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« on: April 05, 2011, 04:52:16 PM »

Probably could shoehorn this stuff under an existing topic, but I've run into enough New Age, holistic, macrobiotic ad nauseam foolishness that I suspect a devoted topic is needed. First up: Ear Candling!

Toss Out The Q-Tips, Bring In The Ear Candles         
Written by Bobby Nelson      
Tuesday, 05 April 2011 00:00
Anyone who has ever held a job knows that people in the workplace often engage in conversations completely unrelated to work. Recently, a woman in the customer service department at my job has been praising a form of alternative medicine called thermal-auricular therapy also know as ear candling. After overhearing a couple of women talking about how amazing ear candling was, I couldn’t help but involve myself in the discussion.

Although I don’t remember what was said word for word, I was basically told that using cotton swabs, or Q-Tips, to clean my ears was not only ineffective at removing the ear wax but it was also very dangerous. Instead I should be using ear candles. Intrigued by this claim, I asked how they worked. Sadly none of the women knew the science behind this technique. They proceeded to tell me how great their ears felt after using them and that the best part was cutting open the base at the end to reveal just how much earwax was removed from the ear.

Instantly something went off in my brain telling me that this was crap but still I asked where I could purchase some of these “amazing” candles. I figured I was going to have to order them online, but I was surprised to find out that they are readily available my local all-natural store Bassett’s Health Foods. After work I picked up a tape recorder and went to purchase some ear candles. As soon as I walked in I noticed the candles behind the cash register and quickly got in line to purchase them. In front of me there were 3 individuals standing in line and I was absolutely shocked to watch each person buy 6 candles apiece. “Is this really that popular?” I thought to myself.

Just before going up to the counter I turned on my audio recorder and started to play dumb. Below is the actual conversation I had with the two women behind the counter:

Me: Hi. Some people at my work told me I shouldn’t use Q-Tips but I should
..(I was quickly cut off)

Girl 1: Ear candles!

Me: Yes, ear candles. I was just wondering how do they work?

Girl 1: Um (she grabbed one of the candles) you light this end of it (pointing to the top of the candle) and stick this part into your ear canal (the bottom part of the candle) and what happens is it forms a vacuum sucking all the ear wax out of your ear.

Me: So that’s all there is to it?

Girl 1: Basically, I can give you an instruction sheet as well.

Me: Thank you, I will take a couple of those (talking about the ear candles).

Girl 2: You’re supposed to use 2 to 3 per ear.

Me: Really? Why?

Girl 2: Because the first one is what we call a starter, but the second and third one are what really cleans the ear.

Me: Alrighty, I will try 4 for now.

Girl 2: It feels amazing.

Girl 1: I know, it really does, I am going to do mine tonight.

Girl 2: You’re really going to love it (talking to me).

Girl 1: Yeah, Q-Tips usually push the ear wax back into your ear, so you really shouldn’t use them.

Me: Really? So basically this is just going to form a vacuum and suck the ear wax out instead?

Girl 2: Exactly, but if you have any other questions just ‘YouTube’ ear candling.

Me: Thank you, I will.

Girl 2: Like I said you are going to love it. I didn’t think it would work until I tried it myself and it feels great. When you are done you can open up the candles and look at all the wax it sucked out of your ear. It’s really gross.

Me. Yea, that sounds gross. Well thank you again.

Girl 1: Have a nice day.

Me: You too.

I thought it was fascinating and very informational that the clerks told me to ’YouTube’ instead of providing me with helpful information. Nonetheless, I went home to try a simple experiment. What I planned on doing was use 2 candles in one ear and set up a box where I could stand up the candles in a similar way as to how they are place in the ear. I wanted to see if these candles really sucked the ear wax out of your ear, or if this nasty orange residue people are seeing can be produced if the candle is not in your ear.

So I lit the top of the first candle and laid on the couch sticking the bottom into my ear canal. Immediately my ear was filled with the noise of crackling and popping, similar to listening to a bowl of Rice Krispies. I could feel the heat inside of my ear, and the only thought I kept thinking was “Q-Tips are dangerous? I have a lit candle in my ear.”

One thing I didn’t know was that it takes a fairly long time for each candle to burn. It took about 8 to 10 minutes for the candle to reach the point to where it should be extinguished. Though that may not sound like a long time, I promise you, laying there holding one of these candles and hoping to God you don’t accidentally burn your house down in the process seems like an eternity. After the first candle was finished I started the same process for candle number two.

After the relief of finishing my ear candling and not burning down my house, I continued to the second part of my experiment. I took a cereal box which I poked two holes into, and carefully set up the remaining 2 candles and lit both at the same time (might as well get both done at once).

When they were finished I carefully extinguished them and placed each set on 2 different napkins and carefully opened them. I wanted to see if the set I used on my ear pulled out earwax and the second set was clean or if both sets would produce the same results. I opened up the set I used on my ears first.To my amazement I saw the nasty yellow orange residue everyone was talking about. It looked just like earwax. I moved onto the set that were place in the holes on the cereal box and just as I thought, the same exact results.

This one was used in the ear

These were done in the box

So unless the cereal boxed produced earwax, I think it’s safe to say that this yellow/orange substance is in fact the wax of the candle itself.

After researching a little bit on ear candles I found out that they are said to cure many ailments. These ailments include cleansing the ear of wax, relieving sinus infections, strengthening the brain to stabilizing emotions, aligning your chakras and healing your auras. I also found out in my research that ear candles are actually very dangerous. The major threat associated with using ear candles is the possibility of burning yourself. There is also the possibility that hot wax from the candle may also drip down into ones ear causing obstructions in the canal. Another dangerous and potential irreversible side effect is the perforation of one’s eardrum. There has even a reported death by someone using ear candles. A report of a 59-year-old woman accidentally ignited her bedding after dropping the ear candle. Although she didn’t die in the house, she did die later at the hospital. This is very sad and unfortunate.

Besides the dangers of using ear candles, research shows that it is not even possible for the candles to suck the wax out of your ear. The amount of force the candles would have to use to suck out the wax of one’s ear would actually cause the eardrum to rupture. These candles don’t even produce any type of vacuum. Furthermore, researchers found that these candles do not remove wax, but actually deposit wax into the ear instead. 
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) strongly advises against the use of ear candles because there is no scientific evidence to support any health benefits, even by following the directions. The FDA is also very concerned because some ear candle manufacturers are suggesting the use of this treatment in children and infants. This is extremely dangerous because the ear canals are smaller and children and infants are more likely to move during the procedure.

This is very valuable information. I now feel obligated to pass on this knowledge to people who may not know about the dangers associated with ear candles. What started out as just a way to find out if these candles are bunk or not turned into something much more. I hope this finds many readers and opens the eyes of those who use these candles and/or are thinking about using them. They are seriously very dangerous and should not be used under any circumstances. 



Skeptic Bobby Nelson is a writer, investigator of paranormal claims, and the host of Strange Frequencies Radio. His blog can be found at


See What Others Are Saying:
Power User
Posts: 15533

« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2011, 04:58:00 PM »

"aligning your chakras and healing your auras."

Speaking of chakras, anyone seen Al Gore lately?
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2011, 05:16:05 PM »

Frequencies and Their Kindred Delusions
Published by Harriet Hall under Energy Medicine
Comments: 31

The word “frequency” ranks right up there with “quantum” and “energy” as a pseudoscientific buzzword. It is increasingly prevalent in product advertisements and in CAM claims about human biofields and energy medicine. It doesn’t mean what they think it means.

I have written about Power Balance products , the wristbands and cards that allegedly improve sports performance through frequencies embedded in a hologram. They amount to nothing but a new version of the old rabbit’s foot carried for superstition and their sales demonstrations fool people with simple musculoskeletal tricks. I addressed their ridiculous claims (including “We are a frequency”). I pointed out that

The definition of frequency is “the number of repetitions of a periodic process in a unit of time.” A frequency can’t exist in isolation. There has to be a periodic process, like a sound wave, a radio wave, a clock pendulum, or a train passing by at the rate of x boxcars per minute. The phrase “33⅓ per minute” is meaningless: you can’t have an rpm without an r. A periodic process can have a frequency, but an armadillo and a tomato can’t. Neither a periodic process nor a person can “be” a frequency.

There are a number of similar embedded frequency products with different names. I got an e-mail from a man who thought he had found the best one yet: Ancestor Bands that promised to put him in contact with his forebears and allow him to benefit from their wisdom.

I thought he was pulling my leg, but he insisted he wasn’t. I asked him to wonder how they might have determined which frequencies the ancestors use. I asked him to question how he would know that any messages he got were really from his ancestors rather than from Pol Pot, from Hitler, from Jeffrey Dahmer, from an ignorant Stone Age caveman, or from some random village idiot. He said I had given him some things to think about, but he was trying to keep an open mind and really wanted to believe they worked. The website says

We are all uniquely connected to our ancestors genetically. The bands you see here will help you tap into the proper frequencies that your Ancestors transmit throughout the Cosmos. They are desperately trying to connect with you and impart their Newfound Universal knowledge of the Universe. The bands are designed to increase your mental power, physical strength, and reverse the effects of aging. Try it today, feel the difference tomorrow.

They start with the idea that all living things are interconnected and produce energy waves that we can tap into, apparently even after they have stopped living! The Ancestor Band uses “energetic therapy and informational balancing” to

directly address the energetic level using light, sound, electricity and magnetism as carriers of client- and condition-specific information… to remove tiredness, weakness, reduce pain, and eliminate stress… a group of spiritual advisors have transformed each piece into a Unique Genetic Communications link to the Past, Present, future, and beyond.

That’s about as silly a piece of gobbledygook as I have ever read. It would be impossible to test their claims because you can’t even figure out what they are claiming. For starters, I can’t begin to guess what “beyond the future” means.

Recently I’ve been getting e-mails advertising Philip Stein watches. They use “natural frequency technology” to embed frequencies in watches. This provides improved sleep. And they even have a published double blind randomized placebo controlled study  that proves it. Only it doesn’t. It did not give statistically significant results, but they interpreted it as positive because 96% of subjects reported improvement on at least one variable. That is not a meaningful scientific finding. In fact, it reminds me of a clever ploy that is taught to chiropractors: instead of asking whether the patient’s back pain got better after the last spinal adjustment, they are supposed to ask “What’s better?” until the patient admits that something is better (he slept better last night, or his appetite has improved, or his ingrown toenail hasn’t been hurting as much, or whatever). Then they can say “See, the treatment is helping you.”

The frequencies they are talking about are electromagnetic frequencies, and several of these were somehow embedded in a disc in the watch. It is a metal disk that has been “infused with key frequencies.” One of the key frequencies is 7.83 Hz, the Schumann Resonant Frequency. (Actually, there are several Schumann frequencies, which are observed peaks in the Earth’s electromagnetic spectrum.)  It doesn’t make sense that they could embed electromagnetic frequencies without embedding something that produced those frequencies, with a power source. Or do they mean they are embedding something that will vibrate in resonance with those frequencies? It’s far from clear, and of course they won’t try to explain because of proprietary secrets.
They’re really proud of these watches. They charge anywhere from $1400 to $23,000 for them. Soon the company will launch a new product that, when combined with the frequencies found in Philip Stein watches, delivers even greater benefits in improved sleep. I can’t wait.

I’d love to see these products taken apart by engineers who are competent to analyze what is in them. Even if these products did contain something that generates electromagnetic frequencies or that resonates in response to certain outside frequencies, it would take a big leap of faith to imagine that process would have specific beneficial effects on health. You would first have to accept the concept of a human “bioenergy” field that can’t be measured. Then you would have to accept that the field changes in response to a specific frequency and that those field changes somehow produce a specific physiologic effect. Not only is there no plausible mechanism, but there are no studies showing evidence of benefit. It might work; but in the absence of evidence, believing it does work would require you to have such an open mind that your brain would be in grave danger of falling out.

Perhaps we should monitor the frequency of pseudoscientific claims about frequencies: it might serve to track the degree of idiocy in public misunderstanding of science.
Note: My spell checker didn’t like the word bioenergy any better than I do. (There is a legitimate use for the word, but this is not it.) The spell checker suggested I might want to substitute “beanery” or “baboonery.” I confess to being sorely tempted by the latter.

Another note: my title is a reference to Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes’ classic 1842 article“Homeopathy and Its Kindred Delusions.”
« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2011, 09:36:00 PM »

While people sicken, CBS reporter spreads antivax propaganda


Short and sweet:
Why is it that when…
a) 30 people in Virginia have been diagnosed with pertussis (whooping cough) — enough to cause classes to be canceled at a local school — and
b) 14 cases have popped up in Minnesota — cases which can apparently be traced almost directly to the dangerous antivax movement —
… does CBS allow a ridiculous antivax screed by reporter Sharyl Attkisson ever to see the light of day?
Get vaccination FACTS at Immunize for Good.
Tip o’ the syringe to balister. Pertussis image from Microbiology2009.
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2011, 10:47:43 AM »

JREF Announces the 5 Worst Promoters of Nonsense
Date: April 6, 2011 | Author: Brian Trent
Category: Skepticism | Comments: 0 » |

Pseudoscience may get a free pass in the media, but not from James Randi.

The “dubious honor for dubious claims” has been bestowed this year on practitioners in an array of fields, from astronomy to pharmacology, and covering everything from aliens to homeopathy. There’s even been a repeat winner! There’s an infamous anti-vaccine promoter there too. And perhaps best of all, there is a man who formerly went bankrupt after James Randi himself exposed his scam.

I encourage readers to check out Sadie Crabtree’s article on the JREF’s own site. In the meantime, here are the highlights:

The Scientist Pigasus Award went to NASA Engineer Richard B. Hoover, who recently announced for the third time in 14 years that he had found evidence of microscopic life in meteorites.

The Funder Pigasus Award goes to CVS/pharmacy, for their work to support the manufacturers of scam “homeopathic” medications who sell up to $870 million a year in quack remedies to U.S. consumers. Instead of giving their customers the facts about homeopathy, CVS/pharmacy executives are cashing in themselves by offering their own store-brand of the popular homeopathic product oscillococcinum. Oscillococcinum is made by grinding up the liver of a duck, putting none of it onto tiny sugar pills—that’s right, none of it—and then advertising the plain sugar pills as an effective treatment for flu symptoms.

The Media Pigasus Award goes to Dr. Mehmet Oz, who has done such a disservice to his TV viewers by promoting quack medical practices that he is now the first person to win a Pigasus two years in a row. Dr. Oz is a Harvard-educated cardiac physician who, through his syndicated TV show, has promoted faith healing, “energy medicine,” and other quack theories that have no scientific basis. In March 2011, Dr. Oz endorsed “psychic” huckster and past Pigasus winner John Edward, who pretends to talk to dead people. Oz even suggested that bereaved families should visit psychic mediums…

The Performer Pigasus Award—this year for “Best Comeback”—goes to televangelist Peter Popoff. Popoff made millions in the 1980s by pretending to heal the sick and receive information about audience members directly from god. He went bankrupt in 1987 after JREF founder James Randi exposed him for using a secret earpiece to receive information about audience members from his wife. Now he’s back to prey on victims of the economic recession. In paid infomercials on BET, Popoff offers “supernatural debt relief” in exchange for offerings of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

The Refusal to Face Reality Award goes to Andrew Wakefield, the researcher who launched the modern anti-vaccine panic with unfounded statements linking the MMR vaccine with autism that were not borne out by any research, even his own.
« Reply #5 on: April 12, 2011, 09:16:07 AM »

Hmm, where have we seen this pattern before? But it's for the children. . . .

Junk Science Smites Craigslist
Freedom rests on a flimsy foundation.

Posted April 12, 2011
Print This Post • 2 comments took its Adult Services section offline permanently last September as a result of pressure from Congress and at least 17 state attorney generals. The most damning accusation leveled at the classified advertising network was that its adult section facilitated child prostitution.

Child prostitution of course is something to be concerned about, but hysteria about it, in the absence of real evidence, should not be allowed to limit adults’ free-speech rights.

One study was particularly influential. In early 2007 the Atlanta-based  anti-prostitution group, A Future Not A Past, asked the Georgia legislature for money to track juvenile prostitution in the state. The group’s campaign director, Kaffie McCullough, admitted, “We had no research, no nothing. The legislators didn’t even know about it.” Nevertheless, the group received 20 percent of what they requested. The group then asked the Georgia-based Schapiro Group to construct a study on juvenile prostitution.

McCullough provided statistics during the legislature’s next session. “It gave us traction — night and day,” she said. “That year, we got all the rest of that money, plus we got a study commission.” (You can listen to the Village Voice interview with McCullough here.)

Eventually several Atlanta groups banded together, most prominently the Women’s Funding Network, which financed similar studies in New York, Michigan, and Minnesota. It was the Network’s chief program officer, Deborah Richardson, who revealed the bombshell data to a September congressional hearing into Craigslist: Child prostitution had “risen exponentially in three diverse states.” She offered exact figures, “Michigan: a 39.2 percent increase; New York: a 20.7 percent increase; and Minnesota: a staggering 64.7 percent increase.”

Craigslist had been one of the prime data sources for researchers. The methodology of the state studies can be illustrated by the Minnesota one. Before a full study began, researchers asked a group of 100 observers to judge the ages of young women in photographs. (The observers are described both as a “random sample” and as “balanced by race and gender.”) The accuracy rate was 38 percent. The same people were then shown similar online ads of young women seeking sexual partners and answered the same question about age. (It was assumed the online photos were current and matched the person advertising.) Researchers multiplied the resulting number of allegedly under-aged photos by 0.38 to arrive at a total number of presumed child prostitutes.

Full statewide studies treated the 38 percent success rate as a constant even though they assigned a handful of new observers to count presumed child prostitutes on advertising sites like Craigslist and Backpage.

The claim of an exponential rise came from the estimate of presumed under-aged girls: In February the count was 68; in May, 90; and in August, 112. (The rise was attributed to increased prostitution rather than increased advertising.)

On March 23 the Village Voice ran an exposé titled “Women’s Funding Network Sex Trafficking Study Is Junk Science: Schapiro Group Data Wasn’t Questioned by Mainstream Media.” Quoting experts on research methodology, the article concluded, “[T]he numbers are all guesses. The data are based merely on looking at photos on the Internet. There is no science…. In fact, the group behind the study admits as much. It’s now clear they used fake data to deceive the media and lie to Congress. And it was all done to score free publicity and a wealth of public funding.”

Indeed, after Craigslist surrendered its Adult Section, Richardson and the Women’s Funding Network did a celebratory cross-country tour to make the most of the uncritical media coverage.

Those who used the flawed child-prostitution studies as supporting evidence dismissed the Village Voice critique on the grounds that the newspaper is financed by the same group that supports Backpage. But the list of critics within academia and the alternate media grows daily.

Nevertheless, Women’s Funding Network and similar groups seem to have political will and media sensationalism.

In announcing the permanent closure of its Adult section,  William Clinton Powell, a director at Craigslist warned that the ads would simply migrate elsewhere. Accordingly, 21 state attorneys general have set their sights on Anti-Backpage articles are beginning to appear in the mainstream media; a headline in the Seattle Times declared, “State should join effort to put’s sex-trafficking ads on the front burner.”

The Women’s Funding Network has announced its intention to have the study conducted in all 50 states.

Will hysteria or science prevail? I am rooting for science but betting on hysteria. After all, both children and illicit sex have been thrown into the mix, and it is an election year. It doesn’t take much to assault First Amendment freedom’s these days.
Power User
Posts: 15533

« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2011, 09:24:33 AM »

There are children being trafficked, as well as adult women who are forced into the sex trade. I couldn't tell you the percentage of those that are on the above named websites, but there are arrests made where children are rescued on a regular basis across the nation.
« Reply #7 on: April 12, 2011, 10:12:08 AM »

Hope those folks end up in deep holes where bad things happen to them. But surely no problem is so bad we have to use made up data to address it?
Power User
Posts: 15533

« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2011, 02:02:07 PM »

If it was just one kid, it must be addressed. There is enough real horror, no need to invent it.
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