You may end up with one of several types of earaches--and all of them hurt. An infection can be deep in the ear or in the outer ear canal. Sometimes it’s a case of swimmer’s ear, involving the outer ear and the ear canal. An earache indicates infection or inflammation, and may be caused by bacteria, a virus, fungi or moisture trapped in the ear. Eucalyptus oil is one remedy traditionally used to relieve earaches.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Eucalyptus oil contains 70 to 85 percent eucalyptol. Eucalyptol may have antimicrobial properties, according to the National Institutes of Health. A substance that is antimicrobial has antibiotic, antifungal and/or antiviral action.
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Herbal eardrops with antibiotic action can alleviate earaches, advises Richard Mabey in “The New Age Herbalist.” It’s important to first ensure, however, that the eardrum is not damaged 1. Do this by checking with a doctor. If you get the green light for drops, mix 20 drops each of eucalyptus oil and tincture of goldenseal with 10 drops of pasque flower tincture and five drops of tincture of myrrh. Combine this with 30 ml of almond oil and shake the mixture thoroughly. Two drops can be used in the inflamed ear three times per day, Mabey advises.
- Herbal eardrops with antibiotic action can alleviate earaches, advises Richard Mabey in “The New Age Herbalist.”
Other herbalists advise using eucalyptus as an aromatherapy remedy for an earache. For example, Reader’s Digest’s “The Healing Power of Vitamins, Minerals and Herbs” advises people to add several drops of eucalyptus oil to a pan of boiling water, which is then removed from the heat before the user places a towel over her head and inhales the steam 3. People also can try a eucalyptus steam bath.
Eucalyptus Oil Side Effects
Using eucalyptus to treat earaches is based on tradition or theory rather than on proven effectiveness via scientific study, advises the NIH. That means the safety and effectiveness of eucalyptus for earaches has not been proven. Nevertheless, this oil is found in many over-the-counter ointments, vapors for inhalation and cough and cold lozenges. Scientific evidence for uses other than earaches is lacking as well, including use for colds and respiratory issues.
- Using eucalyptus to treat earaches is based on tradition or theory rather than on proven effectiveness via scientific study, advises the NIH.
- Scientific evidence for uses other than earaches is lacking as well, including use for colds and respiratory issues.
Children should not be dosed with eucalyptus oil for an earache, advises the NIH. Topical use or inhalation of low concentrations of eucalyptus may be safe. However, potentially lethal toxicity is reported with oral use. This may also occur with inhalation. In children, severe side effects have been reported with just small doses of eucalyptus taken by mouth or applied to a child’s skin. The NIH especially advises against using eucalyptus oil near the face or nose in children, and urges people not to use eucalyptus on infants or very young children.
- Children should not be dosed with eucalyptus oil for an earache, advises the NIH.
- In children, severe side effects have been reported with just small doses of eucalyptus taken by mouth or applied to a child’s skin.
An earache that is accompanied by a fever that’s higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit, seeping pus or fluid, a stiff neck, a bad headache, or that looks swollen should always be seen by a physician.
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- "The New Age Herbalist”; Richard Mabey; 1988
- “Therapeutic Food Manual”; Royal Lee; 1953
- “The Healing Power of Vitamins, Minerals and Herbs”; Reader’s Digest; 1999
- Allan GM, Arroll B. Prevention and treatment of the common cold: making sense of the evidence. CMAJ. 2014;186(3):190-199. doi:10.1503/cmaj.121442
- Panche AN, Diwan AD, Chandra SR. Flavonoids: an overview. J Nutr Sci. 2016;5:e47. doi:10.1017/jns.2016.41
- American Lung Association. Facts About the Common Cold. Updated March 5, 2020.
- Dhakad AK, Pandey VV, Beg S, Rawat JM, Singh A. Biological, medicinal and toxicological significance of Eucalyptus leaf essential oil: a review. J Sci Food Agric. 2018;98(3):833-848. doi:10.1002/jsfa.8600
Linda Tarr Kent is a reporter and editor with more than 20 years experience at Gannett Company Inc., The McClatchy Company, Sound Publishing Inc., Mach Publishing, MomFit The Movement and other companies. Her area of expertise is health and fitness. She is a Bosu fitness and stand-up paddle surfing instructor. Kent holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Washington State University.