Home Remedies for Children: Use Garlic Oil to Relieve Ear Infections

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Lisa is a writer, budding photographer and herb enthusiast. She enjoys poking around in the garden, creating in the kitchen and reading a good book (when she’s not answering the call of “Mom!” from her five children).

I became interested in medicinal herbs when my children were very young. In theory, it sounded wonderful to go outside to my yet-to-exist herb garden and create a salve or tincture to soothe and heal my family. My initiation to the practical use of herbal remedies was not so serene. Grace, my eldest, was four at the time. She padded quietly into my room in the middle of the night, positioned herself two inches from my face and stared at me until I woke with a start. (Don’t you hate it when they do that?) She then declared, “Mommy, my ear hurts.”     

I hunted for the children’s pain reliever, only to find that I hadn’t replaced the last bottle we used up. Grace was starting to get pretty vocal about the pain in her ear and I was exhausted. It was then I remembered I likely had something on hand to help. I had been studying a couple of herb books and each of them mentioned garlic oil as a treatment for ear infections. We were in luck! We had garlic oil supplements in the cabinet! I followed the directions to warm the capsule between my hands for a few minutes, instructed Grace to lay with her ear up, pierced the capsule with the tip of a knife and dumped the oil in. After I worked the oil down into her ear by massaging gently, I covered it with a cotton ball. Then we crawled into my bed, where I laid a gently warmed rice bag over her ear, and we drifted off to sleep. 

Garlic is known for its anti-bacterial properties.
Photo by mullica/Courtesy Flickr

In the morning, she awoke cheerful and rested. I watched to see if she showed any signs of infection, but she didn’t. My little girl who was suffering the night before was happily playing. After another day or two of garlic oil treatments morning and evening, I was convinced we had thwarted the possible infection. Note: We have learned that it is useful to put down a towel on the pillow and wrap long hair in a towel as well. The garlic scent tends to permeate everything it touches.

Why is this treatment so effective? Studies have revealed garlic to have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties. So it would seem that, short of having a foreign object lodged in the ear, garlic oil would work to cover all the general causes of an ear infection.

What about odorless garlic softgels? When I first saw odorless garlic softgels on the shelf, I was eager to use them instead of the straight oil because garlic oil has a powerful odor. However, when I pierced the capsule, the gel inside was firm. I didn’t think the gel would work down into the ear without forcing it, and I didn’t want to risk injuring the eardrum. So we stick with the regular “aromatic” oil capsules.

What about making your own garlic oil? I have never used homemade garlic oil to treat ear infections. This is due to the risk of botulism from storing homemade garlic oil for any length of time. Commercial preparations of garlic oil (culinary and supplemental) have a preservative added to them to keep them from spoiling. Also, only a very small amount is used to treat the ears, so the capsules are convenient.

In the ten years since this episode, I have used garlic oil almost exclusively as an ear remedy. Between all five of my children, I don’t think we visited the doctor’s office more than once or twice for the treatment of an ear infection. I like the sound of that.

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