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Ear Infections

Posts: 120
Location: Central Indiana
kids books homestead
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I have a pet that is prone to getting ear infections.  If untreated he will scratch until he makes his ears bleed (well just behind his ears).  Does anyone know any good herbal remedies for ear infections.  Animal in question is a cat but if you have the same solution for humans i'd take that as well.  My middle daughter is prone to ear infections.
Posts: 88
Location: Fort Myers, fl - Durango CO
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Years ago a doctor friend gave me his "simple ear infection remedy doctors don't want you to know about cause it looses them patients" method.  Simply get a tube of neosporin or brand name antibacterial ointment from drugstore, easier if it has narrow spout, have the person lay on their side with infected ear facing up, and place a small amount of neosporin at mouth of ear canal and have the person lay still for a while so the body temp melts the ointment and it flows into the ear canal over the infected area.  Repeat if needed.  I have used this for many years and it always worked and usually pretty fast.  The cat might be a challenge, but I'd give it a try.
Jonathan Ward
Posts: 120
Location: Central Indiana
kids books homestead
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I've never heard of doing that.  Thanks  You're right, i'm not sure my cat will hold still for that.  A couple of them might, but this one won't.  I'll play with him and see what he'll tolerate.
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Posts: 182
Location: Roseburg, Oregon
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If you follow this to the bottom, there are some treatments listed. I am giving some background data here also.

I am more use to treating humans than dogs, but that being said I do have some specific ideas about dogs and ear irritation. One is to not let the dog hang its head out the window of a moving vehicle. Vets have told me that this irritates the ears and causes a few different issues. Also, some of the same things that cause humans to get inflamed throats, which lead to ear infections can also bother dogs. So, the dog could be reacting to something in the air (wood stove smoke, moldy house, chemicals in new house or new carpet etc.) or have a food allergy. Those are areas I would investigate. Now to some general data and treatment ideas for ear infections. I do realize the gargling for a dog is not going to work. However, you can put the tincture ear drops in their ear. It will take more than the 1-2 drops I mention for humans below. You will have to experiment. If you know it is not fungal the herbal oils would be nice.

I am going to give you ideas as the relate to humans since that is what I know and you did mention wanting to know what to do about children with ear aches.

Are the ear infections fungal or bacterial? If someone has an ear infection and never has had one before, it is usually easy enough to treat. When they are repetitive you need to look for an underlying cause.  I would caution that fungal ear infections will get worse if the area is occluded. This means putting an herbal oil in the ear is a bad idea as it will occlude the ear and can increase the fungal infection. For this reason I often suggest tinctures rather than oils. The tincture is also drying and generally the ear can use something drying when there is an infection. I often use a mix of Calendula and Goldenseal and put two drops into the ear 2-3 times per day. (See details below.) If the ear drum is ruptured, nothing should be put into the ear. Often ear aches are associated with sore throats and it is the throat issue that has caused the eustachian tube (This tube drains the ear into the throat.) to close off and created the ear ache. If this is the cause, then focusing on gargling with salt water or astringent herbs can be helpful.

Repeated ear infections call for looking to the cause of the ear infections.

Otitis Media or Middle Ear Infection

Description: Usually there is ear pain and there may be hearing loss. An infant may be cranky and have trouble sleeping.  There may be fever, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea in young children.  In allopathic medicine it is thought that middle ear infection is due to viral or bacterial infection, usually accompanying a upper respiratory infection. Although this is one reason, they can also be due to food allergies. Especially consider this with chronic middle ear infections. Middle ear infections are the most common diagnosis in children and account for over 50% of the visits to pediatricians. Risk factors for middle ear infection are day care attendance, wood-burning stoves, environmental toxin or biotixn such as mold, 2nd hand smoke, food allergies and lack of being breast-fed. In all these factors there is a shared abnormal mechanism or eustachian tube malfunction.

Under 3 years is the age where you see the most middle ear infections. At this age the eustachian tube is not mature and it is practically horizontal and the opening is not very efficient. As they grow the eustachian tube  will angle downward and open more efficiently to allow better drainage. The eustachian tube allows drainage of any mucus into the nasopharynx (throat area) from the middle ear. It also regulates gas pressure in the middle ear. Swallowing causes the eustachian tube to open as does yawning due to the activity of surrounding muscles. If the eustachian tube becomes blocked there is fluid build up and if pathogenic bacteria are present and the immune system is impaired there can be an infection. If there is an infection in the nasopharynx it can travel up the eustachian tube, especially if the person has an impaired immune system and the eustachian tube is not functioning properly. Inflammation from allergies can cause inflammation of the eustachian tube causing it to close up and lead to fluid build up in the middle ear.

A bacterial middle ear infection may spread locally and result in acute mastoiditis, petrositis, or labyrinthitis. Intracranial spread is rare but should be suspect if there is a severe headache, confusion or neurological signs.

80% will resolve spontaneously. However, conventional physicians often give antibiotics in case it is bacterial to prevent the possible complications. Pediatric associations try to stop this use of antibiotics unless the child is in a high risk group such as a younger child or one with a more severe illness, or child with greater than 4 recurrences in 6 months. Others are to be observed for 72 hours and given antibiotics only if they do not get better. (It has been shown in research that 80% of children will respond to a placebo in 48 hours). Analgesics are given for pain. Antihistamines may be used.

The primary thing to remember with middle ear infections is to keep the eustachian tube open and make sure it is draining properly. This is where using the hot salt water or astringent herb gargles come in handy. I have also used a drop of peppermint oil or bitter orange oil on the opening of the eustachian tube to open it up.

Bottle feeding in Infants: Ear infections are associated in babies with bottle feeding while breast feeding (minimum 4 months) is associated with a protective effect.  These findings are probably due to multiple factors such as: Bottle feeding while a child is lying on its back leads to regurgitation of the bottle contents into its middle ear via the eustachian tube. The baby may be allergic to the type of milk being used such as cows milk or soy milk. Mother’s milk is thought to have a protective effect against infections due to its high antibody content. It is interesting that breast fed infants have a thymus gland 20 times larger than formula-fed infants.

Allergies: Consider in all chronic ear infections. Most research shows that 85-93% of children with middle ear infections have allergies - 16% to inhalants, 14% to food and 70% to both inhalants and food. It is helpful to avoid foods that are the most common allergens. Especially in the first 9 months of life babies should not have the following foods introduced: cows milk, wheat, egg whites, peanuts, soy, corn, oranges and less of a problem but to be watched are tomato, chicken.

Remove allergens
Remove all simple, concentrated carbohydrates such as honey, sugar, dried fruit, fruit juice, maple syrup etc. since they inhibit the immune system
If a house is dry such as use of wood heat use a humidifier.

Nutritional supplements
Multiple vitamin or really nutritious organic food, including lots of colorful veggies & raw food
Vitamin A 50,000 IU per day for up to 2 days in kids under 6 years old and 4 days in kids over 6 years old.
Vitamin C with bioflavonoids  to bowel tolerance
Zinc 2.5 mg x age up to 30  mg given daily

Neck massage over the eustachian tube with essential oils that open the eustachian tube such as wintergreen, peppermint. Also massage over the lymphatic channels.
Essential oils can also be used directly on the opening of the eustachian tube. bitter orange or peppermint is often used this way. Be careful you do not use neet or straight essential oil if using something like thyme which would burn the mucus membranes in the area.
Keep ears covered in cold weather.
Nourish ears with joyful sounds.
Gargle with warm salt water or with astringent herbal teas.
Ear drops can be used if the tympanic membrane is intact. They may be partially absorbed through the tympanic membrane. Usually herbs are used in oil form but tinctures can also be used and are sometimes preferable if there may be a fungal infection in the external ear since oils would exacerbate fungal infections due to occlusion. If you don't know if it is fungal or not, do not use oil. Herbs used are usually antimicrobial and healing to mucous membranes. They can be used topically directly into the ear (if no perforated ear drum) in amounts of 1-2 drops. Usually, no more than two drops is needed. Ear drops can be applied three times per day. There should be improvement within 48 hours. Additional herbs can be taken internally to support the immune system and assist in healing. If there is a bacterial infection, it is good to add an antimicrobial.

Two example formulas:

Oil Formula
St. John’s wort oil Hypericum perforatum 30-45%
Calendula oil Calendula officinalis 30-45%
Chaparral oil Larrea tridentata 10-20%
Vitamin E oil   2-4%

Tincture Formula
Goldenseal tincture Hydrastis canadensis 50 %
Calendula succus Calendula officinalis 50 %

St. John’s wort, Hypericum perforatum, is anti-inflammatory, astringent and antibacterial.  It strengthens the capillaries and relieves pain due to nerve irritation that is characterized by sharp lancing pain, numbness, tingling or burning sensations.
Calendula, Calendula officinalis, promotes the growth of epithelial tissue and healing of irritated, diseased tissue.  It is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, thereby reducing the possibility of infection and preventing or decreasing the formation of pus. It also promotes the formation of granulation tissue and decreases scarring.
Chaparral, Larrea tridentata, is antimicrobial, antiallergenic and an antioxidant.
Goldenseal, Hydrastis canadensis, is antimicrobial and astringent.
Vitamin E, soothing to the skin and is an antioxidant to protect the formula from rancidity.

Internal Formula Example
Echinacea Echinacea Spp. 50 - 60%
Goldenseal Hydrastis canadensis 35 - 50 %
Lymphagogue 10-20% - see choices below

Echinacea - immunomodulator, helps decrease allergenic responses and assist in viral middle ear infections as well as bacterial infections.
Goldenseal - astringent and antimicrobial. Will act to decrease congestion and open the eustachian tube allowing drainage also. Antimicrobial activity is helpful in bacterial infection while the astringent activity is helpful in all kinds of middle ear infections. (Yarrow or Oregon grape could be used in the place of goldenseal).
A lymphagogue can be added to this formula and many lymphagogues would do. Milder ones would be Burdock, Mullein, while low dose botanicals like Poke or Stillingia would be for acute severe middle  ear aches. The milder ones  can be added at 20% of the formula while the low dose herbs can be added at 10% of the formula.

Otitis externa or External Ear Infection

This is an infection of the ear canal. It is often due to a bacterial infection. There is itching and pain. There may be a bad smelling discharge and possible hearing loss if the canal is swollen or filled with purulent debris. Traction of the pinna or pressure over the tragus causes a lot of pain.  The canal is red, swollen, has a lot of moist, purulent debris. Candida presents with creamy white exudate, Aspergillus niger presents with grayish black or yellow dots. Make sure it is external ear infection and not a perforated ear drum If the child is in pain and pulling on the pinna, it is probably external ear ache.

To prevent swimmers ear which is a common cause of external ear aches, the person should irrigate their ears with 1:1 mixture of rubbing alcohol and distilled white vinegar or Calendula succus immediately after swimming.

Topical treatment  of the infection usually works well. The tincture for topical use above works well here. The addition of vinegar to the formula at 25% of the formula may be helpful in fungal cases although not necessary. If the infection is fungal do not use oil as it will make it worse. I tend not to use oil and to only use tincture to be sure I do not occlude the ear canal and increase growth of fungal infections.

Jonathan Ward
Posts: 120
Location: Central Indiana
kids books homestead
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This is great information.  Thank you so much.
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