by Andrew Pacholyk MS LAc.

Earaches can be an uncomfortable and painful experience. They can affect people of all ages, and in some cases, can be quite debilitating. Although earaches can be caused by various factors, such as ear infections, changes in pressure, or excessive earwax, there are numerous natural remedies that can provide relief and help speed up the healing process. In this article, we will explore 15 natural remedies for earaches, ranging from over-the-counter pain relievers to alternative therapies and home treatments.

1. Over-the-counter pain relievers

The use of over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can help control pain associated with earaches caused by acute otitis media (AOM). These medications are safe to use with or without antibiotics but be sure to follow the dosing instructions on the label. They can also help lower a fever. Consult your doctor about the appropriate dose for children, as there are specific versions available for children and infants. It is important to note that aspirin should not be given to children under the age of 16.

2. Cold or warm compresses

Applying cold or warm compresses to the affected ear can help alleviate pain. This method is safe for both children and adults. Place an ice pack or a warm compress, such as a heating pad or damp washcloth, over the ear and alternate between warm and cold every 10 minutes. If you prefer either cold or warm, you can use just one type of compress.

3. Olive oil

Olive oil has some antibacterial properties, which can be beneficial for soothing ear pain. Although there is no solid scientific evidence proving that drops of olive oil in the ear canal can alleviate ear pain, it is safe and might be worth a try. It is still a good idea to discuss this method with your doctor first, especially for children. Be sure to warm the olive oil to body temperature using a thermometer to avoid burning the eardrum.

4. Naturopathic drops

Naturopathic ear drops, made from herbal extracts, can be found online and in some drug stores. Early studies have found that these drops may be as effective or even more effective than traditional OTC ear drops. However, more recent research suggests that they may not necessarily help treat ear infections. It is important to consult your doctor before using naturopathic drops to treat ear pain.

5. Chiropractic treatment

Chiropractic adjustments may help soothe earaches as well as back pain. Although there is limited research on the effectiveness of chiropractic treatment for earaches, some older studies suggest it may be helpful. The effectiveness of this treatment depends on the cause of your pain, so it is advisable to consult a doctor for a diagnosis before seeking chiropractic care.

6. Sleep without putting pressure on the ear

Certain sleep positions can aggravate ear pain while others can help relieve it. Sleeping with the affected ear raised, rather than faced down toward the pillow, can help the ear drain better if necessary. You can also sleep with your head elevated using extra pillows, which can help the ears drain faster.

7. Ginger

Ginger has natural anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe pain from earaches. To use ginger as a remedy, apply ginger juice or strained oil that has been warmed with ginger around the outer ear canal. Do not put it directly into the ear.

8. Garlic

Garlic has both antibiotic and pain-relieving properties. To use garlic as a remedy, soak crushed garlic in warm olive or sesame oil for several minutes, then strain the garlic and apply the oil to the ear canal.

9. Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide can be used as a natural remedy for earaches, particularly if the cause is wax buildup. To use this treatment, place several drops of hydrogen peroxide into the affected ear and let it sit for several minutes before allowing it to drain into a sink. Rinse your ear with clean, distilled water afterwards.

10. Alcohol and white vinegar solution

A mixture of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar can help disinfect the ears and clean them in a safe and natural way. Rubbing alcohol eradicates 85% of all aerobic bacterial contamination it touches, while white vinegar offers antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. To use this remedy, mix equal parts rubbing alcohol and white vinegar, then drop 5ml of the solution into the ear. Keep your head tilted for about a minute and then tilt your head upright to help the remaining mixture run out of the ear. Apply the remedy in both ears and repeat daily as needed.

Using Eardrops

Eardrops can be purchased or made at home using natural ingredients like alcohol and white vinegar. Non-prescription eardrops may be helpful in treating mild cases of swimmer’s ear. However, eardrops should not be used in people who have ear tubes (T-tubes), permanent injuries to their eardrum, or certain ear surgeries. Additionally, eardrops should not be used in ears with any discharge coming from them unless prescribed by a doctor.

11. Salt Compress

A warm salt compress may help relieve the pressure building up in the ear and reduce pain. To use this remedy, heat one cup of salt on low heat for a few minutes, then place the warm salt in a clean, soft cloth. Secure the end of the cloth with a rubber band and, when you can stand the temperature, lay down and place the cloth on the affected ear for about ten minutes. Repeat this daily to help bring relief.

12. Basil

Basil is an herb with numerous therapeutic properties, including antioxidants and antibacterial properties. To use basil as a remedy, gently crush five fresh holy basil leaves to extract the juice, then apply the juice around the affected ear. Be careful not to get any of the juice in the ear canal. Alternatively, mix a few drops of holy basil oil with an equal amount of coconut oil, soak a cotton ball in the mixture, and gently wipe just inside the ear, around the outside of the ear, and behind the ear with the mixture.

13. Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil has a variety of therapeutic properties, including antibacterial, antiseptic, antiviral, antimicrobial, fungicide, insecticide, balsamic, expectorant, and stimulant properties. These properties make tea tree oil an excellent remedy for ear pain and infections. Mix a few drops of tea tree oil with a tablespoon of olive oil and warm slightly. Fill a clean dropper with the mixture and drop it into the infected ear. Lay on your side with the oil in your ear for about three minutes, then turn your head to drain the oil out. Repeat daily until the pain subsides.

14. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is known for its antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, making it an effective remedy for ear infections caused by fungus. To use apple cider vinegar for ear infections, mix equal parts apple cider vinegar and water, then soak a cotton ball in the solution. Place the cotton ball in your affected ear and let it sit for five minutes or so. Remove the cotton ball and lay down on your opposite side so that any residual vinegar can drain from your ear. Dry your ear out with a hair dryer set on low.

15. Sleep upright

Sleeping in an upright position can encourage fluid in your ear to drain, which could ease pressure and pain in your middle ear. Prop yourself up in bed with a stack of pillows or sleep in a slightly reclined armchair.

When to Call a Doctor

Ear pain often improves within 2 or 3 days with home care. However, it’s important to know when your discomfort might be a sign of something more serious. Call your doctor if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Fluid (such as pus or blood) oozing out of your ear

  • A high fever, headache, or dizziness

  • An object stuck in your ear

  • Swelling behind your ear, especially if that side of your face feels weak or you can’t move the muscles there

  • Severe ear pain that suddenly stops (which could mean a ruptured eardrum)

  • Your symptoms don’t improve (or worsen) within 24 to 48 hours

In conclusion, natural remedies for earaches can provide relief and promote healing. It is essential to consult your doctor before trying any of these remedies, especially if you are unsure about the cause of your ear pain or if your symptoms persist. Your doctor can recommend the best course of action and provide guidance on which remedies may be most effective for your specific situation.

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