A painful inflammation of the ear can be caused by bacteria or fungi in the ear or by an infection of the nose and throat (such as a cold). Ear infection is classified according to where it strikes: Ear canal infection (known as otitis externa, or swimmer's ear) affects the passageway from outside the head to the eardrum. Middle ear infection (otitis media) occurs around the eardrum. Earaches are most common in children.

Many alternative therapies consider the conventional approach to ear infections too aggressive.

Nutritional Therapies for Ear Infection

According to nutritional therapy, certain foods can make the body prone to ear infections, and other foods can ready the immune system to fight off infections. Food allergies may be responsible for repeated ear infections, especially in young children. Testing can be done to pinpoint allergens (foods that trigger an allergic reaction), or all common food allergens can be eliminated from the diet under the supervision of a trained professional. Supplementation of vitamin C, vitamin A, and zinc may also be helpful in warding off infections. Beta-carotene, bioflavonoids, and foods that tonify the kidneys are often helpful, as well.

For middle-ear infection in a child, a holistic practitioner may recommend removing common allergens from the diet, including:

  • dairy products, including milk and cheese
  • eggs
  • wheat
  • corn
  • peanuts

Eliminating heavy proteins and sugars is also recommended.

Homeopathy for Ear Infection

Homeopathy has claimed a lot of success in treating ear infections in children. To stimulate the body to fight the infection, the therapy uses highly diluted, nontoxic doses of a natural substance that would produce the symptoms of an ear infection if given in full strength to a healthy person. A homeopathic remedy for ear infection depends on the person's specific symptoms. The homeopathic practitioner considers characteristics, such as the following:

  • What is the quality of the pain? Sharp, throbbing, dull?
  • Are there any associated symptoms? Discharge from the ear, throat, nose?
  • What makes the symptoms better or worse? Swallowing, applying heat, applying cold?

Possible remedies include:

  • belladonna
  • chamomilla
  • lycopodium
  • pulsatilla
Herbal Medicine for Ear Infection

Herbs can offer relief to people with ear infections and may fend off future earaches. Mullein flowers can be used for their ability to soothe inflamed tissue. Infused oil from this herb is commonly prescribed as eardrops but only if the eardrum is intact. Crushed garlic is thought to kill bacterial infections, and the immune boosters echinacea (purple coneflower) and goldenseal may also be helpful. A possible herbal treatment for middle-ear infection (in which the eardrum is not punctured) would be drops of warmed garlic oil in the ear -- specific amounts should be determined by a practitioner.

Other Ear Infection Therapies
  • Chiropractic Medicine for Ear Infection -- Manipulations or adjustments, such as on the neck or base of the skull, offer a lot of promise to adults and children with ear infection.
  • Craniosacral Therapy for Ear Infection -- Blockages in the fluid surrounding the skull and spinal column may trigger the infections. Manipulation to clear these blockages is helpful.
  • Environmental Medicine for Ear Infection -- Pollutants, animal dander, food allergies, mold, and more can contribute to an ear infection. Treatment may include avoidance of triggers, desensitization, and a rotation diet.
  • Hydrotherapy for Ear Infection -- Treatment can involve gargling with warm salt water and hot compresses.
For more information on ear infection and alternative medicine, see: