I've put together a list of 12 home remedies for earaches, which are commonly paired with congestion, coughs and sore throats. Use these earache remedies to help provide earache relief for children and adults. We also have tips at the end of the post for avoiding ear infections in the future.
Why is my ear in pain?
Ear pain is most commonly associated with fluid buildup behind the ear drum linked to an ear infection. Thankfully, most ear infections get better without treatment, i.e., antibiotics are not required. In fact, clinical studies have noted that the most commonly prescribed antibiotic, amoxicillin, is no more effective than a placebo.
Sometimes ear pain is caused by injury, or water or other fluid trapped in the ear. The focus of this post is earache due to colds/infection and inflammation.
Note: For very young children, heat and steam are the safest earache remedies, or plain warm olive oil or coconut oil. Adults and older children may use any of the treatments.
Never use eardrops or oils inside the ear if a child has ear tubes or there is a chance of eardrum perforation. Do not stick anything deep into your ears. Please see your healthcare practitioner if pain is extreme, or if your child has a fever over 100.4 F or discharge coming from the ears.
#1 – My First Choice in Earache Remedies – Heat
When I was a little girl, I remember having an ear infection accompanied by one very sore ear. To help me feel better, my mom took a small throw pillow and warmed it up in the oven. She left it in a bit too long, though, and it started to singe. The fire was put out, and I got to rest my head on one slightly charred pillow – which really did help to relieve the ear pain.
Nowadays most houses have microwaves, which make it easier to heat up a hot pack to help with ear pain. You can buy or make a hot pack. Core Products, a small business located in western Wisconsin, makes soft covered hot/cold packs that we use as foot warmers at night and for treating headaches and earaches.
To make a simple hot pack for ear pain relief, place popcorn or rice into an old sock or small pouch. Seal end and heat in short bursts until warm. Hot water bottles are a great option if you don't have a microwave – just make sure you don't get the water too hot.
#2 – Steam
If you can’t keep a hot pack on your little one’s sore ear, try plugging in a humidifier or taking a warm shower. (This works for adults, too.) Colds and sore throats lead to swelling and inflammation in the airways. Opening and relaxing airways with warm, moist air can relieve pressure and ease ear pain.
#3 – Garlic Oil
There are dozens of variations of garlic in olive oil for earaches. One of the ones I like best is the “Children's Ear Oil” from Herbal Antibiotics, which combines garlic and eucalyptus for a double anti-bacterial, anti-viral punch. Clear the ear infection and you get rid of the earache.
This should be stored in a tinted bottle in a cool dark location, or in the refrigerator, and used within two weeks.
Children's Ear Oil
Adapted from Herbal Antibiotics
- 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 4 ounces (1/2 cup) good quality olive oil
- 20 drops eucalyptus essential oil
Place garlic and olive oil in a small sauce pan on low heat. Cook overnight or for eight hours. Strain, squeezing well to get as much oil as possible out of the garlic. Add eucalyptus essential oil and mix well. Store in a tinted bottle.
To use: Place glass eyedropper in a stream of hot water for 1 minutes (to warm dropper). Dry quickly (to retain heat) and suction up ear oil from bottle. Place 2 drops in both ears every half hour or as often as needed for 2 to 7 days. As mentioned at the top of the post, never place fluid into the ear if the eardrum is perforated.
#4 – Mullein Oil
Common mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is used for treating respiratory ailments and many other illnesses. (See Weekly Weeder #13 – Common Mullein for more info.) As an earache treatment, infuse the flowers and buds in olive oil, and then apply them to the ear in the same manner as the garlic oil above.
To infuse the flowers in oil, gather enough blooms to partially fill a small jar. Cover with olive oil and let sit for a week or two. Strain and place in a tinted bottle. You can watch a video showing how to gather mullein flowers below. I like to let my blossoms set in a shallow bowl or on a plate for an hour or so before putting them in a jar with oil to give any buggies hiding in them a chance to escape. You can also add a clove of chopped garlic to your oil for extra germ fighting. For more information on the garlic and mullein oil, you can visit Kitchen Stewardship's Natural Earache Remedy post.
If you don't have fresh mullein blossoms available, you can buy mullein oil already made, such as the Ear Oil (with mullein and garlic) and mullein oil from Herb Pharm. Click here to order Herb Pharm Ear Oil for kids. They also carry St. John's Wort oil, which is recommended for earaches in the book Prescription for Herbal Healing.
#5 – Essential Oil Ear Ache Treatment Rub
This recipe is adapted from the book “Be Your Own Doctor” by Rachel Weaver, M.H.. Remember, do not apply undiluted essential oils directly to the skin – always use a carrier oil. I don’t recommend this as an earache remedy for small children, who may rub their ears and then rub the oil into their eyes. Because of their potency, I prefer essential oils for use in earache remedies for adults or older children.
Essential Oil Earache Rub
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 10 drops tea tree essential oil
- 10 drops lavender essential oil
Mix all ingredients and apply gently around the ears at the first sign of infection. Reduces infection and relieves inflammation.
#6 – Herbal Steam Inhalations
Herbal steam inhalations help reduce nasal swelling caused by cold, dry winter air and increase airflow to the eustachian tubes.
To prepare an herbal steam inhalation, simply heat up a pot of water and pour it into a bowl or basin. Add a handful of fresh or dry herbs such as German chamomile, elderberry flowers and/or lemon balm. Lean over the basin and inhale the steam. To get the most out of the treatment, use a large towel to create a tent over your head and trap the steam. This is another earache remedy that works best for adults or older children, since you need to be careful around the basin of hot water and be patient while you steam your head.
#7 – Apple Cider Vinegar
As I researched home remedies, I've found that people use apple cider vinegar (ACV) to cure just about everything. Earaches/ear infections are no exception. Dee from San Diego, California writes on Earth Clinic:
“Apple cider vinegar also works great when getting an earache. My ENT told me to put some in the ear at the first sign of trouble, leaving it there for a minute then letting the ACV run out the ear… Repeat one more time 12 hours later. This has worked for us!”
#8 – Hydrogen Peroxide
My friend, Julie, told me her mom used hydrogen peroxide in the ears of all 12 of her children. It's also one of the most popular remedies on Earth Clinic.
The easiest way to use hydrogen peroxide for earache pain relief is to soak a cotton ball and use it to squeeze a few drops into the ear. This will work to dislodge debris, so gently irrigating the area afterward with warm water to flush the debris clear may also be helpful.
#9 – Hot Herbal Tea
While you're applying warmth from the outside, you can also apply warmth from the inside. Echinacea, German chamomile, and holy basil are herbs that promote healing and relaxation. Echinacea is particularly effective against infections that affect the ear, nose and throat area.
#10 – Onions
Onions are a preferred earache remedy in the book Be Your Own Doctor and with some of the folks on Earth Clinic. Some people simply cut an onion in half and place it over the affected ear. Others gently heat a small portion of the onion until warm but not soft, and tuck the heated onion into the ear as an earache cure. Some people wrap the onion in a warm, moist cloth; others use it directly on the ear.
Another option is to squeeze out some onion juice, heat gently, and put a few drops into the ear. Recommended onion ear compress time is around 10-15 minutes, or until the onion cools. Rest quietly while treating, and gently clean out the ear with warm water after the onion treatment.
#11 – Homeopathic Earache Relief Ear Drops
- Chamomilla 10X – for sensitivity to drafts, soothing
- Mercurius solubilis 15X – relieves fullness, sensitivity to cold
- Sulphur 12X – reduces itchiness, sensitivity to water
#12 – Over the Counter Pain Relievers
Ear pain is linked to inflammation, so nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as Ibuprofen (Advil, Aleve, Motrin) can help relieve ear pain. You still need to clear the infection to address the underlying cause of the ear pain, so these aren’t my first choice, but can help alleviate the pain enough so you can rest and heal.
Elderberry syrup has been shown to be effective against some influenza virus strains, so it may help speed healing. Click here to see the full list of cold and flu home remedies.
Preventing Ear Pain Before it Starts
If chronic ear infections are a problem, it should be noted that households with smokers have more ear issues, and infants who are breast fed have less than their formula fed counterparts.
Food allergies may be linked to ear pain
Also, many times food allergies can contribute to chronic ear infections. If you deal with chronic ear infections or other chronic health problems, try adjusting your diet. Common allergens include dairy, gluten, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts – work with your health care provider to see if you can identify any problem foods. Keeping ears clean and dry can also help prevent ear issues.
Xylitol Helps Prevent Ear Infections
Finnish researchers found that daycare children given five servings of two pieces of xylitol sweetened gum per day reduced their number of ear infections by nearly half. Another study found that using larger doses three times per day was not as effective – frequent dosing was required. You can read a detailed analysis of the studies in the article “Ear Infections and Xylitol“. While this is not a conventional ear pain reliever per se, it could help your child avoid the pain of an ear infection in the first place.
Try Lymph Drainage Massage for Chronic Ear Pain
If you have a persistent ear/sinus issues, check out this video from MassagebyHeather.com to help improve lymph drainage for the ears.
All information featured on this website is for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please work with a trained healthcare provider.
- Hot Water Bottle
- Core Products Comfort Hot Pack
- Children's Ear Oil
- Xylitol Gum
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- Teddy Bear Head Herbal Tea
- Raw Honey
- Apple Cider Vinegar
Don't forget to check out the Full List of Home Remedies , including:
- 12 Home Remedies for Coughs to Help Quiet and Soothe
- 7 Easy Sore Throat Remedies
- 9 Home Remedies for Congestion – Natural Decongestants That Work
Originally published in 2013, updated in 2017, 2018.
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