Hearing and seeing are two of the five senses that help us perceive the world around us. Earaches are among the most annoying conditions because they affect one very important sense. Instead of antibiotics, can essential oils for earache be of any use? Read on to find out the answer and many other details.
In this article, you’ll be reading about:
- What essential oils help with earaches, with details about their mechanism of action. Most of these oils are also backed up by scientific research.
- Pros and cons for the best essential oils that can soothe an ear infection. This information will help you find the most appropriate oil for your condition.
- The way you use it for earaches is as important as the oil itself. Find out the best and safest method to use a good essential oil for an earache.
- Therapeutic recipes for earache relief with natural ingredients.
- Types of ear infections, with suggestions of earache essential oils to use.
Why and How to Use Essential Oils for Earache? Best Ones with Antiviral and Antibacterial Potential
Earaches are debilitating and can affect children and adults alike. It’s true that they’re more common among children, but there are many types of ear infection out there. Some of them are specific to adults over 45 years old, for example.
Regardless of age, the earache may disappear on its own. This usually depends on the severity of the infection. However, it may take up to two weeks until that happens.
Some of the best natural ingredients that show great potential are essential oils. Aromatherapy uses them as a recognized complementary therapy for many illnesses and conditions. About the causes and trigger factors of earaches, I will talk in more detail in the last part of this post.
Until then, my main focus is to show you why essential oils may be helpful for earaches, congestion and other ear-related problems.
How Can Essential Oils Help with Ear Infections
Aromatic oils are very complex and strong plant extracts. They’re usually extracted via steam distillation. Common plant parts used in their distillation are:
Once the oil molecules are extracted, they will separate themselves from water. These molecules are heavier than water, thus they float.
The resulting water from their distillation is a byproduct known as hydrosol (floral water). Essential oils:
- Don’t mix with water. They only mix with vegetable (carrier oils) or neutral substances. The latter may be salts, fat cream and milk or honey.
- Are volatile, meaning they evaporate into the air very fast. This volatile nature gives them their specific fragrance.
- Don’t leave a greasy film behind. Because they’re volatile, once exposed to the air, a big amount will evaporate into the air. They also don’t contain fatty acids, like carrier oils do.
- Don’t spread well on large areas of skin.
- Have specific fragrances, some more powerful than others.
- Are sensitive to light, air and heat. They can oxidize very fast if they’re exposed for too long. Check out more about the shelf life of aromatic oils.
Essential oils can help with ear infections and earaches because of several reasons. They can attack and kill most bacteria and some viruses, in different ways. Ear infections are caused by bacteria and viruses.
Most commonly, they’re due to viral infections. Viruses have a way of developing resistance to antibiotics. That is why they’re less effective in treating ear infections.
Therapeutic oils are good for earaches because:
- They have antibacterial and antifungal effects.
- The oils are also good anti-inflammatory and pain relievers.
- Above it all, aromatic oils have proven effective at killing many viruses. That is why they’re considered good antivirals.
These three qualities are considered top priorities when picking the right oil for an ear infection. Some of their active constituents can also relieve fever. This is another good way of starting to treat an earache.
They are important to use during the first three days of an earache. If the pain increases and hearing gets affected after these three days, antibiotics may be needed.
A medical consultation is always necessary. No treatment can work if the symptoms and their cause are unknown.
The mechanism of action of essential oils for ear infection in adults or toddlers
Researchers are at the beginning of understanding how Aromatherapy oils work inside the body. Because of what they know so far, Aromatherapy is considered a promising alternative to fight viral infections.
Therapeutic oils might react with many bacteria, viruses and free radicals. They can:
- Prevent the virus from entering the host cells (healthy cells of your body).
- Inactivate particles of certain viruses that lead to the prevention of virus growth.
- Disrupt the protective cell membrane of the pathogens.
- Induce the loss of vital constituents that help the pathogen grow.
- Interrupt the cellular metabolism of the bacteria or virus.
In other words, some essential oils for earache and ear infection seem to be able to stop and prevent viral infections. This is no small thing! Even though more research is needed, Aromatherapy has huge potential.
Antibiotics don’t really work in treating ear infections. Only a very small percentage of people actually respond to them. Because of it, essential oils seem a natural and useful choice.
Want to know what essential oil is good for earache or ear infection? That is what you’ll get. Next, you’ll be reading about the pros and cons of some of the best oils for earaches and their uses.
1) Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Botanical name: Eucalyptus radiata.
- Eucalyptus essential oil is very good for ear infection on toddlers and adults alike. It contains 1,8 cineole or eucalyptol, which is a known antiviral agent.
- The oil can stop the virus from growing and helps the cells resist its attacks. Thus, using Eucalyptus oil for earache can strengthen the immune system. This makes the oil effective against viral otitis media with effusion.
- The same eucalyptol makes Eucalyptus radiata useful against bacterial ear infections too.
- Another effect of this oil is that of an anti-inflammatory agent. Thus, it is soothing and pain relieving.
- There are other Eucalyptus oil varieties and it’s important to use the right type. radiata essential oil can be used for ear infections on toddlers and adults. It is a remedy for the whole family, unlike the other types.
- Consult your doctor before using this essential oil for earache. It is mandatory to do it if you suffer from asthma or epilepsy (or seizures).
- Don’t use more than 10 – 20% of it in your earache remedies.
Why I like it:
This essential oil can act on the cause of the infection. It can therefore prevent other bacterial infections while helping with the healing process. The oil of Eucalyptus radiata can help with both an earache and sore throat.
2) Basil Essential Oil
Botanical name: Ocimum basilicum.
- The oil of Basil has been proven effective in treating ear infections in infected rats. The treatment worked for 56 – 81% of rats that were infected with the influenzae virus. For those infected with pneumococci bacteria, the percentage of cured rats was 6 – 75%.
- The use of Basil essential oil for earache or ear infection can help with pain too.
- Basil can also strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation.
- It is a mild sedative, which calms down the nervous system and helps you sleep.
- Avoid the use of Basil oil for earaches for long periods of time.
- Don’t use more than 20% of this essence in a blend.
- For diffusion, it needs to be diluted with other essential oils.
- Ask your doctor’s advice if you suffer from asthma, diabetes or seizures.
Why I like it:
Basil is not only a good essential oil for earaches, but it is also great for digestion. It can soothe cramps and boost bile production that will then aid the digestion. It is also good for heartburn and bloating.
3) Clove Essential Oil
Botanical name: Eugenia caryophyllus / Syzygium aromaticum
- Is Clove oil good for ear infections? Clove is one of the strongest antibacterials, because of its high content of eugenol. This makes Clove oil very good for ear infections. Eugenol was found to cause permanent damage to certain pathogens like Candida albicans. It also showed antiviral effects, especially against the HPV (human papilloma virus).
- Clove essential oil is not only good for ear infections, but it’s useful for toothaches as well. It has a strong pain relieving effect.
- Clove has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects too.
- The oil of Clove is not to be used for ear infection on toddlers or pregnant women!
- It must not be inhaled directly from the bottle as it can burn the sensitive mucous membrane.
- Avoid the use of Clove oil for earaches if you’re on anticoagulant medicines too. It raises blood pressure.
- Don’t use more than 20% of this oil in your earache relief blends.
Why I like it:
Although its smell is a bit medicinal, it has a very good local anesthetic effect. Massaged at the back of the ear can help with earache pain. Clove oil can also be used for toothaches or any other bacterial or viral infections.
4) Tea Tree Essential Oil
Botanical name: Melaleuca alternifolia.
- This oil from Australia has been very popular among researchers. Can Tea Tree oil cure an ear infection? It most certainly could do it, especially if it’s caused by bacteria or certain viruses.
- The use of Tea Tree oil for earache has been attributed to many encouraging results. One study tries to explain its working mechanism on viruses and bacteria.
- It appears that using Melaleuca oil for earache can damage the integrity of a functional bacterial membrane. Here’s a list with all the bacteria that Tea Tree has an effect on.
- The best antiviral effect of Tea Tree oil for earaches was found to be before infection. In other words, diffusing Melaleuca oil daily could help prevent ear infections.
- Tea Tree also has anti-inflammatory effects, which helps relieve some of the local pain too.
- When too much Tea Tree oil is used for an earache, there is a high risk of inducing an epilepsy crisis.
- It is very sensitive to oxidation, so keep it away from direct light.
- High dosage of Tea Tree oil can cause mobility loss and confusion.
Why I like it:
Tea Tree is one of the best essential oils for ear infection on toddlers. It is great for ear infection in adults too. It can also be used as a good essential oil for ear congestion or severe acne. If you have a sore throat and an earache, Melaleuca is your oil!
5) Roman Chamomile Essential Oil
Botanical name: Chamaemelum nobile.
- Chamomile is also among the best essential oils for earache. It is highly anti-inflammatory, which helps greatly with pain relieving.
- It is also known to stimulate benzodiazepine receptors, which induce calmness and relaxation.
- If you’re curious what essential oils are good for earwax, Chamomile is one of them.
- Roman Chamomile should not be used by people with epilepsy and/or seizures.
- High doses can induce drowsiness and even cause vertigo.
- It must not be used at a concentration higher than 15% in earache blends.
Why I like it:
Roman Chamomile works really well in combination with German Chamomile. This combination is especially good when the earache is due to allergies. Roman Chamomile is another great essential oil to use for toddler earaches. It is great at inducing sleep and soothing pain.
What Other Essential Oils Help with Earaches?
There are quite a few more left, with a lot of potential. In some degree, they’re also antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, with antiviral effects:
- Lemon Eucalyptus
I know Frankincense is one of the most popular essential oils too. So, it’s natural to want to know whether it’s good or not.
If you want to use Frankincense oil for ear infection though, you’ll have to do so in the post earache phase. Its antiviral properties are not as high as the other recommended oils.
Frankincense is more of a great beauty ingredient. It can prevent premature aging and improve the aspect of deep wrinkles and fine lines. In other words, Frankincense can be used for ear infection and earache, but the effects won’t be as powerful.
With Lavender, the situation is similar. Using Lavender essential oil for ear infection can also bring some relief. Unlike Frankincense, Lavender has been shown to have a mild antiviral action too.
All essential oils for ear infections must be tested for allergies! Each new oil must be diluted and massaged into the forearm. If nothing happens in a day, you’re safe to use it.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women must always consult their doctors for Aromatherapy use.
How to Use Essential Oils for Earaches?
The way you use essential oils for an earache or ear infection is just as important as the oil itself. Aromatic oils are very concentrated essences. The ears are very sensitive organs and their interior is even more sensitive.
The skin of the external ear canal is very sensitive. This means that if you pour essential oils inside, they’ll sensitize, irritate or even burn the skin. You risk making it worse instead of treating the condition.
Normally, therapeutic oils need to be diluted with a carrier oil before any topical application. With ears though, not even that is a good idea. When in pain, the instinct is to put something on the area that hurts.
Well, with ear infections you’ll have to resist that urge. In extreme cases, only warm carrier oil can go in, and only for a few minutes.
The tympanic membrane doesn’t allow liquid antimicrobial agents to pass through. Therefore, treatments of acute otitis through the external ear canal would not work.
They would instead hurt the membrane, especially in the wrong dosage. Luckily, the volatile active molecules may pass through. This makes essential oils useful remedies for ear infections.
Medically speaking, researchers are still trying to develop a special device. The kind that will help us benefit from the vapors of essential oils without direct contact with them. Until then however, we can improvise.
- Your blends must be applied only on the outer ear, around the opening. The oil molecules/vapors will reach the inside of the ear and soothe the pain. Simply massage the external ear with an essential oil blend for earache. Do not stick it into the ear canal!
Don’t use cotton swabs or cotton balls, not even fingers should go in there. The ear has its own cleaning mechanism. Earwax or cerumen plays that role plus protection. It flows out on its own. All you need to do is wipe the external ear with a warm, damp cloth.
- For the best results, massage your blend behind the ears too. The oil molecules will reach the respiratory system and help with the ear infection. That is possible because both systems are interconnected.
- You can also pour a few drops of essential oils for ear infection on a cotton pad. Hold it against the opening of the ear for a few minutes and remove. Keep your ear in a warm environment. Heat relieves pain too.
- Steam baths could also work. Pour a drop or two in some boiled water and lean over it with the affected ear. Make sure the distance is comfortable enough and cover your head with a towel.
The treatment should be done gradually. Its intensity must be the strongest in the first day. The infection can come back so treatment must last even 2 weeks, if necessary.
1st day – hyper intense treatment (application every hour or couple of hours)
2nd – 3rd day – intense treatment (4 – 6 times a day)
4th – 7th day – medium intensity treatment (2 – 3 times a day)
7th – 15th day – lower intensity treatment (twice a day)
How many times you apply ear infection essential oils is estimative. As long as you respect the way they should be administered, you can use them more often.
If the dosage is right, you can gain control over acute otitis in less than 24 hours. It could be gone in as much as 72 hours (3 days) if it was a bacterial infection.
Viral infections can take a very long time to subside. It may take anywhere from 1 to 3 months of treatment. Of course, all these situations are true if there are no complications with the ear infection.
As you can see, there are many essential oils good for earaches. Next, you’ll get to use them in some blend recipes to try for earaches.
Essential Oils for Ear Infection Recipes, plus Types of Infections
One single aromatic oil can be a strong antiviral, but 2 – 3 can enhance that power. An essential oil is already a synergy of many active constituents. If you blend more different oils, they will also act in a synergy.
That doesn’t mean you can mix a whole list of essential oils for earache. I recommend using up to 3 different essences in a blend.
Essential Oil Recipe for Ear Infection among Toddlers
- Eucalyptus radiata essential oil: 10 drops
- Lemon Eucalyptus essential oil: 10 drops
- Roman Chamomile essential oil: 10 drops
- Sweet Almond oil (optional): 1 Oz (30ml)
This recipe has 2 methods of use. First, you mix only the essential oils in a dark colored bottle and pour 2 – 3 drops on a cotton pad. You will then hold it in at the ear opening for as long as possible (10 – 20 minutes).
For the second method, you mix the essential oils with the carrier oil. Give the blend a good shake before each application. Massage 3 – 4 drops of this blend on the external affected ear and behind it. Apply 5 – 6 times a day, for at least 5 continuous days.
Essential Oil Recipe for Ear Infection in Adults
- Eucalyptus radiata essential oil: 15 drops
- Tea Tree essential oil: 15 drops
- Basil essential oil: 10 drops
- Carrier oil: 1 Oz (30 ml)
This is a concentrated blend and should only be used in the first 2 – 3 days of treatment. You can either lower the concentration for the next days or try other oils. Apply 3 to 5 drops of this blend all around the ear (behind it and at the exterior). Reapply it 6 to 8 times a day, for at least 5 continuous days.
Otitis Externa Essential Oil Remedy
- Tea Tree essential oil: 15 drops
- Clove essential oil: 20 drops
- Basil essential oil: 15 drops
Simply mix these essential oils for earache and ear infection in a dark colored bottle. Use only 3 – 5 drops on a cotton pad and keep it at the opening of the ear for as long as possible.
Repeat as often as necessary. You can also mix the blend with carrier oil and massage the place behind the ears, along the throat.
Types of Ear Infection
Without knowing the cause of your middle ear infection (otitis), it can be very hard to find the right treatment. To an essential oil for instance, each infection responds differently. Some infections simply go away, but it’s a slow process.
Others that are caused by bacteria respond better to essential oils. Viruses are known to adapt and evolve, thus develop resistance to many antibiotics. Essential oils could weaken them, thus speed up the recovery.
Let’s see what causes ear infections and pain, so you can find the right treatment. Or to go to the doctor, which is crucial in avoiding life-threatening ear conditions. They are rare but can occur if complications are not treated by a doctor.
Bacterial or viral infections affect the middle ear (otitis) or the external ear canal. They are more common among children than adults. Children don’t have their inner ears completely developed.
These infections however, can happen to adults too. Most commonly, infections in the throat or respiratory tract can lead to ear infections too. The middle ear tube that communicates with the pharynx can become blocked by liquid. This liquid becomes the perfect environment for bacteria growth.
There are two types of infection in the middle ear:
- Acute Otitis Media – This infection happens fast. It is accompanied by fever and pain inside the ear. Hearing impairment is also common.
- Otitis Media with Effusion – This infection happens after another infection has gone away. Fluid will keep building up in the middle ear.
- Otitis externa – is an inflammation of the external ear (communication canal). It may be due to viral infections, repeated washing or scraping. This is often seen in adults. Otitis externa is also known as the swimmer’s ear. The best essential oils for swimmer’s ear are the same as for an infection in the middle ear. Thus, you can use Clove, Basil, Eucalyptus, Chamomile and Tea Tree to treat inflammation in the external ear.
Except infection, there are other earache causes or triggers:
- Allergies – they seem to be among the major triggers for chronic otitis. They can be inhaled (pollen, dust, etc.) or they can be food allergies. A combination of both seems to contribute to ear infections in about 70% of cases. Treating the allergy will significantly reduce the risk of ear infections.
- Foreign objects – They can be anything, including little insects. If the object can’t be easily grabbed with tweezers, you should go to the doctor immediately. Insects can sometimes be taken out with some warm carrier oil like Olive. Avoid using this method for children or if you have a perforated eardrum.
- Clogged ears – earwax may sometimes clog the external ear canal and cause hearing problems. This link here will tell you more about dealing with them. You’ll also find out what essential oils are good for earwax removal.
- Air pressure changes – these usually happen during a flight or deep diving. You can feel the air pressure changes if you also have a perforated eardrum.
There is another condition that can affect hearing and balance, among others. It is called exostosis or the surfer’s ear, though some refer to it as swimmer’s ear too. Unfortunately, there are no essential oils for surfer’s ear (exostosis). There aren’t because it is not caused by inflammation or infection.
Surfer’s ear is caused by an abnormal bone growth inside the ear canal. Frequent and repeated exposure to cold water and wind causes the bone that surrounds the ear to thicken. It does it so it can protect the ear; this process can take years though.
Thus, surfer’s ear is an adults’ condition. At best, essential oils for earache in this case, can be used to relieve pain, if any.
The bone growth is surgically removed and can grow back if the exposure continues.
Now you know what essential oils are good for ear infections. You can choose from Basil, Tea Tree and Clove aroma oils. Or you can go for Eucalyptus or Chamomile, two essences that can be used by the whole family.
When you use essential oils for earache, it’s important to know the cause. It is also important to never pour them (diluted or not) inside ear. Sometimes it’s acceptable to use them diluted, but only in very small concentrations. But as we’ve seen, direct application doesn’t pass through the eardrum to the infection behind it.
Have you ever used therapeutic oils for earaches or ear infections? What sort of problems did you encounter?