Ear Infections – Herbs Can Help!

by Judith G. Cobb, MH, CI, NCP

This article is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. It is meant for educational purposes only. Judith Cobb, Cobblestone Health, and Nature’s Sunshine Products accept no responsibility for results you get, whether good or bad, from using this information. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

Note: More information about the products mentioned can be found at the end of the article.

Ear Infection: A Mom Practitioner’s Perspective

It’s 2:00 AM and baby is screaming! This may not be the best time to tell you that one-half of all children will experience ear infections by the age of two years, and four-fifths by the age of five. One-third of all children have more than three ear infections before the age of three. This is the most common reason for childhood visits to doctors.

This might also not be the best time to tell you that out of our seven children, not one ever had an ear infection. One son had one earache – and we remedied it instantly with what I’m about to share with you. I have, however, had the pleasure of working with delightful families whose children suffered recurring ear infections – and we’ve been able to put a stop to them!

ear infectionA higher incidence of ear infections is found in male children, children attending day care, children who live in a smoky environment, and children who have recently had an upper respiratory tract infection.

Many years ago a mom and dad from out of town brought their five-year-old son to me. It was just before Christmas. The son had had recurring ear infections – one a month for the past year. The mom was worried. She felt her son was very weak and depleted. The dad wanted to haul the little boy off to the Children’s Hospital to get tubes put in his ears. Mom didn’t think the child would even survive the surgery. Dad towered above me as he said, “You’ve got three days to clear up this infection. If you can’t get rid of it in three days, I’m taking him to the hospital.”

With a deadline like that I created an intense herbal program. I was very lucky that this little guy could swallow capsules. We had some different herbal products back then. I remember using rosehips, formula CC-A (still available in the US), golden seal with echinacea capsules, acidophilus bifidophilus, and lobelia extract. On day 3 they returned to see me. The little boy was well. I suggested he should stay on this very involved program for a few months – and he did. A couple of things happened. The first – he learned to read his body, and if he ever felt like he was setting up an infection, he would help himself to the herbs and nip it in the bud. The second – when I first met him his hands and feet were covered in warts. After about four months on the program his mom called me to say that he had been ‘ear infection free’ since our Christmas meeting and that all his warts had disappeared.

Cause and Symptoms

Middle ear infections, also known as otitis media, happen when fluid accumulates behind the eardrum in the middle ear and cannot drain down the eustachian tube properly. The eustachian tube connects the back of the throat with the middle ear to allow air in to equalize air pressure on either side of the eardrum. In infants and young children, the eustachian tube is narrow and does not drain easily. It works even less well in the presence of an upper respiratory tract infection, when adenoids are enlarged, and/or when mucous-producing allergies are present. The accumulation of fluid and/or mucous provides a breeding place for bacteria, which will ’cause’ the infection.

There are many symptoms of ear infections, including pain, fever, crying, drainage from the ear, poor appetite, dizziness, loss of balance, headache, and batting, brushing, or tugging at the ear. Some children are asymptomatic except for temporary hearing impairment.

Ear infections are an indication of inadequate nutrition and a weakened immune response. Remember that some children need very intense nutrition – so what might be adequate for one child could be woefully deficient for another. A diet that is high in dairy products (including dairy-based formula) and sugar, and/or frequent exposure to smoke, pollutants, and allergens will increase the risk of infection. Propping baby bottles encourages the pooling of formula in the back of the throat, which also increases the risk of infection. Breastfeeding has been shown to decrease the incidence of ear infections.

Allergies, on the other hand, are simply an inappropriate immune response. Strengthening the nutritional status and correcting the immune response will almost always reduce the tendency to ear infections.

Medical treatments

The organisms which most predominantly cause ear infections are Pneumococci, Haemophilis (not the same one vaccines are given for), and Moraxella. Medical treatment of ear infections includes antibiotics, and in the case of persistent, recurrent ear infections, tympanostomy (the insertion of tiny drainage tubes in the eardrums), which is also known as myringotomy. Many sources suggest that a large percentage of infections will spontaneously resolve even if they are not treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics generally reduce the fever and pain within three days. More recently, doctors are prescribing only a five-day course of antibiotics for infrequent otitis media episodes.

The antibiotics of medical choice are amoxicillin, trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim), erthromycin/sulfamethoxazole, and cefixime. However, for recurrent episodes, some doctors prescribe preventive courses of antibiotics along with a referral to a head and neck surgeon. If antibiotics are used, be sure to follow up with at least a one-week course of lactobacillus acidophilus and lactobacillus bifidus to re-establish the healthy flora of the intestines.

The tubes used in tympanostomy usually fall out in six months to two years, and while the tubes are in place, the ears must be kept dry, which means no swimming, water sports, or water play.

These therapies are usually recommended in a cloak of fear. Parents are told that ear infections can lead to hearing loss, which may be true if the infections rupture the eardrum. However, even a perforated eardrum is no guarantee of hearing loss, and remember that the eardrum must be perforated to perform a tympanostomy.

Natural Remedies

Immediate therapy should include pain relief. Acetominophen and warm compresses are commonly recommended by doctors. An alternative to drug therapy is lobelia extract. Gently placing a few drops of lobelia extract in the painful ear will serve to reduce pain and dilate the eustachian tube within minutes. I prefer to warm a few drops of lobelia in my hand before putting them in the ear. Cold things going into a painful ear will not make for a happy child. Lobelia extract can also be massaged into the tissue on the head around the ear. Another way of achieving the same end result is to put a few drops of fresh onion juice in the ear, or to gently pack half of a warmed onion against the ear. Onion has antimicrobial, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Draining the eustachian tube is the ultimate goal of all therapies, and this can be achieved through several herbal and natural means. Again, lobelia extract can be helpful here. While lobelia extract doesn’t taste great, it acts quickly and is a ‘go-to’ herb for its ability to dilate the eustachian tube and ease pain. Rosehips or Vitamin C with Elderberry are excellent ways to support the immune system and liquefy mucous. Both of these supplements are also useful in upper respiratory tract infections.

As a general immune stimulant, Oregon Grape Extract is wonderful. It is in the same family as Golden Seal. Both contain berberin and both also stimulate the immune response at the liver level.

Garlic oil can also be placed in the ear. Its antimicrobial properties can help to kill the infection.

Echinacea may be used in acute infection as an immune stimulant and is particularly effective when combined with golden seal.

Chiropractic adjustments to the TMJ may also be helpful in relieving pressure on the eustachian tube.

With improved diet and herbal support, recurrent ear infections can become a thing of the past, and the threat of tympanostomy (insertion of tiny tubes in the eardrum) can be eliminated.

If you have concerns about your child’s health, or just don’t know where to begin making improvements, please contact me, Judith Cobb, to book an appointment. Skype, phone, webinar, and face-to-face appointments are available. I also invite you to Follow my website (cobblestonehealth.com) and Like us on Facebook (Cobblestone Health Ltd).

Products referred to above:

Nature's Sunshine Products CANADANature's Sunshine Products USA
RosehipsRose Hips
CC-A is available through the Sunshine Direct
program (contact Nature’s Sunshine
Canada at 1-800-265-9163 for instructions)
or by special order from Cobblestone
Health judith@cobblestonehealth.com or
403-850-5503).
CC-A
Lobelia ExtractLobelia Essence
Vitamin C with ElderberryElderberry Immune
Oregon Grape ExtractOregon Grape
Echinacea/Goldenseal ExtractUltimate Echinacea

Copyright © 2015 by Judith Cobb, Cobblestone Health Ltd. All rights reserved. Please respect the time it takes to write and publish articles. If you will link to this article and give proper attribution, you are encouraged to quote sections (though not the entire article).

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