by advertisers and practitioners. However, the Food and Drug Administration is stepping up to warn consumers that claims may not be what they seem. Of particular concern is the popularity and promotion of ‘ear candling’.

Ear candling is a procedure where a special ear candle which is a 10 inch hollow cone made from a beeswax-soaked fabric tub is inserted into the ear. The candle is lit and placed in the ear in an effort to make a vacuum that draws impurities and wax from the ear canal. The procedure is said to also help improve hearing, clear ear and sinus infections, improve the functioning of the brain, purify blood, and cure cancer. However, the FDA is not as quick to believe these claims and warn consumers they shouldn’t be either.

Essentially, the FDA’s investigation has not found valid evidence of a scientific nature to support that ear candling is effective or safe, nor that it provides any of the mentioned benefits. It is the advertisement of health benefits that most concern the agency because in many cases ear candling is a risk to health and not a benefit. In fact, there have been many reported claims that those who used ear candling have incurred burns and had their eardrums perforated. Temporary hearing loss may also be a result of the procedure. Many have had to suffer through surgery to repair the damage caused by ear candling, including severe burns caused by melting wax falling into the eardrum.

A chief concern of the FDA is that ear candling is also being advertised as safe for children who are likely experiencing wax buildup and ear infections at a young age. However, the risks to children are greater for injuries due to the small size of their ear canal and the susceptibility to burns and other injuries.

Consumers who have been injured by ear candling procedures are encouraged to report incidents to the Food and Drug Administration by calling 800-332-1088 or by filling out a form online. These reports will help the agency continue their investigation of the issues surrounding ear candling and those who practice the procedure. The agency is continuing to alert both adult and children about the dangers of this purportedly ‘natural’ procedure and cautions everyone to avoid it altogether.