Treating Ear Infections Naturally: Home Remedies and Why They Work

Last week I told you about garlic infused olive oil and how it worked to help my son with his earache. Today we’re going to talk about why. In case you missed it, here is the recipe:

Garlic-Infused Olive Oil


  • Clove or two of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1oz olive oil, or enough to cover the garlic


Place olive oil and garlic in a small glass jar or measuring cup. Place the glass jar in a small saucepan with an inch of water and cook on low for 10-15 minutes (see pg 116 of “31 Days to Detoxify Your Life” for detailed instructions on using the double boiler method). Remove from heat and allow oil to cool until it is below 98*F. Store in clean jar, refrigerating when not in use.

Alternatively you can roughly chop or crush garlic cloves, cover them with oil, and allow them to sit for a couple weeks. Some believe this method is ideal, but when your little one has an earache, 2 weeks won’t cut it. In either case you can strain out the garlic before using or leave it in the oil, being careful not to put garlic into the child’s ears.

To use:

Place a few drops of oil into affected ear. If the ear drum becomes perforated, discontinue use.

My Experience With Antibiotic Use

In my years of parenting I have only once had a child take antibiotics for an ear infection. In that instance my 8 month old had been miserable and lethargic for a couple days. I was using garlic-infused oil and took him to the chiropractor. The doctor couldn’t even see his eardrum because there was so much goop in the way. After a couple days I took him to the DO and got a round of antibiotics.We used probiotics to repopulate his tiny tummy’s gut flora, but I quit too soon because a couple months later he got thrush and his ears began discharging again. Concerned that his ear drum had ruptured I swabbed his outer ear with apple cider vinegar, applied lavender oil and melaleuca oils near his ears, and I massaged his lymph nodes.

We went back to the chiropractor who had a hard time seeing his ear drums, but couldn’t detect any perforation. After months of discharge and intact eardrums we discovered he simply had an outer ear infection, or swimmer’s ear. At the chiropractor’s suggestion I used a 50/50 solution of water and hydrogen peroxide in his ears and they cleared right up.

It is important to note that in this scenario my son’s eardrums were intact. If the eardrums become perforated at any time you should stop putting anything in them because you risk pushing bacteria into the inner ear. I stopped putting garlic infused oils into my son’s ears because I thought his eardrums were perforated.

Why, in the 19 years of life my children have accumulated, have we not had more antibiotics? Each of my kids has had a couple earaches and we have successfully treated all but one with chiropractic adjustments and home remedies. Let’s take a look at why these work.

Home Remedies for Ear Infections

Chiropractic Care

Why are children more prone to ear infections than adults are? It comes down to biology. Think back to high school anatomy and the parts of the ear. You have tubes that connect your middle ear to your nasopharynx, which essentially drains into the back of your throat. Remember, your nose, mouth, and ears are all connected. That’s why you can plug your nose and blow out and pop your ears. The air is going through these tubes, called eustachian tubes.

The eustachian tubes in an adult are angled from the ears down toward the mouth. In children, the eustachian tubes are more horizontal, leaving them more susceptible to blockage and fluid backup.

Often times there can be a misalignment in the cervical spine that causes one or both of the eustachian tubes to be blocked up causing an earache. In this instance there is no infection, just pressure, and a simple adjustment by a knowledgeable chiropractor can realign the spine and allow the eustachian tubes to drain properly, thus relieving the pressure and easing discomfort.

Garlic-Infused Oil

This is my other go-to remedy for earaches. I always have both olive oil and garlic in my kitchen so it’s easy to make a batch of oil if one of my kids is in pain. Here’s how it works:

Olive oil is antimicrobial, which means that bacteria and the like don’t do well in olive oil. Placing it in the ear canal inhibits the growth of the bacteria that cause infection. Olive oil is also anti-inflammatory. What can cause the eustachian tubes to close up? Inflammation.

Garlic is also anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial. The antiseptic compounds can be absorbed through the skin in the ear canal and fight the infection and reduce inflammation.


I have to admit this is a remedy I have never tried myself, but I have heard great things about it. Simply take an onion, slice it in half, place on a baking sheet and bake until soft. Crush a bit of the onion in a bowl and drain the juices. You can place some of this juice, once cooled to body temperature, into the ear for relief.

You can also place a slice of warm (not hot) cooked onion over the affected ear for several minutes.

Essential Oils

Many essential oils are also antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. Basil, for example, is cooling calming to the central nervous system. Melaleuca or tea tree oil is anti-inflammatory and astringent, making it a good choice for opening up the eustachian tubes and promoting drainage.

A couple drops of basil or tea tree oil on a cotton ball tucked just inside the ear are great ways to ease the discomfort of an ear ache. It is important to note that essential oils should never be dropped into the ear canal. They can be applied to the bones around the ear or to a cotton ball tucked inside the ear, but should never be applied into the ear canal. (Use the contact form on this page to find out which essential oils I prefer.)

Antibiotics don’t have to be our go-to remedy. As you can see there are other options to try first. If you do need an antibiotic be sure to be proactive in rebuilding your gut flora with fermented foods and probiotics (here is one I recommend). I didn’t stick with the probiotics when my infant needed antibiotics and we got thrush, which is another story in itself.

Have you tried any of these home remedies for ear infections? Do you have one to add?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *