Cleaned by a Candle

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

It’s not often you come across people who say that sticking a candle in their ear makes them feel good. However an ancient Chinese way of removing ear wax is fast gaining steam around the world, with salons and spas increasingly offering ear candling (or coning as it is sometimes called) alongside manicures and massages.

As with many other natural healing practices that are becoming popular today, ear candling is believed to have originated thousands of years ago, as a therapeutic way to draw wax and toxins out of the ear. To some it may sound like stuff and nonsense, but to others it’s a proven relief for minor complaints. Avid ear candling enthusiasts tout the treatment as a safe, soothing one that removes pollutants such as bacteria and pollen as well as enhancing hearing while detoxifying sinus and lymph systems and reducing the incidence of sinus and ear infections, stress and nervousness. Converts claim that candling can also have a positive effect on one’s physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels.

woman with ear candle therapy

Suffering from sore ears following a long flight and being a curious type who will give anything a go at least once, I signed up for a session in China’s capital, Beijing – arguably the home of TCM – to see what the noise was all about. It was I admit, with a certain amount of trepidation in my heart, as there is some disagreement about the effectiveness and safety of using ear candling. Besides injuries to the ear drums, there have been reports of burns to the face and ears, singed hair and wax clogged ear canals. However my therapist, Fairy (I kid you not!) was quick to allay any fears. She considered the process to be safe (otherwise as she pointed out, she wouldn’t be doing it) and recommends it as part of one’s self maintenance. She adds however “if customers have anything seriously wrong with their ears, they really should go to a physician first.”

Before your session starts, a brief history is taken – ear candling isn’t recommended if you have a perforated ear drums or grommets – and any questions and concerns can be addressed. I was then directed to lie down on the table while the comforting sound of some soft music played in the background. After a few minutes, the therapist instructed me to turn my head to one side before taking a 10-inch beeswax cone candle and inserting one end ever so gently in my ear. As smoke steamed from the candle, I could hear the crackle of the candle flame but felt nothing. To heighten the experience, I closed my eyes and was almost able to drift off; so enjoyable and calming was the treatment. After approximately 20 minutes, the candle had burned down and Fairy removed it and extinguished the flame, before turning her attention to my other ear. Once both ears had been done, the insides of the cone like candles are opened for inspection. It’s not pretty, but it is fascinating to see the debris and other undesirables previously in my ears, now inside the candle.


Is ear candling relaxing? Yes. Unusual? Definitely. Dangerous? I didn’t think so, but then I’m not a doctor. The procedure probably looks hilarious but the results are no laughing matter. I felt an immediate sense of peace and inner calm and can report an improvement in my hearing and well being in general.  It could be coincidental, but one week after the treatment, I don’t seem to be suffering from my customary, crippling headaches.

The treatment takes about 45 minutes and costs around 40RMB in a middle of the road beauty spa/salon in Beijing.

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