Essential Oils That May Work for an Ear Infection

tea tree oil

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  • Some essential oils work like an antibiotic that helps eliminate harmful bacteria strains
  • Avoid using essential oils if you have a ruptured eardrum. Seek medical attention immediately if you feel that something is wrong with your eardrum or other parts of the ear

If you're looking for a natural way to address ear infections, you can consider trying essential oils. These oils possess properties that assist with combating viral and bacterial infections, alleviating pain and promoting healing. Some essential oils work like an antibiotic, eliminating harmful bacteria strains.1

Top Essential Oils for Ear Infections and How to Use Them Properly

The following essential oils have been renowned for their potential to address ear infections:2

Tea tree oil

How Does It Work? A chemical compound called terpinen-4-ol in tea tree oil has been shown to kill bacteria it interacts with, making this oil possibly more effective compared to other antibacterial cleaning agents.3 A November 2004 American Journal of Infection Control article also highlighted that tea tree oil was utilized in Australia for thousands of years to address infections, including those in the middle ear.4

How to Use? Dilute tea tree oil in a carrier oil like olive, jojoba, coconut and almond oil, and dab the mixture onto a cotton ball. Take the cotton ball and apply it to the outer ear and hold it over the ear canal. Do not force the cotton ball in. Note: Do not take tea tree oil internally because it can be toxic and lead to inflammation of the ear canal.

Basil oil

How Does It Work? A 2005 animal study revealed that basil oil helped heal 56 to 81 percent of rats with an ear infection caused by the Haemophilus influenzae virus. This oil also assisted in treating rats with pneumococci-caused infections.5 Basil oil's antiviral and anti-inflammatory compounds may assist in these benefits. However, you only need a small amount of oil since it can be quite potent.6

How to Use? Combine five to six drops of basil oil with a carrier oil and soak a cotton ball into the mixture. Take the cotton ball and hold it over the ear canal to allow the aromatic compounds to target the infection. Avoid pushing the cotton ball into the ear canal.

Oregano oil

How Does It Work? Oregano oil has antibacterial and antiviral properties that may make it an effective remedy for ear infections. This essential oil may assist with enhancing the immune system and addressing inflammation in the respiratory tracts and ear canal.7

How to Use? Dilute a few drops of oregano oil with a teaspoon of carrier oil, and topically apply the mixture to the outer ear.

Rosemary oil

How Does It Work? Rosemary oil can assist in neutralizing bacterial infections that can trigger pain in the middle ear, and help soothe a sinus infection that may be the cause of a patient's discomfort.8

How to Use? Rosemary oil can be mixed with lavender or eucalyptus oil and applied to the throat, neck, and up and under the ears. Rosemary oil may be rapidly absorbed by the skin, work on inflammation in those areas and aid in reducing pain.

Olive oil

How Does It Work? Despite not being technically an essential oil, olive oil may help people with ear infections because of its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.9 Olive oil is known to assist in relieving blockage in the sinuses. This may unplug the Eustachian tubes and cause fluid to drain.

How to Use? Add four to five drops of warmed olive oil directly to the ear canal and hold the oil there for a few minutes. Once done, flush and clean the ear gently with a bit of warm water.

Thyme oil

How Does It Work? Thymol, an active ingredient in thyme oil, possesses powerful antibacterial and antioxidant capabilities.10 Thymol may assist in alleviating pressure and pain in the middle ear and combat the infection present in the respiratory system.

How to Use? Blend thyme oil with a carrier oil and topically apply the mixture on the outer ear, or rub on the throat, glands and neck.

Mustard oil

How Does It Work? Mustard oil is known to have strong antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.11 A drawback about this essential oil, however, is its tendency to negatively affect people with sensitive skin.

How to Use? Dilute mustard oil with a carrier oil (five drops of mustard to a tablespoon of carrier oil). Gently apply the blend to the outside of the ear and allow it to soak into the skin. Because of mustard oil's potency, exercise caution when using this essential oil, especially when using near the ear canal.

Lavender oil

How Does It Work? Lavender oil has been proven to be effective at addressing infections. This essential oil helps raise blood circulation and speed up healing, decreases infection-caused inflammation and targets pressure in the sinus cavities.12

How to Use? Try placing lavender essential oil on your pillow at night, inhale directly from the bottle or topically apply it to the outer ear.

Eucalyptus oil

How Does It Work? Eucalyptus oil can assist in alleviating inflammation in the Eustachian tube and ending the blockage that's causing fluid build-up. As a result, the fluid may drain from the tubes and allow the infection to leave the body.13

How to Use? You may apply undiluted eucalyptus oil on the throat and neck. This may allow the body to soak and address inflammation in the respiratory system. Patients can inhale this essential oil via steam inhalation or by using a room diffuser.

Reminders Before Using Essential Oils for Ear Infections

Before you use these essential oils, take note of these reminders:

  • Consult a doctor first before using any essential oil — A discussion with a doctor can help you determine the best essential oil for your body, as well as the amount you should be handling.
  • Do a skin patch test — This helps you learn how your skin will react to the essential oil. Dilute the essential oil and spread a quarter-sized portion on your skin (your inner arm can be a good spot to try this). Should there be no irritation or inflammation over the next 24 hours, the oil can be safe to use.
  • Always dilute your essential oils with a carrier oil before using — As mentioned in the previous section, coconut, sweet almond, jojoba and olive oil are carrier oils you must have in your arsenal. By combining essential and carrier oils, you may reduce the essential oil's potency and inhibit side effects like burning or irritation on your skin.

Avoid using essential oils if you have a ruptured eardrum or know there is a hole in the area. Seek medical attention immediately if you feel that something is wrong with your eardrum or other parts of the ear. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as children, must exercise extreme caution before using essential oils. If they're interested in using these oils to address ear infections (or other diseases), they must talk to their doctor first.

MORE ABOUT EAR INFECTION

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What Is an Ear Infection?

Ear Infection Symptoms

Ear Infection Causes

Types of Ear Infection

Ear Infection in Babies and Children

Are Ear Infections Contagious?

Ear Infection Treatment

Essential Oils for Ear Infection

Ear Infection Prevention

Ear Infection FAQ

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