Ear infections were the number one illness responsible for nearly 7% of all pediatric visits in 2007 between January and September. (1) In a recent clinical study researchers found that antibiotics are effective in most cases of ear infections caused by bacteria. But only 1 out of 5 children with ear infections needs antibiotics to clear an ear infection. In 4 out of 5 children, ear infections clear on their own.(2)
WebMD states that antibiotics will not be effective if the ear infection is caused by a virus. Waiting before starting an antibiotic can save your child from taking medicine that he or she doesn’t need. (3)
The American Academy of Pediatrics is also suggesting the watchful waiting approach – where the parent keeps an eye on the child in case of worsening while treating the illness at home.(4)
To read more about ear infections in general, visit the NIDCD site.
Herbal home remedies for ear infections
For earaches one of the best herbal remedies is garlic and mullein flower oil. This blend will help fight infection and relieve infection as well. Garlic is an anti-microbial agent helping to fight both viral and bacterial infections. It is also warming and stimulates the healing blood flow to the area. Mullein flower is an analgesic helping to reduce pain & inflammation associated with ear infections.
Garlic Mullein Oil
1 bulb finely chopped fresh garlic
1 ounce mullein flowers
1 pint sesame oil
Infuse in the sun for one week or you may also simmer the ingredients over the lowest flame in a double boiler for 30 minutes if you are in a hurry. Strain well through a fine wire mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth. Store in a tightly covered glass jar in the refrigerator.
When you are ready to use, warm it up a little bit and suction oil into a dropper and instill 3 or 4 drops into the ear. Massage the outer ear and around the base of the ear after applying the oil.
Administer the warm herbal oil every 30 minutes or as often as needed. Any excess oil will drain out on its own within a few minutes.(5) If the eardrum is ruptured, massage some oil behind the ear. That works, too, if more slowly. (6)
Other old home remedies for earaches
Another great kitchen remedy for earaches is an onion. Wrap hot sautéed onions in a flannel cloth and apply directly to both ears (one at a time, if desired). Reheat the onions as needed. Leave the hot onion pack on for 30 to 45 minutes, longer if possible. You can reuse the onion and repeat this 4 times a day. Onions, like garlic have sulfur compounds that break apart mucus and congestion with its vapors.
Hot Salt Mitten
If you have no onions handy, heat some salt in a cast-iron skillet. When the salt is too hot to touch, pour it into a clean kitchen mitten, close the opening with a strong thread or rubber band and apply it carefully to the ear(s). Make sure it’s not too hot for the skin. You can add some layers of clean cloths between the skin and the hot salt mitten.
1 drop of Lavender oil placed on a cotton ball and applied to the outer ear
Ear infection tincture
1 part echinacea root
1 part fresh garlic
1 part usnea
¼ part ginger root
¼ part organically grown goldenseal root
Administer teaspoon of the tincture diluted in warm water or juice three times daily.(7)
The use of lymphatics in tincture form such as Cleavers, Calendula flower, Violet leaf, Mullein leaf, Alder bark may also help to speed up recovery.(8)
Food types to avoid during an ear infection
Eggs, dairy, wheat, sugar, orange juice, and all refined, processed foods.
Consult with your medical practitioner if, in adults, a fever rises above 104°F or, in children, a fever persists for several days or rises above 101°F.
1. Pediatric News, 12/07
2. Bradley-Stevenson C, et al. (2007). AOM in children (acute), search date January 2007. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence
3. WebMD: Ear Infections
4. ENTToday: Pediatric Ear Infections: Watchful Waiting May Be the Best Strategy;
5. Presented at the Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference (2005) by Mimi Hernandez, MS, RH(AHG)
6. Henriette Kress: Practical Herbal (p 124)
7. Rosemary Gladstar: Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health
8. Traci Picard: Ear infections: natural support