Mother Earth's Medicine Cabinet: Swimmer's Ear - How To Treat It Holistically

Swimmer’s Ear, also known as Otitis externa, is pretty common during the summer months simply because more people are in and around water. Swimmer’s ear is actually an infection that occurs in the outer ear canal running from your eardrum to the outside of your head. The infection is typically brought on when water enters the ear and becomes trapped inside of the ear canal. There are, however, a few different causes for swimmer’s ear outside of water.

Water can get left inside of the ear after swimming, showering, bathing, and dancing in the rain, just to name a few ways. The combination of water, moisture, and warmth creates the perfect environment for bacteria to grow and spread. Today’s walk through Mother Earth’s Medicine Cabinet will lead us down the earaches and pains section where we will find a few different natural remedies to treat swimmer’s ear and general ear infections alike.

Before we move on to the relief, let’s first discuss the signs and symptoms commonly experienced when dealing with this sort of ear infection – or any ear infection for that matter. The symptoms generally start out mild and as the infection grows unnoticed the signs and symptoms progress from mild to medium to maximum.

Signs & Symptoms of Mild Swimmer's Ear

  • Itchy inner ear
  • Slight discomfort (gets worse if the ear is tugged, pulled, or pushed)
  • Drainage, odorless and clear
  • Redness inside ear canal

Signs & Symptoms of Moderate Swimmer's Ear

  • Discomfort becomes pain
  • Itching worsens
  • Drainage becomes excessive
  • Muffled and distorted hearing
  • Inner ear feels clogged

Signs & Symptoms of Severe Swimmer's Ear

  • All above symptoms worsen
  • Lymph nodes begin swelling
  • Fever begins

Natural Remedies for Swimmer's Ear

Tulsi: Tulsi, also known as Holy Basil, has been an Ayurvedic remedy for centuries. It is still used to this day as an adaptogen and so very much more. The leaves, stems, and seeds are all used for medicinal purposes. Holy basil’s antibiotic properties fight off the infection, as well as help ease the pain. Not only does Tulsi contain antibiotic properties but it also contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It is used to treat the common cold, earaches, fever, and much more.

All you have to do is crush 4-5 basil leaves, extracting as much of the juice as possible. Once you have your holy basil extraction, warm it up to match the room temperature. Lie down and drip 3 drops into the infected ear. Allow the extract to sit inside the canal for about 5 minutes to be sure it coats the entire outer ear canal. When the time is up tilt your head over a sink or towel and allow the ear to drain. Repeat 2 times a day for one to two weeks.

Garlic: Do not use garlic oil if fluids are already draining!  This can cause the drainage to stop, which isn’t at all what you want. Garlic is a really great go-to in the medicine cabinet and the kitchen cabinet as well. The antimicrobial properties help to kill the bacteria that cause infection. Allicin, a compound found in garlic, provides antibacterial benefits which also help fight the bacteria. Garlic is also well known for its antioxidants that protect our body from damage that free radicals cause.

To make fresh garlic oil, warm two tablespoons of olive oil over low heat. Crush 3 garlic cloves (2 if they’re big) and add the garlic to the pan, cooking until the garlic is brown. Strain and keep the oil. Allow it to cool, and store in a dark-colored dropper bottle. Use 2-4 drops in the infected ear twice a day until symptoms are gone (typically 1-2 weeks). Be sure the garlic oil is at room temperature before putting in your ear. You can also add more raw garlic to your diet and help boost the healing effects.

Essential Oils: Basil and thyme essential oils are full of antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antifungal properties due to the thymol produced by the plants. Tea tree oil contains heavy-duty antimicrobial properties that are great for treating bacterial and viral infections. Tea tree oil can also reduce the swelling and help release the fluid trapped in the ear canal. Lavender essential oil helps relieve the pain by increasing blood circulation.

When using any of the above listed essential oils for ear infections you DO NOT put them inside of your ear! Simply mix the oil/oils of your choice with a carrier oil and massage a few drops all over the outer ear.

Warm Compress: A warm compress will help ease the pain, as well as help to release any pus or fluid. Simply soak a clean washcloth in hot water, wring it out, and place it over the entire infected ear. Hold the cloth in place for about 3 minutes, tilt your head to allow any fluid to drain, and repeat the process a few more times.

Dealing with swimmer’s ear can really be a drag -- especially during the summer months because you have to miss out on swimming. These natural remedies will help you and your body fight the infection, ease the pain, and help you heal. I hope today’s walk through the medicine cabinet finds you well and in a good way. Happy Healing!