Ear infection is a common complaint, especially among children. In fact, about 80 percent of children experience an ear infection before reaching school age. Technically known as acute otitis media, the condition is characterized by inflammation of the middle ear, pain, irritability and, sometimes, fever. It’s important to consult your doctor for an ear infection before attempting self-treatment because it can lead to hearing loss if left unchecked. Short-term antibiotic therapy is the usual course of treatment. Meanwhile, with your physician's approval, you might try using warm garlic oil at home to help relieve ear pain.
Understand How Garlic Helps
Garlic may be a must in meatballs and Clams Casino, but the fragrant bulb is fondly known as “poor man’s penicillin” for good reason. Like many herbs, garlic contains polyphenols, a group of chemicals that plants use to counter disease, parasites and ultraviolet radiation. In people, these compounds provide potent antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Consider Enlisting Garlic Helpers
Warm garlic oil is a traditional remedy for earache, but some naturopaths and herbalists add mullein flowers, as well as St. John’s wort or calendula blossoms. Two studies involving children up to 18 years of age with ear pain found that ear drops or spray made with garlic, mullein, St. John’s wort and calendula flowers in olive oil is comparable in relieving pain to anesthetic ear drops formulated with ametocaine and phenazone.
Use a Quality Oil
Lower grade olive oil is fine for cooking, but this calls for the good stuff. Extra-virgin olive oil contains a phenol called oleocanthal, which has anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing qualities similar to ibuprofen. The term “virgin” indicates that oil is unrefined and unprocessed, so its phytochemicals are intact. The word “extra” denotes “premium.”
Get Cooking for Fast Relief
Heat 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil in the top of a double boiler. When the oil starts to shimmer, stir in one freshly minced garlic clove (and other herbs, if using). Heat the garlic on the lowest possible heat setting for 20 minutes, checking often to stir as needed to prevent scorching. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, reserving the oil in a small glass jar or ceramic bowl. Let the oil cool slightly. To use, place one-to-two drops of warm oil in the affected ear with the head turned to the side to avoid dripping. Note that this oil is not shelf-stable and should not be stored for more than 24 hours.
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- Kanti Bhooshan Pandey and Syed Ibrahim Rizvi. Plant Polyphenols as Dietary Antioxidants in Human Health and Disease. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2009 Nov-Dec; 2(5): 270–278.
- Sarrell EM, Cohen HA, Kahan E. Naturopathic Treatment for Ear Pain in Children. Pediatrics. 2003 May;111(5 Pt 1):e574-9.
- Sarrell EM, Mandelberg A, Cohen HA. Efficacy of Naturopathic Extracts in the Management of Ear Pain Associated With Acute Otitis Media. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2001 Jul;155(7):796-9.
- Lucas L, Russell A, Keast R. Molecular mechanisms of inflammation. Anti-inflammatory benefits of virgin olive oil and the phenolic compound oleocanthal. Curr Pharm Des. 2011;17(8):754-68.
- Wellness Mama: Garlic Olive Oil Remedy for Ear Infections