Inner Ear Infection (Otitis Media)

The Journal of Otolaryngology reported in 1998 that we spend over three billion dollars per year to treat acute otitis media (AOM) with drugs and surgery (Elden LM, Coyte PC, 1998).  Some of the organisms that commonly cause AOM include Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Aspergillus species and Moraxella catarrhalis.

Problems with eustachian tube drainage are an important causative factor in these infections.  The eustachian tube helps drain exudates and mucus from the middle ear.  In young children, this tube is not fully formed, so chiropractic adjustments are reputed valuable in some cases to help with drainage (Froehle, 1996), though no long-term studies have been done (Sawyer et al., 1999).  In cases where dietary errors, allergy or other factors causes abnormal exudation, bacteria can easily multiply, leading to infection.

A simple hygeine measure is to simply put a small amount of tissue paper in the ear after bathing or showering for a few minutes. This will absorb the water and dry the ear –  dry ear is less likely to get infected.

To treat the immediate problem, we make herbal ear drops with mullein flower (Verbascum thapsus) and garlic bulb in an olive oil base.  These are now commercially available, which is the recommended form to ensure sterility.  To make them stronger, I add 5-8 drops of neem extract or oregano oil per ounce.  This usually does the trick, and part of the secret may be the penetrating quality of the garlic and oregano, which allows it to pass through the surface into the interior.  Echinacea tincture
in high doses taken internally can also add to effectiveness of the treatments.  Some children have lowered immunity, so immune tonic formulas using herbs from the immune enhancing group can be of value.  In chronic cases it is necessary to check for food allergy, especially to milk products.

Research Highlights

• In test tube studies against Aspergillus, an aqueous garlic extract and concentrated garlic oil showed similar or better inhibitory effects than several pharmaceutical preparations, while demonstrating lower toxicity and similar minimum inhibitory concentrations (Pai and Platt, 1995).

• In a review of numerous studies concerning breastfeeding doctors concluded, “Convincing studies demonstrate significant protection during breastfeeding against diarrhea, respiratory tract infections, otitis media, bacteraemia, bacterial meningitis, botulism, urinary tract infections and necrotizing enterocolitis. There is also good evidence for enhanced protection for years after the termination of breastfeeding against Haemophilus influenzae type b infections, otitis media, diarrhea, respiratory tract infections and wheezing bronchitis. In some reports breastfeeding has also improved vaccine responses. Several studies show that milk may actively stimulate the immune system of the offspring via transfer of anti-idiotypic antibodies and lymphocytes. This may explain why breastfeeding diminishes the risk of developing coeliac disease. Some investigations suggest that there may also be a similar effect on allergic diseases and autoimmune diseases, as well as inflammatory bowel diseases and certain tumours.” (Hanson, 1999).

• Another study of 200 children indicated that “the risk of developing otitis media in an infant is two times greater if a pacifier is used and five times greater if bottle fed or attending a day care facility (Jackson and Mourino, 1999).