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Ear Care

Traditional treatment of earache and dizziness caused by ear infection is long standing over the course of human history. The ears have tiny passages lined with sensitive hairs. These move and give us orientation to the earth’s gravity and are integrally connected to the sinuses and nose. Below I will describe a comprehensive natural strategy for dealing with the common ear issues we deal with, including pain, discomfort, drainage, hearing loss, and wax buildup.

Ear Oil 

Use this garlic/mullein/olive oil mixture to soften wax, kill infection,  soothe pain and lower inflammation in the ears. It is easy to make in a standard kitchen

Ingredients: 

  • 1 pinch of dried mullein - Mullein is soothing and and anti inflammatory, but if you don’t have any on hand, you can skip this ingredient

  • 3-4 chopped cloves of garlic 

  • 1/3-1/4 cup of olive oil 
     

  1. In a glass or stainless steel* pan heat all ingredients over low heat on the stovetop. *Many metals and other materials can leach into the oil when heated.

  2. Stir and watch until the oil looks like it is moving on its own (about 5 minutes). 

  3. Turn off the flame, cover the pan, and let it cool for about an hour. 

  4. Strain out the herbs and store the oil in a glass container in a cool, dark place.  Refrigerated, the oil will keep for a year or more, but should be warmed in a bowl of hot water before putting it in the ears.

  5. Strain out the herbs and store the oil in a glass container in a cool, dark place.  Refrigerated, the oil will keep for a year or more, but should be warmed in a bowl of hot water before putting it in the ears.  Recycling any glass container is easy: wash well with warm soapy water, dry well and then wipe the inside of the jar and the lid with 90% rubbing alcohol and air dry before storing your oil in it. Classic sterilization in boiling water is not necessary because of the antiseptic quality of the garlic.

If the problem is ongoing, use the oil nightly at bedtime to resolve an acute flare up. Place 5-15 drops of the oil in the affected ear, cover it with a piece of cotton ball and sleep with your ear covered for at least an hour. Rub any of the oil that drips on the neck and the bones around the ear. Remove the cotton in the morning and repeat nightly until your ear is clear. You will know the oil has cleared the draining tube of the ear if you taste the garlic oil as it drains down the back of your throat.
 

Onion

 

If pain/inflammation doesn't completely clear with the garlic/ mullein/olive oil, Use an onion to dry out any fluid built up in the ear.

 

  • Steam half of an onion until it’s warm (not so hot it will burn the skin, but warm enough to soften the onion and feel warm on your skin). You can do this in a couple different ways:

    • microwave in 20-second increments until the onion is warm and slightly softened. Make sure the onion is not too hot to the touch.

    • Use a steaming basket in a pan with a little water. Cover and steam on low hear until the onion is warm, but not hot

  • Lie on your side (so the affected ear is facing upwards) and place the onion over the ear, cut-side completely covering the opening of the ear. 

  • Hold it in place with a long thin piece of fabric (scarf, nylon stocking, bandana etc).  This will dry out any fluid built up in the ear.  Stay in this position for about an hour (we recommend finding a good movie or TV show to pass the time!)

  • Remove the onion, and place a few drops of the garlic/mullein oil in the ear. Cover with a piece of cotton ball for about an hour.

  • Repeat as needed until you feel the inflammation/fluid retention is resolved.  If both ears are both bothering you, you can treat them at the same time, but you will have to lie on your back in order to keep an onion half over each ear.

Ear Candling/Ear Coning

 

If the previous strategies are not resolving the ear issues, you can try ear candling/coning. It is often helpful if you have dense, hard wax buildup or when you have signs of infection (pain, redness, swelling, drainage from the ear toward the outside or down the back of the throat, or dizziness). Coning/candling the ears and following it with garlic/mullein oil will very gently remove wax build-up as well as waste products from the infection and dead skin cells. It is also a very soothing, painless process. You can find numerous videos of the process online. 

  • It is best to support yourself to lie on your side during the process and have someone else manage the candle; self-candling can be dangerous and reduces the effectiveness of the process by causing tight neck, jaw and facial muscles. 

  • Massage the ears, face, neck, cranium towards the opening of the ear with cold-pressed castor oil during the coning process. The oil and the massage help the tissues release debris. 

  • After you have completed the coning/candling process, gently clear out the opening of the ear with a cotton swab and drop 10-15 drops of the garlic/mullein ear oil in the ear. Cover the ear opening with a cotton ball for at least an hour. 

  • Don’t get any water or strong wind in the ears for 24 hours after the procedure to protect the ears so they can recover from the cleaning. If you shower/bathe insert a piece of cotton ball in the ear beforehand

 

Coning Works ™ is a high quality brand which we have used successfully for many years. 

Oil Pulling

This is an age-old tool from the Ayurvedic healing tradition that gently suctions fluid out of the eustachian tubes of the ears as you swish oil in your mouth.  It can clear the muffled, aching quality in the ear if it is due to inflammation and mucus accumulation in those tubes. It is also a natural way to whiten teeth as it cleans and nourishes the gums and removes debris from under the gums, between the teeth, and around bridges or other dental treatments.

 

Directions: Swish about a tablespoon of oil in your mouth for 10-15 minutes. Spit the oil into the trash; it will cause problems with your plumbing if you spit in the sink.

Dizziness: BPPV and the Epley Maneuver

Dizziness can be a symptom of head trauma. If you’ve sustained a head injury go to the emergency room.

If you are not dealing with a head injury and have dizziness, often the cause is Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). Treatment with the Epley Maneuver can be done at home if you don’t have access to an Ear-Nose-Throat physician and their trained technicians.  

 

The following video explains how it works and gives instructions for doing it yourself at home. The Epley Maneuver is one of the most effective treatments for dizziness which is associated with loose “crystals” from the hairs in the ears, falls/blows and age-related dizziness.

 

If these strategies don’t work, there are herbs which can be very helpful but you need the help of a trained herbalist to find the right combination for your overall health and specific symptoms.

Ear Care for Babies

Babies are especially vulnerable to inflamed ears because their necks are compact and their eustachian tubes (ear passages) are very narrow.  It can be the source of misery for them and their caretakers. Once the eustachian tubes are open, a healthy baby generally has tremendous pain relief, and the body can fight off an infection with a nap.


To help a baby who is tugging at their ears and fussing:

Prepare a cup of calendula and/or echinacea tea/tincture. Have the mother take the echinacea/calendula herbs and/or put a few drops into the baby’s mouths while they nurse.
Hold a warm, moist washcloth over the baby’s ears and neck during this process 

Make sure you switch sides and treat both ears even though it may seem only one side is the problem. The moist heat loosens anything trapped in the eustachian tubes and the nursing creates a gentle suction that moves it out. 
If this doesn’t solve the problem, a few drops of the garlic/mullein/oil can be put in the ears (make sure it is warmed but not hot) and the moist heat pack with nursing them can be repeated.

The steamed onion held in place while the baby is nursing also works well.

If these remedies don’t work, it is best to consult a trained herbalist or a pediatrician.

 

For bottle-fed babies:

It is harder to get these remedies to work with a bottle-fed baby because the suction from nursing is what helps clear out the tubes. Nursing requires stronger suction than drinking from a bottle.  

Many ear infections are caused by allergic responses to the components of baby formulas, so if your baby is bottle fed and having recurring ear pain, switching to a different formula can often solve the problem.

Allergies

Allergies often underlie inflammation, fluid retention and itching in the ears. 

Dental Care

Sometimes an ear infection is a symptom of a problem with the teeth — Abscesses or cavities can cause ear and neck pain. 

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