Homeopathic Remedies for Ear Infections

Homeopathic medicine.
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Otitis media, or a middle ear infection, is one of the most common infections your child may experience. Parents may turn to homeopathic remedies to relieve pain and symptoms during the "watchful waiting" period that pediatricians often recommend before prescribing antibiotics. As many cases of otitis media are viral rather than bacterial and will clear on their own, this waiting period will show whether antibiotics are indicated. However, a child may be in pain and have a fever, so the standard treatment includes an analgesic such as ibuprofen.

Homeopathic treatments might be used in hopes of symptom relief, but there is little scientific evidence that they are effective. Currently, there are no complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) practices that have been proven to be effective for acute otitis media.

Homeopathy

Homeopathy is based on the theory that like cures like. A substance that might produce some of the same symptoms as the disease is highly diluted and used in a homeopathic preparation. Depending on the illness it aims to correct, the preparation may be a topical cream, a pill, or liquid solution.

Homeopathic ear drops contain a variety of substances, all highly diluted. One of the chief critiques of homeopathy is that the preparations have so little of the purported active ingredient that it is difficult to imagine any clinical effect.

Studies of homeopathic preparations must be carefully done to show whether they are any more effective than a placebo. For example, a 2011 study found that children with acute otitis media who were given homeopathic ear drops in addition to standard therapy (analgesics) had fewer symptoms and a faster recovery, based on symptom diaries maintained by their parents. However, there was no group given placebo ear drops to compare whether the homeopathic preparation was effective or there was a placebo effect.

A 2014 study similarly didn't have a placebo group, but the aim was to see whether children given the homeopathic ear drops were less likely to later receive antibiotics for their ear infection. The results showed that parents were less likely to fill the antibiotic prescription if the child was in the group given homeopathic ear drops in addition to standard therapy. If the goal is to reduce the unnecessary use of antibiotics, then homeopathic ear drops may have a role as an adjunct treatment. Whether saline ear drops or plain water would work as well is still up for question.

Homeopathic Earache Preparations

Homeopathic ear drops are available over-the-counter in the cough and cold section of supermarkets and pharmacies. They usually contain a variety of highly-diluted substances that aim to match the disease profile of an ear infection. When you look at each individually, they might have alarming effects at a dosage that isn't highly diluted. But in a homeopathic preparation, there is so little that there should be no concern. Here is a rundown of common ingredients in homeopathic ear drops.

In some cases, homeopathic preparations for earaches may be oral (capsules or liquids), teas, or topical preparations.

If you have ear tubes or a perforated eardrum, you should always discuss it with your doctor before using any product that will enter into your middle ear space.

Chamomilla

Of homeopathic products for earache, chamomilla (chamomile) is likely safe for use and is commonly found in many commercial products. Chamomilla is produced in several forms including oral, inhalation, and topical (such as homeopathic ear drops). In ear drops, the label may indicate it aims to address sleeplessness and irritability.

While generally considered safe, caution should be used when taking other supplements that have sedative effects like chamomilla. These substances may include: 5-HTP, St. John's wort, valerian, yerba mansa, and any other homeopathic remedy that causes sleepiness. Using multiple homeopathic remedies with a sedative effect will have an increased response: both positive and negative.

There is a wide range of dosing due to the many different ways you can use chamomilla. While considered safe it would still be beneficial to discuss with your doctor.

Belladonna

Derived from the deadly nightshade plant, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not recommend belladonna for any use. It is, however, used in practice by homeopathic practitioners and is commonly seen in homeopathic ear drops where labels say its purpose is to address fever. You will see this product sold typically in 1:10 or 1:100 concentrations. This is then usually further diluted. For example, if 1:10 concentration is diluted 30 times, the Belladonna extract would be labeled as 30D; whereas 1:100 concentration diluted 30 times would be labeled as 30C.

The FDA has issued a warning over belladonna in homeopathic teething products and recommends they be disposed of. The concentration of belladonna in these products sometimes far exceeded what was on the label, creating concern that it could result in adverse effects in infants and toddlers. Belladonna is regarded as generally unsafe when taken by mouth. Ear drops may be of less concern, but you are relying on the manufacturer to formulate them correctly.

Pulsatilla

Pulsatilla is a flower that is used in homeopathy to treat earaches. It has been shown to cause localized irritation and should be avoided if possible or used cautiously under supervision. The irritation may cause an allergic reaction and cause skin disorders.

The parts of the flower that exist above the level of the soil are used in preparing dried pulsatilla. Dosing of this homeopathic supplement is typically taken three times a day either in the dried preparation or in tea or in alcohol. Typical dosing consists of 120 to 300 milligrams (mg).

In homeopathic ear drops, it might be present in 30C dilution and aims to address pain and itching.

Data on using pulsatilla is not sufficient. However, there are concerns with birth defects if you take pulsatilla while pregnant.

Soluble Mercurius

Mercury, or quicksilver, is available in many forms. All the available forms can be toxic given enough exposure. Mercury toxicity is a problem that can lead to disorders related to your nervous system, kidneys, liver, and hair.

In homeopathic ear drops, soluble mercurius may be listed and aims to address symptoms such as pain and fullness.

Sulphur

Sulphur may be listed on homeopathic ear drops. It is included to address the symptoms of pain, itchiness, and burning. Sulphur creates the odor of rotten eggs and brimstone, and its "hot, smelly" characteristics are what lend it to homeopathic preparations aimed to address ailments that have those symptoms.

A Word From Verywell

Ear infections can make a child miserable, but often they resolve after a couple of days. If not, antibiotics are the standard of care to prevent complications such as mastoiditis or hearing loss. Homeopathic remedies are not as thoroughly studied as modern medicine, so benefits and risks are not as well understood. Discuss these homeopathic remedies with your physician.

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