by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A man took me to task. He wrote,
You keep saying what cannot be used for ear infections, but you do not mention what can be used. It would enlighten us all if you explained some safe treatments for ear infections.
You’re right. I’m not being very helpful, am I? I warn you about various unsafe ear treatments, but I don’t explain what some good alternatives are.
Before I begin, you need to remember that I’m not a medical doctor and therefore cannot (and do not) diagnose conditions and prescribe treatments.
However, I can (and do) provide an educational service by explaining the various drugs that can damage your ears and the kinds of damage they can cause. Now, as per your request, I’m taking the next logical step and providing you with information on some of the remedies that are not harmful to your ears.
Here are a number of things you might want to consider.
1. Boost your immune system. Recurrent infections are a sign that your immune system not functioning properly. If you boost your immune system, you will likely find that your susceptibility to ear infections drops dramatically. Two herbal preparations that help boost your immune system are Echinacea and Astragalus.
Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia, E. purpurea, E. pallida) is a powerful immune-system booster. A typical dosage is up to nine 300 to 400 mg capsules per day. (If you are allergic to asters and ragweeds, you may also be allergic to Echinacea. Also, don’t use if you have an autoimmune disease.)
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) is a herbal you can take long-term if you are prone to recurrent infections. A typical dosage is eight or nine 400 to 500 mg capsules a day.
2. Eliminate refined sugars (white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup) and refined carbohydrates (things made from white flour) from your diet. This can greatly reduce your susceptibility to infections since the various fungi (including yeasts) need sugar to thrive, not to mention improving your overall health.
3. Identify and eliminate any food allergens you might have. Allergies often are the cause of middle ear infections.
4. There are a number of herbs that are natural antibiotics. Here are 3 of them.
Oregon Grape (Berberis aquifolium) contains the antibiotic berberine. Berberine kills many types of bacteria. Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) also contains berberine and has the same antibiotic properties. A typical dosage is up to six 500 to 600 mg capsules a day. (Do not take this if you are pregnant.)
Garlic (Allium sativum) kills many nasty beasties including bacteria and viruses. The good news is that garlic attacks some of the viruses that cause colds and flu–which often sets up your ears for ear infections. A typical dosage is up to three 500 to 600 mg capsules containing 4 to 5 mg of allicin—the active ingredient—a day.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is not only an antibacterial and an antiviral, but it also has a calming effect on you. A typical dosage is up to nine 300 to 400 mg capsules a day. (Much of the above information is contained in the excellent book, “The Herbal Drugstore” by White & Foster. 2000. Rodale, Inc.)
5. Take high doses of vitamin C (to your tolerance level). This could be as high as up to 10,000 mg a day. When you are fighting an infection,100 to 300 mg of Vitamin C a day just doesn’t cut it. Vitamin C is an excellent antioxidant and works on infections of all kinds. This is what I’ve used over the years, and only once did an infection fail to respond so that I had to take a prescription drug to kill it.
6. If you have infections in your ear canals you might want to try one of the following. Note: never put anything into your ear canals if you have a hole in your eardrum. (This includes having tubes in your ears.) This is just asking for trouble.
a. Acetic acid ear drops. You can get fancy bottled ear drops at the drug store (two brands are VoSoL and Swim-EAR) or you can use plain old vinegar (which is basically acetic acid) to discourage ear infections. (Just dilute the vinegar about 50% in water.)
b. If you’d like to make your own ear-drop potion, here is one antibiotic remedy you might want to try.
1/4 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol, and ONE of the following: 2-3 drops grapefruit seed extract, or 3 drops of garlic tincture, or 3-5 drops Echinacea tincture.
Sterilize a 4 ounce bottle by immersing it in boiling water for 10 minutes. Mix all the ingredients in the bottle. Cap tightly and store out of the light.
To use, put a few drops into the ear with a sterile eyedropper. Allow it to run out of your ear.
7. Hydrogen Peroxide: “Hydrogen peroxide is excellent at killing bacteria, and so it can often help treat an infection in your ear. This is especially good for small scrapes or cuts inside the ear.” If you choose to use hydrogen peroxide make sure the solution is diluted to a maximum of 3% hydrogen peroxide. Click here for more information about using hydrogen peroxide in your ear canals.