Although they are more common in children, earaches can happen to people of any age. Fortunately, there are safe, effective herbal remedies for earaches.
An earache usually indicates an allergy or an ear infection. Earaches often accompany a cold or sore throat because it's so easy for undesirable microbes to make their way from the nose and throat up the Eustachian tube and into the inner and middle ear.
Children are especially susceptible because their Eustachian tube is very short and mostly horizontal, making it easy for mucus to pass from the back of the throat directly into the middle ear.
Herbal Remedies for Earaches
If you or your child succumb to infections easily, use herbal eardrops at the first sign of a cold. Mullein is the herb of choice for this condition because it is so effective. Infuse mullein's essential essences into olive oil and use as eardrops. If desired, add garlic to take advantage of its antimicrobial properties. See the recipe on this page.
Combine goldenseal, purple coneflower, mint, and chamomile into a sipping tea to help reduce the risk of ear infection during a cold or sore throat. The goldenseal (or Oregon grape root) along with purple coneflower will boost immune function so infectious bacteria can be conquered, hopefully before they cause trouble. Mint contains menthol, which has strong antiseptic properties, killing bacteria and viruses. In hot tea, the menthol-infused steam makes its way into nasal and throat passages, as well as into the Eustachian tube. Chamomile reduces inflammation, allowing fluid drainage from the Eustachian tube and preventing buildup of mucus and bacteria.
A wholesome diet rich in natural, unprocessed foods will provide necessary nourishment to prevent ear infections. Garden produce can provide many of the needed nutrients, such as vitamins A and C, that enhance the activity of white blood cells. Vitamin A, as beta-carotene in fruits and vegetables, maintains the integrity of skin and mucous membrane cells. Healthy cells are more resistant to disease. Adequate amounts of protein are needed, too, to make antibodies -- the body's warriors against foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses. Garden fresh beans provide protein and fiber. Fresh foods rich in flavonoids also boost immune function. These include red- and purple-
colored produce such as apples, purple cabbage, and berries. Limit simple sugars; in excess they depress immune function.
Witch hazel is helpful in treating swimmer's ear. Make a tincture of witch hazel, goldenseal, or Oregon grape root and calendula. Apply to the outer ear. Rue can also diminish the pain and inflammation.
Ear infections are serious business. Prompt medical attention ensures that the inner ear does not sustain damage. Ear infections sometimes require antibiotics.
- 1 cup mullein flowers; fresh is best but use dried if you can't obtain fresh
- 1 cup olive oil, or enough to cover flowers
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed (optional)
Place mullein flowers in a small saucepan. Add olive oil until flowers are covered. Heat on low for several hours, just until fragrant. If using garlic, add it during the last hour. Cool and strain. When ready to use, shake well. With an ear dropper, administer 2-10 drops into the outer ear canal, three times per day or at bedtime if the earache is less severe. Keep the head tilted for a few minutes to allow the oil to penetrate the ear, and hold in place with a piece of cotton. Store in a tightly sealed jar in a cool, dark place.
For more information about the subjects covered in this article, try the following links:
- To see all of our herbal remedies, visit our main Herbal Remedies page.
- To learn more about treating common medical conditions yourself, go to our main Home Remedies page.
- To learn other ways you can stop the pain of earaches, read Home Remedies for Earaches.
- Find out more about Witch Hazel and the conditions it treats when you read Witch Hazel: Herbal Remedies.
- Read about Chamomile and the conditions it treats in Chamomile: Herbal Remedies.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gayle Povis Alleman, M.S., R.D. hold degrees in both alternative and conventional nutrition. She manages nutrition education programs and teaches nutrition in the community. She is also a freelance writer and speaker in the area of food, nutrition and health, specializing in holistic nutrition to promote optimum health.
ABOUT THE CONSULTANTS
Silena Heron was a naturopathic physician with a family health-care practice. She was a nationally recognized specialist in botanical medicine who had taught throughout the West and Canada since 1973. She was founding chair of botanical medicine at Bastyr University and on the faculty for six years. Additionally, Dr. Heron was an adjunct faculty member at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine. She was the founding vice president of the Botanical Medicine Academy, an accrediting organization for the clinical use of herbal medicines.
Eric Yarnell, N.D., R.H. (A.H.G.) is a naturopathic physician and registered herbalist in private practice specializing in men's health and urology. He is an assistant professor in the botanical medicine department at Bastyr University in Seattle and is president or the Botanical Medicine Academy. He is the author of several textbooks including Naturopathic Gastroenterology, Naturopathic Urology and Men's Health, and Clinical Botanical Medicine; He writes a regular column on herbal medicine for Alternative and Complementary Therapies.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.