Childhood Ear Aches

by Jade Shutes

This is not  my typical researched or referenced  article. Just a shared experience from a mother (me) about dealing with an acute ear infection (Otitis media) in my 5 year old son, Soren.

Last Thursday evening my son woke up at around midnight crying saying that his tongue hurt. I was up working late. I thought, interesting, hmm… he was pretty unhappy.  I looked at his tongue and it was a little red (a sign of inflammation) but I did not understand why his tongue would be hurting. Did he have a cold sore I could not see?  So I had him gargle with salt water and we laid back down to bed. He was okay for a short while but then said his tongue really hurt.  Up again to gargle with more salt water.  He eventually fell asleep with my holding him.

Next morning I awake to the sound of his crying and ‘lightly’ screaming that his ear hurt. I thought to myself, ahhhh…. This made sense.  He had had a cold for a few days and had been inhaling his phlegm for the week (even with lots of encouragement to blow his nose and a few talks on how important it is to get rid of mucus rather then inhaling it back in).  When I felt his forehead, he also had a low grade fever.


So, here we are with an acute ear infection (technically called Otitis media), a tired mom (2-3 hours of sleep), a crying child in pain…..  I instantly reached for Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) and Helichrysum italicum essential oils and placed a few drops of each behind his ear and on the related reflexes for the ear on his feet.  After applying a  couple of drops each to the back of his ear and onto his feet we then did a warm compress to both ears. Next, I wrote to Katja Swift (a herbalist I greatly admire) and asked for her advice.

With lots of crying in pain and sniffling up more phlegm I thought about a remedy Melanie Sachs had shared about placing a few drops of warmed coconut oil into the nose to help drain the mucus. So I did this.  It helped get some of the mucus moving out of his nose.

Next up, a growing fatigued mother  decided to put 2 drops of warm olive oil into each of his ears.  I was reaching, merely wanting to alleviate my sons pain.

I also gave him a few dropperfuls of a Children’s Herbal tincture from the Herb Pharm. It contains Chamomile (Matricaria recutita), Lemon balm leaf and flower (Melissa officinalis), Catnip leaf and flower (Nepeta cataria) and Fennel seed (Foeniculum vulgare).


At last a couple of hours later while still feeling pain he fell fast asleep.  He slept soundly for 2 1/2 hours during which time my mother arrived for her planned visit that day.  Soren awoke happy to see grandma and full of energy, pain free, and rested.  I was amazed.

While Soren was playing I checked my email and had received a message from Katja about utilizing onion compresses on the ear.  She shared that the sulfur from the onion steam would kill the infection and also recommended we do lots of steams.

During the day I prepared a steam inhalation with Eucalyptus radiata and a drop of Thymus vulgaris ct. linalol.  Soren and I got under the tent and breathed in together for a few moments.   Throughout the day he also took a few teaspoons of Echinacea glycerin tincture we had made in December and finally pressed out this day for him.

That evening I prepared the onion compress.  Lightly sautéed 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick onion rings in olive oil then wrapped a few in a soft cloth and applied to one ear and then the other.  It was a bit of a challenge to get him to do this so his father said he would do the onion compress as well. So they both lay in bed together with onion compresses. Very sweet (and smelly). Thank you Katja!

Next day, all was well.  No pain in his ears.  I did continue to treat it for another two days with steam inhalations and cape chamomile (Eriocephalus punctulatus) essential oil behind his ears and on his feet.

After thought: Once when soren was a baby he had an ear infection and I used the same oils (Roman chamomile and Helichrysum) in the same manner and the next day he was better. I also had a friend in Seattle who applied this technique to his daughter, again with success.

I do understand and appreciate the value in treating each child individually based upon their own unique symptoms and contributing factors so this is just one story and experience of dealing with acute otitis media that I thought I would share.

One of the books I would recommend on the subject of Otitis media is entitled “Childhood Ear Infections” by Michael A. Schmidt.

For the aromatherapists reading this Suzanne Catty wrote a great article on “Treating otitis media in children and infants” which was published in the International Journal of Aromatherapy, Volume 15 Issue 4, 2005.