Earache has a myriad of causes. In children it may often be the result of an infection that invades the middle ear – otitis media, to give it its fancy name. That said earache may also be the result of excessive ear wax, a perforated ear drum or even other conditions in the head or neck. There is also an outer ear infection called otitis externa.
The actual infection may vary in nature, being bacterial, viral or fungal, an estimated 80 percent of children will have at least one middle ear infection during their first five years. Interestingly enough breast feeding seems to offer some protection. When compared against bottle fed babies, breastfed infants develop fewer ear infections and the longer they are nursed, the lower the risk. Another argument that natures way is often the better way. Often Paediatricians will prescribe antibiotics to help stop ear infection, but there is a gradual move away from this trigger happy and knee jerk response.
Treating earache is best done starting with pain relief and then move on to dealing with the actual cause. Physicians generally treat the pain with acetaminophen for children and aspirin for adults, then antibiotics and decongestants are given to deal with the infection itself. There are good herbal options for adults to deal with the pain before you need to see the doctor. Tea made with Willow Bark and Wintergreen is a good starting point as both these herbs contain Salicin and Salicylates, the natural precursors to pharmaceutical aspirin. If you are allergic to store bought aspirin, however, you should avoid this as they are effectively the same drug.
More caution should be taken, as always, with children and those who develop ear infection as part of a cold should never be given aspirin, natural or pharmaceutical. When children take aspirin like drugs for viral infection, particularly colds, flu and chicken pox, there is a chance that they may get Reye’s Syndrome, a condition that damages the liver and brain. Even though you may like the idea of home medicines, there are some conditions and especially in children when the best medicines are those that are prescribed by the mainstream doctor.
Herbs for Earaches
Echinacea – Also known as the coneflower, this has both antibiotic and immune boasting effects. A teaspoonful of the dried herb stirred into tea or a dropper of tincture in a glass of juice three times and day may aid the body to deal with the infection. Echinacea can cause you tongue to tingle or even go numb, but this is both harmless and temporary.
Garlic – Like Echinacea, garlic has both antibiotic and immune boosting benefits. Studies have shown that dripping garlic oil into the ear canal treats fungal infection as well as, if not better that pharmaceutical options. Taken internally, garlic can help cure a middle ear infection. A combination of adding more garlic to your meals and a direct application of garlic drops to the painful ear, may just do the trick.
Peppermint – Mints contain menthol and are antiseptic and may be another good option to be taken as a tea.
Teatree – Aromatherapists and herbalists consider tea tree oil a significant antiseptic when applied to the skin. Try mixing a few drops in vegetable oil to make ear drops. Never use this if there is a chance that the eardrum has been perforated and never take this, or any other essential oil, internally. Essential oils are highly concentrated and in some cases even small quantities can be poisonous.
So there are a many options to this common ailment, without having to run straight to the doctor. Stay green!