Long story short: Ear candling is a GD miracle cure.
I’ve been sick every minute of every day since I got to Asia… 23 days, 7 hours and 46 minutes, to be exact. I’ve had a disgusting cold/flu/infection that I haven’t been able to kick, and my incessant coughing, nose blowing and sneezing all day and night has been driving me, and my boyfriend, completely insane.
I’ve tried everything to get rid of the damn thing: Anti-biotics, Chinese herbs, Malaysian cough syrup and as many drugstore cold medicines that TSA would let me carry with me when I left the US (including, but not limited to, Dayquil, Nyquil, Sudafed and Mucinex), and nothing was doing me any good… Until I stumbled upon a (very, very sketchy) massage parlor offering “ear candling” on this morning’s walk to work.
Ear candling, which involves shoving a hollow wax tube in your ear and lighting it on fire, claims to clear sinuses and help with congestion… In addition to getting rid of years worth of disgusting wax build up. Kind of gross, but also pretty cool. The treatment has a lOoOnG history, with origins in all kinds of early civilizations including China, India, Tibet and Egypt, the Mayan, Aztec and American Indian Culture. The basic premise is that when you light the tube on fire, the spiral of the cone pulls the smoke from the flame into your ear, which warms the ear canal to loosen up the wax and any other buildup. As it heats up, the candle causes a suction which creates a vacuum and draws out air and wax from the inner ear. It also apparently has a number of healing properties because of the way the vibrations from the candle massage the ear drum and stimulate acupuncture points and reflex zones.
For $13, I figured it was worth a try.
I entered the dark (… kind of sketchy, and definitely not totally clean) “room,” which was basically a massage table behind a curtain, and laid down on my side on a pillow I highly The Burmese therapist started by massaging my head to “break up the congestion,” (at least, I think that’s what she said). She rubbed my scalp, forehead, and temples so hard to the point that it really hurt, which made me feel like it was actually doing something effective. It also made me cry justtttt a little bit, but it was dark so she couldn’t tell. Then she placed a towel over my head to “keep my hair from lighting on fire” (which is not not terrifying), stuck the hollowed out candle in my ear and Lit. It. Up.
I was equal parts fascinated and scared shitless by what was happening, so I watched the whole process — which took less than five minutes per ear — via the selfie camera on my phone for a front row seat to watch a flame rapidly approaching my face. I could hear really, really loud crackling as the flame got closer, which was the wax in my ear breaking up and being sucked into the candle. So, so gross. But whatever.
When the candles had burned to the bottom (without, thankfully, burning my face off in the process) the therapist massaged my ears just as aggressively as she’d massaged my head pre-candling, and wiped them with a cloth (which, I imagine, was to get out the leftover melted wax). As soon as I sat up, the congestion I’d been feeling for almost a month was completely gone, and I didn’t cough a single, disgusting-sounding cough for the rest of the day. It’s been nine hours so far, and I still feel amazing. Full disclosure, there was an instance of melted wax falling out of my ear while I was walking, but I still think it was worth it.
There are a lot of conflicting opinions out there about whether or not ear candling actually works (and a lot of scary stories about how dangerous it can be, which I am really glad I didn’t read before doing it) and considering I am not a scientist, I can only really speak from my own experience. But after trying seemingly everything else, it’s the first thing that’s actually made me feel better in a really, really long time.
… Hopefully it lasts through the night, before me and my cough get kicked to the guest room.