August 2019 Edition
You do not need to clean wax out of your ears unless you have an abnormal condition. Ears push excess wax out as needed.
Natural Medicine Approaches for Alleviating Earache
The splitting pain of an earache: while mostly common in children, adults can also be affected. We all know the itchy, scratchy, stuffy, feverish, achy feelings that come with a sore throat and a head cold, but ear pain is probably the worst. It starts with an overworked immune system, affecting one of our most vulnerable systems – the respiratory tract – which includes the mouth, throat, nose and ears.
Earaches can occur in the outer, inner or middle ear. When the pain is not due to a physical injury to the ear or environmental conditions (air temperature, air pressure) it’s usually associated with infection, as follows:
Outer ear infection occurs in the delicate skin that lines the outer ear canal, where infection can be caused by swimming, use of dirty headphones, or sticking objects (fingers or swabs) into this region of the ear.
Middle ear infection often stems from a respiratory tract infection that has caused fluid build-up behind the ear drums where bacteria can breed.
Inner ear infection, aka Labyrinthitis, is a disorder associated with bacteria or virus or stemming from an ongoing respiratory illness.
For decades, antibiotics were the most commonly prescribed medicine for ear infection, especially in children. Today, evidence-based medicine no longer relies on antibiotics as the first line of treatment. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has not recommended antibiotics for earache as a general practice since 2004.
Holistic doctors have long viewed ear infection as being caused by a weakened immune system that allows for germs to proliferate and infection to develop. A strong and vital immune system can mount a defense against these germs. Here’s what you can do for yourself and your children:
Maintain healthy immunity by minimizing refined sugar and processed foods and eating organic whole foods including lots of vegetables, fruits, and legumes. For extra immune support, a holistic doctor may supplement the diet with a high-quality multivitamin, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Selenium and Zinc. Dosing for children should be discussed with your holistic doctor.
Power-up the gut by eating a variety of fermented foods that are low in sugar and high in gut-friendly bacteria. Your body mounts a line of defense against germs from inside the gut. The greater the ratio of “friendly” to “unfriendly” gut bacteria, the better your immunity. Because many adults and children with a history of ear infections also have a history of antibiotic use, your holistic doctor may suggest adding a daily probiotic supplement.
Protect the ears from cold drafty air, which can aggravate already sensitive membranes and increase pain. When resting, keep the head and neck comfortably elevated.
When treating an earache, there are a number of natural medicine approaches for easing painful symptoms. Three highly effective ones include: an Ear Drop Formulation using herbs with antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and decongestant properties; a Contrast Foot Bath, which draws fluid build-up away from the affected ear; and a Eustachian Tube Massagewhich facilitates the release of fluids and reduction of inflammation from the ear canal. You’ll see specific information on all three of these throughout this newsletter.
Always remember, for guidance about using these, and other approaches, consult with a holistic healthcare professional.
Food for Thought. . .
“You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.” – Franklin P. Jones
Garlic Helps the Body Fight Infection
For thousands of years, Garlic (Allium sativum) has been a first-line remedy used by herbalists and traditional medicine practitioners across the globe. Fondly known as “the stinking rose,” garlic has been used in the treatment of a variety of health problems, from wound care to fighting infections. Because garlic fights infection, it can be used to guard against those painful and pesky earaches in both children and adults.
Garlic contains over 200 phytochemicals that possess antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. While garlic contains several vitamins and minerals, it’s the sulfur-containing compounds that give remarkable support to the immune system. These compounds, known as allicin, alliin, ajoene, help reduce inflammation and have antioxidant properties. Along with enzymes, vitamins, minerals and amino acids found in garlic, these compounds make the herb a powerful medicinal for health conditions – such as earaches – when inflammation is an underlying factor.
For children, the most effective way to take advantage of garlic’s properties is by using it in an ear-drop formula. For other methods, be sure to first check with your holistic professional. For adults seeking to ward off infection, be aware that the potency of garlic supplements (powder, capsule, extract or oil) can vary widely because allicin (the active ingredient) is very sensitive to methods of preparation. For example, aging garlic to reduce its odor also reduces the allicin present and compromises the effectiveness of the product.
Though generally safe for most people, taking a garlic supplement can cause heartburn, upset stomach, an allergic reaction, and breath and body odor (common with raw garlic). Garlic should not be taken by persons who are preparing for surgery or who have bleeding disorders because it can impair the body’s ability to form blood clots.
A holistic health physician can help you determine which formula works for your health and wellness needs and how you can best help your child reap its benefits.
Home Remedy Recipe: Garlic Infused Ear Oil
Garlic is a powerful herbal remedy owing to its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Olive oil is soothing and safe to use as a base for healing salves and lotions because it contains potent polyphenols which reduce inflammation. Together, garlic and olive oil can help ease the pain of ear infection and reduce healing time.
Note: If ear pain persists for more than three days or is accompanied by a fever, or if you suspect a perforated eardrum, check with your holistic practitioner before using the ear oil.
- 2 oz organic olive oil
- 5 cloves of minced garlic
- 1 tsp mullein flowers
- 1 tsp St. John’s Wort flowers
- 5 drops of lavender essential oil
- Glass jar – boiled clean and dry
Note: it is important to use the flowers of mullein and St. John’s Wort as this part of the plant is what is associated with having a medicinal action on the ear.
Combine everything except lavender oil in a small steel, glass or ceramic pot with a lid. Heat to approximately 120 degrees F and simmer at this temp for 1 hour; stir every 15 minutes.
Remove from heat, allow to cool for 30 minutes; using cheesecloth, strain oil into a boiled clean glass bottle. Add lavender oil. Allow to cool to body temp before using. Store at room temp.
To warm before use: place bottle in a small bowl of hot water until it reaches body temp.
To use: put 4-5 drops as often as needed into ear
Fight Persistent Ear Infections With NAC
Commonly known as NAC, N-acetylcysteine is an amino acid that supports critical functions and helps fight infection. Our body manufactures NAC using the cysteine from the foods we ingest. Sources include most meats and certain plants, including broccoli, red pepper and onion. Bananas, garlic, soy beans, linseed (aka, flax seed) and wheat germ also contain cysteine.
NAC does many good things in the body (boosts the antioxidant glutathione, liver and kidney protection, muscle performance, supports respiratory function), as well as fights persistent ear infections. Researchers have found NAC to be beneficial both as an added treatment to conventional antibiotics (outcomes were improved) and as a stand alone treatment. This is most likely because NAC has both mucolytic (breaks down mucus) and antimicrobial properties.
As a supplement, NAC comes in a variety of forms, including capsules, loose powder and liquid so it makes it easy to add it to something like apple sauce, pear sauce or a smoothie for picky little eaters. Whether you increase foods high in cysteine or you take NAC as a supplement, it is important that you first consult your holistic healthcare professional.
Mullein: A Traditional Herb for Earache
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is an herb native to Europe, Asia and North Africa and has a long history of medical use among various cultures. Early American settlers brought it from Europe because it was known for its ability to help treat ailments such as coughs and diarrhea. Over time, the antiviral and antibacterial properties of mullein have received greater attention in herbal medicine and in preliminary research for its ability to treat infections in the respiratory tract including the mouth, throat, nose and ear.
Compounds found in Mullein leaves and flowers are classified in traditional herbal medicine as expectorants (promotes the discharge of mucus) and demulcents (soothes irritation or inflammation of mucous membranes). An infused oil of Mullein flowers is a gentle and highly regarded remedy for treating ear infection in adults and children. The mullein is prepared with St. John’s Wort and garlic in an olive oil base to help ease pain during acute ear infection (see the recipe in this newsletter).
Two important cautions: never use tea tree oil in your recipe as it’s too potent for inside the ear; if a rupture is suspected or you are not sure of the cause of the ear pain, do not use an oil preparation – it can obscure a physician’s view of the eardrum.
Consult with a holistic healthcare professional to make the appropriate preparation of mullein for treating ear infection.
Holistic Therapies for Earache
Give these therapies a try the next time you or your child suffers with an earache: Contrast Hydrotherapy Foot Bath and Eustachian Tube Massage. Both are exceptional holistic therapies for soothing earache pain and facilitating the release of pressure that comes with ear or respiratory infection.
Contrast Hydrotherapy Foot Bath:
It’s hard to imagine that a foot bath can help relieve ear pain. But it can! Because of the way water acts to affect circulation, a hydrotherapy foot bath can help draw fluid build-up away from the ear. It’s an excellent way to strengthen your immune system, alleviate congestion, soothe sore muscles, and improve circulation. It involves immersion of the feet in cold and warm water for specified times. You’re probably familiar with using it for muscle injuries such as a sprain.
Contrast Foot Bath:
- Fill one basin with ice water, and another with very warm water.
- Have plenty of towels on hand as water will splash.
- Submerge feet in basin of warm water for 3 minutes.
- Immediately switch to cold water for 30 seconds.
- Repeat the process 3-5 times.
- Always end with the cold water.
- Gently dry legs and feet and put on warm socks.
- Rest for 20 minutes.
If there is inflammation or open wounds on the legs or feet, varicose veins, thrombosis or phlebitis, do not perform a contrast hydrotherapy foot bath unless supervised by a medical professional.
Eustachian Tube Massage:
Helps alleviate discomfort and pain that accompanies congestion and inflammation associated with earache and respiratory illness. It works by gently stretching the soft tissue that lines the tube and is suitable for an adult or a child. If you are not familiar, the job of the Eustachian Tube is to:
- balance pressure in the middle ear, keeping it equal with air pressure outside the body;
- protect the inner ear from nasal secretions;
- drain middle ear secretions into the area between the nasal cavity and upper throat.
ETM – DIY at home for yourself or your child:
Keep in mind that the ear may be very sensitive to touch if there is an infection, so go gently to start. Some kids may not want to be touched anywhere near or around the ear, which is understandable.
- Using your index or middle finger, feel behind your ear lobe for the bony bump. With firm, steady pressure slide your finger down until it slips into a groove between the ear lobe and the jaw.
- Follow that groove down the neck with your finger, sliding down (with the same steady pressure) until you reach the collar bone.
- For a small adult or a child, it may help to tilt your head to the shoulder opposite of the ear that you are massaging. (Ex: If massaging right side, tilt head to left shoulder)
- Repeat 3-4 times per side, about 3 times a day.