Ear infections

Whatever the age of the person, and whenever it happens, an ear infection is a truly horrible problem for anyone to experience. They have also been a problem that people have had to deal with for a very long time and all the great traditions of herbal medicine evolved ways of quickly dealing with this crisis. What follows is by no means an exhaustive list of those ways, rather it seeks to describe in practical detail the steps that I have consistently found to most help in my own practice.

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Finding a good herbalist

Most of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist or truly holistic practitioner to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program. There's a short write-up to suggest how you might go about finding such a person here

What to do with an ear infection right now

~ Firstly start by preparing the 'earbiotic' as described below then, whilst it is getting ready for use, there are several other actions you can take right away that can give some immediate relief

1) Cut an onion in half and hold it over the ear for a few minutes. The volatile oils from the onion (the same ones that make you cry) can quickly relieve pain by breaking down some of the mucus build-up.
2) Try to do some big yawns. Yawning can relieve a considerable amount of pressure from the ears and they are infectious, so if your child doesn't know how to make themselves yawn then just start doing them in front of them and see what happens...
3) Gently blow the nose whilst holding the nostrils pinched together. This can help equalise some of the painful pressure that builds up on the ear-drum - but it must be done very gently!

The Earbiotic

The following treatment has been seen to be rapidly effective for both children and adults with ear infections. In fact, most people who use it report that it worked faster for them or their child than any amount of antibiotics they took in the past.


~ Take three medium-sized cloves of Garlic; peel them and then either chop them very finely or put them through a garlic-crusher into a small container such as a tea-cup.

~ Put approximately 50mls (2-3 ounces) of Olive oil into a small saucepan and heat on a stove until it is very hot but not boiling and then pour over the freshly chopped or crushed Garlic.
~ Cover this mixture and now allow the garlic to infuse into the oil for at least 1 hour before first use. The preparation will stay strong and usable for 48 hours.
~ Clean a dropper by putting the glass end into a cup of freshly boiled water and then draw up and squirt out the hot water several times before use. Take the clean dropper and draw up approximately 4-8 drops of the garlic oil directly from the container where the garlic is still infusing.
~ Place the drops directly into the infected ear. Depending on the patient's age and the size of their ear canal anything from 4 to 8 drops is usually sufficient.
~ Once the oil is in, turn the head to one side to let gravity help the oil soak right into the infected area and keep it there for at least 5 minutes.
~ You can gently put a small wad of cotton wool just inside the ear to catch any oil that comes out or you can also use a q-tip to very gently clean the ear after treatment. Olive oil does not go rancid and will not support further bacterial growth (it has even been used by itself for ear infections in some traditions) so it will not matter if some if it remains inside the ear between treatments.
~ Repeat this treatment as often as needed. If the infection is very bad then keep dropping in the earbiotic oil every hour until things are clearly much better. The condition will usually improve rapidly and you can lessen off the frequency but you should still keep regularly treating the ear at least once a day for a week after all symptoms have disappeared as ear infections can be notorious for coming back again!

Caution: Keep it warm

Using the earbiotic cold could make it a painful experience. Unless your home or climate is already very warm it will be preferable to use the oil at body temperature. The best way to do this by putting the strained oil into a small dropper bottle and then warming it to your own temperature by either holding it in your hand for a while or by simply keeping it near to your body in a pocket.

Speaking of keeping things warm, you may find that your child gets considerable relief from having some heat up against their ear, such as can be obtained from a heated wheat-bag.


Preventing further ear infections

Ear infections, along with other childhood immune related health problems such as asthma and eczema, have greatly increased in the last generation and most of my personal experience in treating ear infections has been with children who suffer from them repeatedly.

These children usually have visibly depressed immune systems. Visible meaning a drop of blood taken from their finger and viewed at very high magnification through a microscope shows poor quantity and quality of the health of their white blood cells.

Other typical signs of immune trouble include such things as delayed wound healing, high levels of mucus congestion in the nose and sinuses and being more prone to head colds and chest infections than other children.

Whilst the above 'garlic earbiotic' is a good starting point in such cases it should only be thought of as the first step. You must also take further action to improve overall immunity and the place to start with this is to consider what might be causing the problem in the first place...

Caused by food allergy or intolernace

Food allergy and intolerance are clearly a leading cause of the kind of disturbed and weakened immune health that can lead to chronic ear infections in children.

Any history of asthma or eczema, either in the child or their direct relatives, is a strong indicator to explore the possibility of food allergy or intolerance. Other signs that might be suggesting an underlying allergy/intolerance include a history of sore stomachs or disturbed bowel function, 'allergic shiners' i.e. dark rings under the eyes, and in some cases a tendency to get small cracks at the corners of the mouth.

The whole area of allergy and intolerance is an important subject that needs to be approached with much care. If you think this might be a key issue then read my detailed article here.


Caused by deficiencies

Many children suffer from deficiencies of nutrients without realising it and this can have catastrophic effects on their immune health and ability to withstand the common micro-organisms that cause ear-infections.

Signs that could be suggesting this might be a key issue include a failure to grow and thrive, a poor appetite or being a particularly fussy eater, or problems with the health and growth of the skin and nails.

If a child has good food available to them but is just not eating well then consider giving them a course of the great digestive tonic Gentian. One of its ancient uses has been for children who fail to thrive and it truly has been seen to perform minor mircales in this regard, more here.

Further to the need for a good appetite is what is available to eat. Good nutrition is a vital cornerstone to all aspects of our health and if it will be helpful to read an overview of the key points on this important subject, then read here.

Caused by immune stress

The immune system is a remarkably intelligent, living force within us, that must develop from birth to learn how to deal with, and win against, literally thousands of different microbiological threats throughout life.

However, if we meet too many different kinds of stresses in our day to day life that impact negatively on our general health, then our immune system may simply be too weak to resist the infectious micro-organisms that are always around us.

It is not always easy, or even possible, to remove such stresses but what we can do is nourish and support the immune system with some key herbal medicines. The use of a herbal immune tonic has frequently been seen to be a life-changing intervention for a child who was previouslly suffering from recurrent ear-infections, more here.

Gentiana lutea (Gentian)


Perforated ear-drum

A perforated ear-drum is a serious problem with a high risk of serious infection. What can work exceptionally well to aid healing and prevent infection is a variation on the garlic theme above whereby you peel a clove of garlic (pick one that feels like it will be about the right size to fit) down to the thin layer that surrounds it then insert the garlic-corn into the ear so that it covers the perforation. You then put a little cotton wool that has been moistened in alcohol (any strong spirit will do) to make a plug to keep it there.

Think of it like an antiseptic blockage that will prevent any infecction getting into the area while the body heals its wound. It is safe to leave the garlic inside the ear for up to 2-3 days before removing it. This can easily be done with a pair of tweezers.

Depending on the size of the perforation, just one application may be enough, but if it has not fully healed over then replace it with a fresh clove and repeat the process. There will be some 'goo' coming out of the ear from both the healing process and some reaction to the garlic being there but, so long as there is not real concern that things are getting worse rather than better, which you would certainly know because the pain and pressure would increase rather than decrease, then just leave the garlic there so as not to interrupt the healing process and to help the hole heal over.

If the direct garlic treatment is too strong and is causing some irritation and soreness you may still want to try the garlic infused oil as described above but in either case you should keep some cotton wool in the ear to help provide a kind of 'bandage'.

Note that you should make sure not to let any water get in the ear and you should also be very careful to only blow your nose very gently when you need to. Try not to panic though, the body can and will fully heal itself from this injury, and quickly too.

Swimmer's ear

Swimmer's ear is a common problem amongst surfers and people who spend a lot of time in the ocean. In the early stages especially, it has been seen to respond very well to a tincture of Echinacea. Simply put between 4-8 drops of the tincture into the ear each time after being in the ocean. The ethanol in the tincture helps to dry out the damp congestion and the Echinacea helps to cleanse and prevent the build-up of unwanted tissues.

Echinacea angustifolia (Echinacea)

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!



© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd