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, and adults can experience it as well. You may turn to homeopathic remedies to relieve pain and symptoms during the "watchful waiting" period that pediatricians and primary care providers 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, you or your 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. Or, in some cases, the substance may have toxic effects if not sufficiently diluted.

Studies of homeopathic preparations have been flawed because they don't compare the product to an inactive placebo. For example, a 2011 study found that children with acute otitis media who were given homeopathic ear drops in addition to 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 the positive outcomes were due to the 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 suspected bacterial ear infection. Parents were given an antibiotic prescription to fill if symptoms continued. 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 Dilutions and Dosages

When reading a list of homeopathic ingredients, or a recommendations of a dosage, you will see references to how it has been or should be diluted. It may start with a mother tincture (TM or MT) which is an extract of a material (plant, animal, or mineral).

The tincture is produced according to a homeopathic pharmacopoeia. Usually, this will be the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States (HPUS) or the German Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia (GHP)

The X or D dilutions use a factor of 10, but are done serially. A 1X (or 1D) initial dilution is diluted with 9 parts of diluent (such as water) to become a 2X dilution. The 2X dilution is added to 9 parts of diluent to make a 3X dilution, etc.

For C dilutions, the factor is 100. One part of the initial 1C dilution is added to 99 parts of diluent to make a 2C dilution. The 2C dilution is added one part to 99 parts of diluent to make a 3C dilution. These serial dilutions continue to reach the desired amount of dilution.

The dilutions quickly reach a point where, according to the laws of chemistry and physics, it is unlikely that even a single molecule of the original substance is present in the dilution, let alone a clinically significant amount of the substance.

Dilutions in commercial preparations, such as ear drops, will often be at 30C. A homeopathic practitioner may recommend a 30C or 30X dilution if the remedy is a close match for the symptoms. They may recommend a 12C, 12X, 6C, or 6X dilution if the remedy is not a good match for the symptoms.

Dosage and Frequency

Dosage and frequency of use will be listed on commercial preparations. Often they will state to use two to four times a day, or as needed. Homeopathic preparations should only be used until you have relief of your symptoms, and then stopped.

Homeopathic Earache Remedies

Homeopathic ear drops are available over-the-counter in the cough and cold section of supermarkets and pharmacies. They usually contain a combination of highly-diluted substances that aim to match the disease profile of an ear infection. Another option is to use the ingredients singly (aimed to relieve specific symptoms), diluting as recommended by a homeopathic practitioner.

Besides ear drops, homeopathic preparations for earaches may be oral (capsules or liquids), teas, or topical preparations.

An example of a homeopathic ear drop and its ingredients is from Hyland:

  • Belladonna 30C HPUS
  • Calcarea Carbonica 30C HPUS
  • Chamomilla 30C HPUS
  • Lycopodium 30C HPUS
  • Pulsatilla 30C HPUS
  • Sulphur 30C HPUS

When you look at each substance individually, they might have alarming effects at a dosage that isn't highly diluted. But in a typical homeopathic preparation, there is so little that there should be no concern. Here is a rundown of common ingredients in homeopathic ear drops.

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.

Aconite

Also seen as Aconitum napellus, this is a flower also known as monkshood or wolfsbane.

Symptoms: Painful, hot, swollen ear, sensitive to noise

Formulation: Ear drops, pellets, capsules, tablets

Side Effects: Skin irritation is possible, depending on sensitivity to the formulation if you are placing it in the ear.

Warnings: If not properly diluted, aconite is highly poisonous to humans and animals (it was used to poison wolves, hence the name wolfsbane).

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 earache products.

Symptom: Fever

Formulation: Ear drops, tablets

Side effects: None expected in proper dilutions. If taken in less diluted preparations, there may be dry mouth, blurred vision, fever, fast heartbeat, inability to urinate or sweat, hallucinations, spasms, mental problems, convulsions, and coma.

Warnings: 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.

Chamomilla

Chamomilla is a preparation of the chamomile plant, which is a flower in the daisy family.

Symptoms: Sleeplessness, irritability

Formulation: Ear drops, oral capsules or tablets, inhalation

Side effects: Sedation, sleepiness

Warnings: 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.

Ferrum Phosphoricum

This is an iron phosphate compound. Iron phosphate is Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and it is used to fortify food with iron.

Symptoms: Fever, onset of illness, ear itching, pus discharge

Preparation: Granules, tablets

Side effects: None expected if taken as directed.

Warnings: If taken in large doses orally, it may cause stomach upset.

Mullein Oil

This oil is derived from the leaves of the flower Verbascum thapsus.

Symptoms: Pain, ear discharge

Preparation: Tincture, oil applied externally to ear

Side effects: May cause skin irritation in some people.

Warnings: Consult your doctor before use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Pulsatilla

Pulsatilla is a flower that is used in homeopathy to treat earaches. The parts of the flower that exist above the level of the soil are used in preparing dried pulsatilla.

Symptoms: Pain, itching

Preparation: Ear drops, tablets, tea

Side Effects: Pulsatilla 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.

Warnings: There are concerns with birth defects if you take pulsatilla while pregnant.

Soluble Mercurius

Mercury, or quicksilver, is a naturally occurring elemental metal that is available in many forms.

Symptoms: Pain, feeling of fullness in the ear, sensitivity to cold, pus

Preparation: Ear drops

Side effects: At proper dilution, there should be no side effects. If not sufficiently diluted, mercury toxicity is a problem that can lead to disorders related to your nervous system, kidneys, liver, and hair.

Warnings: All the available forms of mercury can be toxic given enough exposure.

Sulphur or Hepar Sulph

Sulphur refers to sulfur, an element that 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. You may see it in forms of hepar sulph or hepar sulphuris calcareum (calcium sulfide).

Symptoms: Pain, itchiness, and burning.

Preparation: Ear drops, granules, pellets

Side effects: None are known.

Warnings: Consult your doctor before using if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

A Word From Verywell

Ear infections can make you 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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Article Sources
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