Ear aches, pain, and ear infections are common. If you’re experiencing ear pain, especially if it’s long lasting or reoccurring you should consult a physician. There may be an infection or other serious issue that requires professional medical diagnosis and treatment. Home remedies for ear pain can provide a temporary solution that eases the pain until you can get in to see your doctor.

In the following excerpt from Secret Food Cures authors Joan and Lydia Wilen the sisters discuss home remedies for ear pain and other ear problems.


Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears…”—but not if you have an earache! Even Mark Antony (eulogizing Caesar in William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar) would not want ears that are inflamed, painful and runny. Earaches and infections can be serious, but if your ears are burning…just tell people to stop talking about you!


Earaches are generally caused by an infection of the middle ear as a result of a cold or the flu. The pain can be out of proportion to the seriousness of the problem.

WARNING: An earache may be a sign of a serious infection. These remedies should not be considered a substitute for determining the cause of the earache or for getting proper medical treatment.

If an earache persists, don’t turn a deaf ear! See a health professional for diagnosis and treatment.

Whenever an ear is draining—discharging thick or thin liquid from the canal—it may be that the eardrum has ruptured, and there could be a potentially serious infection. If that’s the case, get medical attention immediately. If your ear is draining, do not put anything in it unless medically instructed.

Natural Remedies

Occasionally, you may have an earache and can determine that medical care is not required at that moment. It is only at such times that you should consider the following remedies. And don’t try them at all if there’s broken skin in or around the ear.

• Fill the ear with three warm (not too hot) drops of olive oil and loosely plug the ear with a cotton ball. Do this three or four times a day until the earache is gone.

• Mix the juice from grated fresh ginger with an equal amount of sesame oil. Drop in three drops of the mixture and loosely plug the ear with a cotton ball. It might sting a bit, but try to keep it there for a few hours.

Please Bite Down

• This reflexology remedy requires an object that is sterile and hard to bite down on. The ideal item is one of those cotton cylinders the dentist uses. Or you can wad up a piece of cheesecloth, which works fine.

Place the hard, sterile item in back of the last tooth on the side of the aching ear, and bite down on it for five minutes. This stimulates the pressure point that goes directly to the ear.

Repeat this procedure every two hours until the earache is gone. This process relieves the pain of an earache and has been known to improve hearing as well.

• Another effective way of easing the pain of an earache is to place a soothing chamomile poultice over your ear. If you don’t have the loose herb, use a couple of tea bags instead.

Onion Muffs

• Cut a large onion in half. Take out the inside of the onion so that the remaining part will fit over your ear. Warm the onion “earmuff” in the oven, then put it over your ear. Be sure it’s not too hot. It should help draw out the pain.

• Mix 1 ⁄2 cup of unprocessed bran with 1⁄2 cup of kosher (coarse) salt and envelop it in a generous piece of folded-over cheesecloth. In other words, bundle it up so it doesn’t spill all over the place. Then heat it in a low oven until it’s warm but bearable to the touch. Place it over the painful ear and keep it on for an hour.

• Put castor oil on a piece of cotton. Sprinkle the oiled cotton with black pepper and apply it to the aching ear—not in the ear canal, but directly on the ear.

Rye to the Rescue

• If you’re going to get an earache, try to get it when you’re baking rye bread. All you have to do is take one ounce of caraway seeds and pummel them. Then add one cup of bread crumbs from a soft, hot, newly baked loaf of bread and wrap it all in a piece of cheesecloth. Apply it to the sore ear. If you use already-cooled bread, warm the bread in the oven before applying it.

Cold, Hot, Tea…Ahh!

• Most earache remedies say to put something warm on the ear. Las Vegas–based herbalist Angela Harris feels that the infection-causing bacteria thrive on warmth, and so her approach is to put cold on the ear.

While an ice pack is applied to the infected ear, put your feet in hot water—as hot as you can stand it without burning yourself— and slowly drink a mild laxative herb tea, available at health food stores. Do this cold/hot/tea remedy for about 15 minutes, long enough for the pain to be alleviated.

Ear Infections

WARNING: If your ear infection is painful and persistent, get medical attention. You may have a serious condition that needs professional treatment.

Inflamed Ear

• Mix one tablespoon of milk with one tablespoon of olive oil or castor oil, then heat the combination in a nonaluminum pan.

Dose: Once the mixture has cooled off, put four drops into the inflamed ear every hour and gently plug it up with cotton. Be sure the drops are not too hot.

Runny Ear Infection

• You’ll need to go to a good, old-fashioned Italian fish store for this remedy. Get the soft, transparent beak from a squid. Bake it until it turns black and crush it into a powder. Taken orally—1 ⁄2 teaspoon before breakfast and another 1 ⁄2 teaspoon before dinner—it is said to help clear up a runny ear infection.

Swimmer’s Ear

Soon after swimming, if you’ve noticed that it hurts when you touch or move your ear, you may have an infection of the ear canal known as “swimmer’s ear.” These remedies may bring some relief.

• Combine one drop of grapefruit extract, one drop of tea tree oil and two drops of olive oil, then put the mixture in your ear. Gently plug your ear with a cotton ball. This should help clear up the infection.

• To prevent infections, add one teaspoon of white vinegar to four tablespoons (two ounces) of just-boiled water. Once the liquid is cool, store it in a bottle. Right after swimming, put two drops of the vinegar mixture in each ear. Plug each ear with a cotton ball and stay that way for about 10 minutes.

Ear Pressure

The key to relieving the pressure caused by airplane takeoffs and landings is chewing and swallowing.

• The American Academy of Otolaryngology in Alexandria, Virginia, advises that you should chew gum or suck on mints—whatever causes you to swallow more than usual. Stay awake as the plane ascends and descends so that you can consciously increase the amount of times you swallow.

• If you’re sleepy, that’s good. Hopefully, you’ll start yawning, which is even better than swallowing because it activates the muscle that opens your eustachian tube. Then air can be forced in and out of your eustachian canal, and that’s what relieves the pressure in your ears.

Other Ear Problems

Get the Bugs Out

• It happens! Not often, but once in a blue moon, an insect will get inside a person’s ear. Since insects are attracted to light, if an insect gets in your ear, turn the ear toward the sun. Hopefully, the insect will fly out and away. If it occurs at night, shut off the lights in the room and shine a flashlight in your ear.

• If the insect in your ear doesn’t respond to the light, pour one teaspoon of warm olive oil into your ear and hold it there a minute or two. Then tilt your head the other way so that the oil and the bug come floating out.

If that doesn’t work, gently fill your ear with warm water. That should push out the insect and the oil.

If none of this debugs you, get professional medical help to remove the insect.

Waxy Buildup Begone!

• Sprinkle black pepper into one tablespoon of warm corn oil, then dip a cotton ball into it and gently put the cotton into your ear. Remove the cotton after five minutes.

• In the microwave, warm one tablespoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide. Put 10 drops in the ear and let it fizz there for three minutes. Then tilt your head so that the liquid runs out onto a tissue. The wax should be softened. Gently remove the wax with soft cotton. Repeat the procedure with the other ear.

You can also use a solution of half water and half hydrogen peroxide to irrigate and remove wax.

CAUTION: Only use cotton balls or swabs on the external part of the ear to prevent puncturing your eardrum.

• Warm two teaspoons of sesame oil and put one teaspoon of oil in each ear. Be sure the oil is not too hot. Gently plug the ear with a cotton ball, and allow the oil to float around for a while. Once the sesame oil softens the wax, you can wash out the ears completely. The results—no more oil, no more wax.

Tinnitus (Ringing in the Ears)

If the bells are ringing…and ringing…and ringing—you may have tinnitus.

NOTE: Although most tinnitus sufferers hear bells, others may hear clicking, hissing, roaring or whistling.

The exact cause of tinnitus is unknown, but may be brought on by noise-induced hearing loss, wax buildup, ear infection, jaw misalignment and even cardiovascular disease.

Ringing in the ears may also be the result of a mild overdose of salicylate, which is found in aspirin and other drugs. If this is what’s causing the ringing, it should stop when the drug is discontinued.

• If you still hear ringing (and there are no bells nearby)…try onion juice. Dose: Put two drops of onion juice in your ears, three times a week, to stop the ringing.

• Believe it or not, a heating pad on your feet and one on your hands may ease the ringing in your ears. It all has to do with blood being redistributed, improving circulation and lessening pressure in congested areas.

WARNING: If ringing persists, it might be a sign of a more serious illness, in which case you should seek medical attention.

• We heard about a woman who had constant ringing in her ears for years. None of the specialists could help her. As a last resort, she started using castor oil. After a month, the ringing subsided considerably. Within three months, it was completely gone.

Try three or four drops a day in each ear. To get the full benefit from the castor oil, plug the ear with cotton once you’ve put in the drops, and keep it there overnight.

Mix It Up

• In a blender, combine six large, peeled garlic cloves and one cup of almond oil or extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil. Blend until the garlic is finely minced. Then clean a glass jar by pouring just-boiled water into it.

Once the jar is dry, pour the garlic and oil mixture into the jar, put the cover on and refrigerate it for seven days. Then strain the liquid from the jar into a clean eyedropper bottle.

At bedtime, take the chill out of a small amount of the liquid, then put three drops in each ear and plug the ears with cotton balls. Remove the cotton in the morning. Chances are, if the ringing is going to stop at all, it will do so within two weeks.

Always keep this preparation refrigerated, and do not keep it longer than a month.

Hearing Loss

NOTE: Seek professional medical attention for a hearing impairment or any sudden hearing loss.

• A loud noise, a head cold or wax buildup can cause partial loss of hearing. In Sicily, where garlic is a cure-all, they stew a few cloves in olive oil, then press it and strain it. On a daily basis, three or four drops of the garlic/olive oil juice are placed in the ear(s) and plugged up with cotton. It is said to restore one’s hearing. “Hey, I can hear now.” “Good. I’ve been wanting to tell you something…you smell of garlic!”

Improve Your Hearing

Aerobic exercise, including brisk walking or bicycling, can help prevent some age-related deterioration in the ears, as well as damage caused by exposure to loud noises. Exercise also increases the ability to hear faint sounds.

This good news comes from results of studies conducted at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, which concluded that aerobic exercise improves hearing by circulating blood to inner ear cells and bringing them more oxygen and an increased supply of chemicals that prevent damage to them.

Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program.

Just a Pinch

• Pinch the tip of your middle finger four times a day, five minutes each time. Before every meal, pinch the right finger. After every meal, pinch the left finger. When you get up in the morning, pinch the right finger. When you go to bed at night, pinch the left finger. Your right finger is for your right ear and left finger for left ear, so if you want to improve only one ear, pinch accordingly. Make it easy on yourself and clip on a clothespin.

• This potent potion has been said to actually restore hearing—drink one ounce of garlic juice with one ounce of onion juice once a day.

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