Essential Oils for Ear Infection
Ear infections are miserable. Whether you’re dealing with one yourself (or worse yet, a double!) or you’re nursing your little one back to health, these infections are tremendously painful and exhausting. Out of that desperation, we often turn immediately to antibiotics. But I want to suggest something else: an essential oil for ear infection.
Natural home remedies can absolutely be the ultimate ear infection solution you’ve been looking for – you just have to know which to choose and how to properly use them for yourself and your little ones.
Throughout this article, I’m going to explain why antibiotics should be your option B, your second choice when all else fails and the infection gets worse. (I’m also going to show you that modern medical organizations like the CDC completely agree!).
Then I’m going to take you step by step through each essential oil for ear infection, two bonus oils, and methods to use your essential oil for ear infection.
You and/or your little one can feel great before you know it – and you won’t even have to mess with any antibiotics.
Causes of Ear Infections
Ear infections are most common in babies and kids (they’re actually the #1 reason for pediatrician trips other than well visits), but they can definitely plague us adults as well (1).
To understand the cause, you have to understand the ear mechanics a bit.
The middle ear is teeny, tiny space right beyond your ear drum. It has to be ventilated properly in order to stay dry and clean. When it gets clogged or swollen, it gets damp…and a closed off, damp, warm middle ear area is like a welcome sign for bacterial or viral infection.
Since our little ones have even tinier, narrower middle ear canals, their risk of infection goes up.
This middle ear clogging can happen for lots of reasons:
- Sinus infection
- Respiratory infections
- Air pressure change
- And more
Then we’re left with that familiar (sharp) pain, pressure, fullness, and drainage. When your child is too young to describe these symptoms, they will often tug at their ears, remain irritable, not eat as much, cry a lot, run a fever, etc.
At this point it’s time to spring into action, but maybe not in the way you originally thought.
Why You Should Treat Ear Infections Naturally
When you or your child has an ear infection, it’s probably your first reaction to head to the doctor for a round of antibiotics. You’re not alone – about half of all the antibiotic prescriptions written for children by a pediatrician are due to ear infections.
But next time – wait a bit.
Many ear infections can be treated at home with natural remedies and do not need a round of antibiotics.
Let me be clear: this is not some idea only being shared by members of the natural health and wellness community. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have actually reported the following of mild middle ear infections (2):
“Mild AOM often will get better on its own without antibiotic treatment, so your healthcare professional may recommend watchful waiting before prescribing antibiotics to you or your loved one. This means that your provider may wait a few days before deciding whether to prescribe antibiotics, while treating the symptoms of AOM. Watchful waiting gives your or your child’s own immune system time to fight off the infection first before starting antibiotics (emphasis added). If you or your child don’t get better in 2–3 days or get worse, your healthcare professional can recommend starting antibiotics.”
This same sentiment is shared by other professional medical groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics who recommends careful watching and waiting for 24 to 72 hours to see if children begin improving on their own (3). If they don’t, move on to plan B.
But what’s the big deal about trying to avoid antibiotics?
The overuse of antibiotics is creating a significant and scary problem of antibiotic resistance. That means, when we are dealing with a life-threatening infection that really does need antibiotics, our bodies will be resistant to them because we’ve used antibiotics too many other times for unnecessary reasons.
And this is happening a lot. Even the CDC has recognized that about 1 in 3 antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary (4).
Then we have the tremendously devastating issue of depleted gut flora. Antibiotics are not designed to scavenge out the bad bacteria only – they kill all the good bacteria too. This leaves us with gut flora lowered both in number and diversity, plus an increased risk of:
- Autoimmune disease
- Irritable bowel
- Poor immune systems
- And much more
Then you have cost. Ear infections are a multi-billion-dollar industry (over 2 billion per year). Billions of dollars for a treatment that may not be necessary, and may even cause significantly worse problems (1)!
As you can tell, this topic gets me fired up because I have seen how over-medicated our children are. But there’s another way.
I want families to feel empowered to do something at home first! I want us to turn to natural, safe, effective remedies – like an essential oil for ear infection.
Of course, there are times when antibiotics are necessary – how do you know when that is? Look for symptoms such as the ones below. Take your little one to the doctor if he or she is experiencing (5):
- High fever
- Hearing loss
- Worsened pain
- Possible ear drum burst
- Swelling or redness around the ear
- Lack of improvement in 48 hours
If none of the above medical-worthy issues are popping up, what can you do to help speed up the healing process and relieve some of the painful symptoms? Read on for real ear infection solutions!
Top Essential Oils for Ear Infections
Just because we’re not going to go straight to antibiotics doesn’t mean we can’t rely on natural remedies to ease us through the rough days as we heal.
Each essential oil for ear infection below will help with something different – some will help fight the infection, others will help relieve the symptoms. I’m going to break down the info you need to know about each of them and discuss whether or not they should be used with your child.
Possibly the supreme essential oil for ear infection right here!
Oregano oil is a powerful, potent antibacterial agent. And in our world filled with unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions, we need to start taking advantage of that natural power. (Fun fact: it’s also antiviral, which antibiotics are not!).
Oregano’s strength has been backed by science. You can find quite a few studies on the power of oregano when it comes to fighting bacteria, the norovirus, and more (6,7). Some even use it to help combat strep.
This antimicrobial nature is key for helping rid your body of the ear infection without harming your gut flora. It’s healing, healing, healing!
Oregano is typically considered safe for children 2 and over (if using it topically, you’re going to need serious dilution – it’s strong!) (8).
Lavender is my go-to essential oil for ear infection for so many reasons:
- First up – lavender is antimicrobial in nature, which means it supports the body’s ability to fight infection
- Next – it’s also anti-inflammatory in nature, which means it’s incredibly soothing and can help calm the uncomfortable symptoms of an ear infection
- And then – since lavender is so calming, it can be diffused while you or your little one is recovering from the pain; it can help you find rest and sleep while you’re not feeling so great
- Finally – lavender oil is one of the safest and gentlest essential oils you can use with your children; when properly diluted, it should even be fine on babies over 3 months old.
This next essential oil for ear infection is honestly one of my favorite oils for so many different ailments; ear infection is just one on the very long list!
Like oregano oil, tea tree is going to help you knock out that infection. Tea tree oil actually has an abundance of data backing up the claim that it is both antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory (9).
Considering its potent power, tea tree is also quite gentle for little ones. Babies 6 months and older should be able to handle heavily diluted tea tree oil (think 3 to 5 drops per ounce of carrier oil) (8).
Here we have another fabulous essential oil with antimicrobial activity.
There was a study done in 2005 to test basil’s effectiveness when it comes to ear infections. One group of rats with middle ear infection were given basil oil and some other essential oil components (like the powerful caravacrol in oregano). The other group was given nothing.
The essential oil for ear infection treatment lead to cures for 56% – 81% of the rats infected with H. influenza and 6% to 75% of the rats infected with pneumococci. The placebo only had 5.6% to 6% cure (10).
Basil is another oil that you should wait to use topically until your child is at least 2 (8).
Your 2 Bonus Oils: Mullein & Garlic
Mullein oil and garlic oil may not technically be essential oils, but they are wonderful and effective oils that you should be using to naturally remedy your ear infection problem.
- Mullein oil is made from the flowers of the mullein plant. It’s both highly antibacterial and antifungal (11).
- Garlic is antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal. Plus, it’s an incredible booster for the immune system (12).
But one thing’s for sure: they work.
The combo of these plant-based oils is one of the top remedies for ear infections around.
For example, a 2001 study looked at over 100 children (6 to 18 years old) with diagnosed middle ear infections and divided them into two groups. One group got a more conventional anesthetic ear drop. The other got the all-natural ear drop, Otikon, which includes mullein and garlic.
This natural treatment was found to be just as effective as the anesthetic. They concluded that it was “proven appropriate for the management of AOM-associated ear pain.” This means all the benefits, none of the toxins and side effects (13).
How to Use Your Essential Oil for Ear Infection
So how can you actually incorporate these essential oils for ear infection? Below I have four different ways you can utilize both the essential oil for ear infection and our bonus oils.
Keep in mind the best essential oil for ear infection is actually going to be a combo of oils since different oils have different strengths. When you put them together, the magic happens.
There’s one important tip to know first: the eardrum cannot be perforated if you use any of these methods. If you’re not sure, see your doctor or your child’s pediatrician first.
DIY Essential Oil for Ear Infection Cotton Ball Treatment
One of the common ways the natural health and wellness community incorporates essential oil for ear infection is through a saturated cotton ball. The idea is the cotton ball will slowly allow diluted drops of essential oils to fall into the ear.
Here’s an example recipe from Wendy Polisi (14):
- 1 drop lavender oil
- 1 drop frankincense oil
- 1 drop basil oil
- 1 drop tea tree oil
- 1 tablespoon of carrier oil
You would combine these ingredients into a bowl and soak a cotton ball in the mixture. Then place the cotton ball on the ear.
*Keep in mind it’s a good idea to wait to use Basil until your child is at least 2. If you choose to use this recipe on your little one (who is over 6 months), make sure you leave it out!
If you do not feel comfortable making your own DIY essential oil for ear infection treatment – don’t worry. Move on to option #4.
DIY Mullein Ear Drops
You can place 3 or 4 drops of mullein oil into the infected ear. Let it sit in there for a couple minutes by keeping the opposite ear resting on a pillow. After about three minutes, switch sides so the oil can drain.
DIY Garlic Ear Drops
You can actually crush your own garlic and let it sort of dissolve and diffuse into olive oil. Remove any leftover chunks of garlic, and then place a couple drops of the oil mixture into the affected ear (15). This method is great for kids as well.
Purchase Natural Ear Drops
You can find lots natural ear drop concoctions at your health food store that contain many of the different ingredients I’ve mentioned throughout this article – of course, essential oils for the ear infection, but also the mullein and garlic (16).
Just follow their recommended dosing and check to see what age suggestions they have before administering it to your very little children.
Outer Ear Massage
If you do not want to put an essential oil for ear infection directly into your ear canal, or if your baby is too young for that type of treatment, an outer ear massage can bring some much needed healing and relief.
Heavily dilute the essential oils for your children – but make sure you dilute them for yourself too. Put them in a base of fractionated coconut oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, etc.
Massage the diluted mixture along the outer ear area and down through the neck – maybe go up to the temple and out to the jaw, anywhere that residual pain can show up.
For the grownups and kids over the age of 2, oregano oil is a fantastic oil to do this massage with. Or create a mix of all four of our essential oils. For your littlest ones, stick with a lavender and tea tree massage (17).
One of the best ways to find some pain relief is to take warm washcloth and place it over the infected ear. I like to utilize an essential oil for ear infection with this process.
Soak the washcloth in a bowl of warm water and a couple drops of one or two of the essential oils on our list. Ring it out, and then use it that way.
If it’s for your baby, make sure the water is cool enough for their sensitive skin, and stick with lavender (3 months and older) and tea tree (6 months and older). For yourself, you can use a combo of any oils you’d like.
Goodbye Ear Infection
This information should be encouraging. You do not need to rely on antibiotics for every health problem that pops up. You are capable of dealing with many minor symptoms and issues and your kids’ right at home.
Natural solutions like an essential oil for ear infection (or for any other problem!) is your helping hand to make the process faster and more comfortable.
I always ask for feedback after an article, but I’m especially interested in hearing from you on this topic. Have you ever dealt with an ear infection (yours or your child’s) without going to the doctor? What steps did you take to help fight off the infection? Have you ever tried an essential oil for ear infection? Please share your experiences in a comment below!
- WebMD (2018). Understanding Ear Infections – the Basics. Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/ear-infection/understanding-otitis-media-basics#2
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (2017). Antibiotic Prescribing and Use in Doctor’s Offices. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/community/for-patients/common-illnesses/ear-infection.html
- Axe, Josh, (2018). Natural Ear Infection Remedies. Retrieved from: https://draxe.com/natural-ear-infection-remedies/
- CDC (2016). CDC: 1 in 3 antibiotics prescriptions unnecessary. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0503-unnecessary-prescriptions.html
- Wellness Mama, (2018). Ear Infection Natural Remedies. Retrieved from: https://wellnessmama.com/36494/natural-ear-infection-remedies/
- Sienkiewicz M, Wasiela M, Głowacka A. (2012) [The antibacterial activity of oregano essential oil (Origanum heracleoticum L.) against clinical strains of Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa]. 64(4):297-307https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23484421
- Gilling, D. H., Kitajima, M., Torrey, J. R., & Bright, K. R. (2014). Antiviral efficacy and mechanisms of action of oregano essential oil and its primary component carvacrol against murine norovirus. Journal of applied microbiology, 116(5), 1149-1163.
- The Hippy Homemaker (2014). Safe Essential Oil Use With Babies & Children. Retrieved from: http://www.thehippyhomemaker.com/essential-oil-safety-babies-children/
- Carson, C. F., Hammer, K. A., & Riley, T. V. (2006). Melaleuca alternifolia(Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties. Clinical Microbiology Reviews, 19(1), 50–62. http://doi.org/10.1128/CMR.19.1.50-62.2006
- Kristinsson KG, Magnusdottir AB, Petersen H, Hermansson A (2005) Effective treatment of experimental acute otitis media by application of volatile fluids into the ear canal. The Journal of Infectious Diseases. 191(11):1876-80 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15871121
- Wolfe, David, (2018). Natural Ear Infection Remedies for Kids. Retrieved from: https://www.davidwolfe.com/natural-ear-infection-remedies-kids/
- Goncagul, G., & Ayaz, E. (2010). Antimicrobial effect of garlic (Allium sativum). Recent patents on anti-infective drug discovery, 5(1), 91-93.
- Sarrell, E. M., Mandelberg, A., & Cohen, H. A. (2001). Efficacy of naturopathic extracts in the management of ear pain associated with acute otitis media. Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine, 155(7), 796-799.
- Polisi, Wendy (2018) Easy Ways To Use Essential Oils for Ear Infections. Retrieved from: https://wendypolisi.com/essential-oils-for-ear-infections/
- Mercola (2014) Ear Tubes May Not Have Long-Term Benefits for Kids with Ear Infection. Retrieved from: https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/01/29/ear-infection.aspx
- Healthline, (2017). Home Remedies for Your Baby’s Ear Infection. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/childrens-health/remedies-for-baby-ear-infection#prevention
- Jockers, David, (2018). 12 of the Best Ways to Use Oregano. Retrieved from: https://drjockers.com/12-ways-use-oregano/