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Herbal Home Cures for Earache and Swimmer’s Ear

In Herbs for Common Ailments, renowned herbalist Rosemary Gladstar offers the perfect introduction to the most effective herbal remedies that every family should have in their home medicine chest. This excerpt includes solutions and a recipe for treating earaches and infections.

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Earaches are infections of the inner or outer ear signified by pain, redness, and sometimes itchiness around the outer ear. Mild earaches can be readily treated at home. If the pain gets severe or is prolonged, consult a holistic health care provider or a physician.

What to Do

Hot onion packs are an old-fashioned remedy that can really work. Saute onions until soft, and then wrap the onions in a flannel cloth and apply directly to both ears (one at a time, if desired). Reheat the onions as needed. Leave the hot onion pack on for 30–45 minutes, and longer if possible.

If the ear still hurts, heat some salt in a cast-iron skillet, and when it is too hot to touch, pour it onto a dishcloth or cotton cloth. Fold carefully, being sure not to burn yourself.

Using more towels to protect against the heat, place the pack against the ear for at least 30 minutes. Treat both ears, as the ear canals are connected, and the infection can easily move back and forth. Hot salt packs work best if there is a lot of moisture and congestion in the ears. In addition to the hot packs, you can try infection-fighting oil treatments; see the recipe for garlic-mullein oil below.

Earaches are generally accompanied by a cold or flu. Treat the related symptoms, and eliminate foods that may be congesting to the eardrums, such as dairy, sugar, and citrus products (with the exception of lemons and grapefruit). And take 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of echinacea tincture several times a day to activate the immune system.

Treating Swimmer’s Ear

Swimmer’s ear is an ear infection caused by water in the eardrum. It doesn’t respond well to oil applications; in fact, oil treatments will often make it worse. Instead, combine several drops of tea tree or lavender essential oil with 1/4 cup of rubbing alcohol. Shake well. Using a dropper, apply several drops in each ear. Massage the outer ear. Repeat several times daily, until symptoms subside. Hot salt packs are often helpful for swimmer’s ear.

Garlic–Mullein Flower Oil

This is a wonderful remedy for ear infections that relieves the pain and helps eliminate the infection. St. John’s Wort Oil is often added to this blend to enhance its effectiveness. The flowers of mullein are often difficult to purchase, so gather some in the summer and fall when the plant is in bloom.

• 2–3 tablespoons chopped garlic
• 2–3 tablespoons mullein flowers
• virgin olive oil
• 2–3 tablespoons St. John’s Wort Oil (optional)

Combine the garlic and mullein, and infuse in the olive oil. Add the St. John’s Wort Oil, if you’re using it. Warm the mixture only to body temperature and apply 3–4 drops in each ear. Massage the outer ear and around the base of the ear. Repeat several times daily, until symptoms subside.

Excerpted from Herbs for Common Ailments by (c) Rosemary Gladstar. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.