Ear infections

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The World Health Organisation warns that growing bug resistance to antibiotics could ‘seriously jeopardise’ progress made in modern medicine. Medical authorities are trying to educate both doctors and the public that “Antibiotics are not effective against viral infections like the common cold, flu, most sore throats, bronchitis, and many sinus and ear infections. Taking antibiotics can also have harmful side effects for you or your child.”

All the world's traditions of herbal medicine evolved ways of quickly dealing with the crisis of an ear infection because, whatever the age of the person, and whenever it happens, they are a truly horrible problem for anyone to experience. What follows describes just a few of those ways to achieve some immediate relief and then goes into more detail on how to prevent them happening in the first place.

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 preparing the 'earbiotic' as described in detail just below. Then, whilst it is getting ready to use, there are several other actions you can try right now to give some relief:

1) Cut an onion in half, then putting the flat side on the bottom, place the bottom half in a bowl of very hot water for about one minute. Take the now-hot half onion in a cloth and hold directly over the ear. The combination of heat and the mucus relieving volatile oils will give some instant relief.

After the onion treatment, if the child still wants it, there can be continued relief from pain and pressure by applying the penetrating warmth of a heated wheat bag or a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel to the affected ear. Let the child rest their head on the heat source for as long as they want to.

2) Do some big yawns. Yawning relieves a considerable amount of pressure from the ears and yawning is ' infectious' so, if your child doesn't know how to make themselves yawn, just start yawning in front of them and see if they catch on

3) Gently blow the nose whilst holding the nostrils pinched together. This helps equalise the ear drum and relieve some pressure, but it must be done very gently!

The Garlic Earbiotic

The following treatment has been seen to be highly effective for a great many children with ear infections. Adults can use it just as well too. The parents who try this approach nearly always say that it worked faster and better for their child than any amount of antibiotics they've taken in the past.


~ Take three medium-sized cloves of fresh Garlic; peel them and then either chop them 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 allow the garlic to infuse into the oil for at least 1 hour before first use. The preparation will be strong, fresh, and usable for 24 hours. Then make a fresh batch.

~ Clean and warm 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, warm dropper and draw up approximately 4-8 drops of the garlic oil directly from the container where the garlic is still infusing. If you don't warm the dropper up in hot water, be sure to warm the oil in another way. Do not put cold oil into the ear.

~ Place the drops directly into the infected ear. Depending on the patient's age and the size of their ear canal, somewhere 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 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 bad then keep dropping in the earbiotic oil every hour until things are clearly very 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 to make sure the ear infection doesn't come back.


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 cases that come into the clinic are children who suffer from them repeatedly.

These children usually have visibly depressed immune systems, meaning a drop of blood taken from their finger and viewed at high magnification through a microscope shows a 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.

The 'garlic earbiotic' is a great starting point for such cases but it should only be thought of as the first step. You must also take further action to improve overall immunity and where to start is to consider what might be causing low immune health the problem in the first place...

Caused by food allergy or intolerance

Food allergy or intolerances are a leading cause for disturbed or weakened immune health leading to chronic ear infections in children. Many children with recurrent ear infections have turned things around by removing a food that was creating excess mucus and stressing their immune systems. Dairy products have been the biggest issue here, followed by Gluten.

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, disturbed bowel function, or 'allergic shiners' i.e. dark rings under the eyes. Food allergy and intolerance is an important subject that needs to be approached with care, more here


Caused by deficiencies

Some children suffer from nutritional deficiencies without anyone realising it and this can have very damaging effects on their immune system's ability to withstand the common micro-organisms that cause ear-infections.

Signs that might suggest deficiencies could be a key issue include a failure to grow and thrive, having a poor appetite, or problems with the health and growth of the skin and nails.

Good food must be available for a child to grow well and be healthy. If needed, read an overview on the important subject of nutrition here

If a child has good food available to them but is just not eating well then consider using a course of one of the great digestive tonics Dandelion root or Gentian. Since ancient times, one of the key uses for this herbs has been for children who are failing to thrive and need to improve their appetites, more on Dandelion root here and Gentian 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 herbs. The use of a herbal immune tonic for 2 or 3 months has often been seen to be a life-changing intervention for a child who was previously suffering from recurrent ear-infections, more about steps to take to support immunity 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 select a clove that feels like it will be about the right size to fit, peel it down to that thin, slightly slimy layer that surrounds the garlic corn, then insert the whole thing 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.

You can think of this as being like an antiseptic blockade that will prevent any infection getting into the area while the body heals its wound. It is safe to leave the garlic clove inside the ear for up to 2 days, or 48 hours, before removing it, which 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.

Swimmer's ear

Swimmer's ear is a common problem amongst surfers and people who spend a lot of time in the ocean. Especially in the early stages, it has been seen to respond 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 action of the Echinacea itself helps to cleanse and prevent the build-up of unwanted tissues.

Echinacea angustifolia (Echinacea)

Constitutional Health Note

Finally, you might benefit from learning about your constitution to know what kind of foods, herbs, exercises etc. will work especially well for your health in general.

Constitutional health is an old and fascinating way of understanding our differences. There's a brief introduction here and a more detailed section on working out which constitution you are here.

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