Essence & Qi Blog
Herbal Remedies for Children's Chronic Ear Infection
The potential to develop an ear infection is prevalent at any age. The damp dark environment of the ear canal is ideal for the proliferation of viruses, bacteria and fungus, three of the major consorts of auricular, middle, and inner ear irritation. The ear is a highly sensitive membrane that scratches easily. Abrasions to the ear, along with fresh water and a warm climate, are all a contagion needs to survive. Once an infection has taken hold it is highly difficult to wipe it out completely, hence the term chronic. While adults can develop an infection given the right constituents, children and infants are especially susceptible to them.
An underdeveloped immune system is often said to play precursor to ear infection in children. Their bodies are new to the world. They have yet to learn how to ward off and defend against the billions and billions of little bugs that are in the air, food, water, and environment. Sometimes, usually in infants, the infection can be related to biomechanical function. The Eustachian tubes that connect the ear canal to the sinuses are horizontal when we are born. In some cases, if those tubes do not drop naturally to a vertical position mucus and other fluids will be unable to drain properly. This can be treated through cranial adjustments.
In the past many Western physicians have prescribed antibiotics and topical ointments as treatment for ear infection. It was assumed that "Super Bugs" that had developed immunity were responsible for the inefficacy of antibodies and the source of infection. Children would be given progressively stronger and stronger prescriptions but minimal or no relief from the pain and pressure was found. Physicians could use a sterilized needle to pierce through the blockage in the ear canal to allow drainage of fluid. This provided some relief until the problem returned.
What modern medicine is coming to discover is that the majority of ear infections are not caused by bacteria. Therefore, prescribing antibiotics would do nothing to fight off the infection if it is caused by fungus or allergy or both In actuality, because pharmaceutical antibodies do not possess the ability to discriminate between good and bad bacteria, the situation is worsened by them. Many doctors are taking a new stance on antibiotics and prescribing them more sparingly.
Undigested food material entering the bloodstream can be toxic most notably dairy, wheat, corn, nuts, eggs, and chocolate. This is often called Leaky Gut Syndrome. Excess mucus is produced to protect and remove the toxins from the blood and accumulates in various parts of the body, including the sinuses. When mucus accumulates faster than the ears, nose, and throat can drain it a blockage occurs. When we take an antibiotic it cleans house, wiping out all of the necessary bacteria in our system such as those needed for proper digestion along with the unwanted invaders. But in this case since the root cause was an imbalance and not an infection from bacteria, the symptoms will reappear or never go away at all.
In TCM, weak or congested stomach and intestinal Chi is often equated to the excess heat and mucus rising to the head that causes inflammation in the sinuses and ears. Again warmth and darkness are the perfect environments for fungus and viruses to propagate. These types of pathogens are often present, dormant in the body, waiting for an opportunity to colonize. A child's digestive system is sensitive and the digestive fire is not nearly as strong as an adult's. Diet plays a key role in the potential for ear infection. Instead of giving antibiotics, which science has found are not a cure all for ear infections and can actually create a alkaline fungal friendly atmosphere in the gut, TCM offers various herbs to strengthen the digestive and immune systems.
Herbs such as ginger, thyme, licorice, eye bright, elder flowers, tea tree, and chamomile have been used as remedies for breaking up the mucus associated with ear infection. Some of these are also used for indigestion; the ancients evidently understood the connection between the sinuses and digestion. Echinacea and Goldenseal are used for their anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. There are a number of ways to administer the herbs. They can be taken orally in tea form, used as Aromatherapy, diffused in oil then dripped in the ear as with garlic, or formed into a poultice which is then applied by gently massaging into the ear.
There is no other medicine better for diagnosing the cause of a child's ear infection than Western medicine. Once a lab analysis has determined this, typically through a sample of the mucus or fluid, a physician can more correctly prescribe Herbs for treatment. Of course if it is a bacterium caused infection antibiotics could be used. However, because the antibodies leave the child vulnerable to fungal and food related infection Herbs could also be given to support the immune and digestive system. The idea is to integrate the best of both worlds here, modern medicine and non-evasive Herb therapy of TCM. Herb therapy offers the most promise for driving an infection into remission without compromising the system as a whole, strengthening the child's immune system, and creating an environment where the body can heal itself.
Harmful viruses, bacteria, and fungus can not live were health is dominant. These are pathogens that feed on imbalance. Herbs and TCM seek to support health rather than try to battle with infection. The body will heal itself given the right ingredients. Ask a reputable Herbalist about what types of herbs are right for your child to take regularly for immune and digestive support.