Holistic Approaches to Managing Otitis Media (Ear Infections): A Comprehensive Review


Otitis media, a prevalent condition characterized by inflammation within the middle ear, represents a significant health concern, especially among children. However, its impact isn’t confined solely to the pediatric population; adults also experience varying degrees of this condition, albeit with different predisposing factors and implications. In children, otitis media is one of the most common childhood infections, affecting nearly 80% of infants by their third birthday (Klein, 2019). The spectrum of otitis media in children ranges from acute infections that often accompany upper respiratory tract infections to recurrent episodes and chronic conditions, which can lead to hearing impairments and developmental challenges if left unmanaged (Lieberthal et al., 2013). In contrast, adults are more prone to otitis media complications stemming from structural abnormalities, Eustachian tube dysfunction, or secondary to upper respiratory infections or allergies (Schilder et al., 2016). Understanding the multifaceted nature of otitis media across age groups is crucial in tailoring effective management strategies.

Key Points

  • Natural Remedies for Otitis Media
  • a. Garlic-Mullein Ear Drops: Traditional remedies like garlic-mullein ear drops have been proposed for their antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties (Klein, 2019). The infusion of garlic in oil, known for its antibacterial effects (Bayan et al., 2014), is aimed at alleviating ear infection symptoms. Follow our link to Pinterest for our ear recipe! 
  • b. Warm Compresses: Application of warm compresses over the affected ear is often recommended to relieve pain and discomfort associated with otitis media (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2013).
  • c. Saltwater Gargles: While not directly targeting the ear infection, gargling with saltwater can ease associated sore throat symptoms (Marshall, 2020).
  • d. Hydrogen Peroxide: Properly diluted hydrogen peroxide might aid in clearing debris and excess wax, although caution is advised due to potential adverse effects (Neher, 2019).
  • Nutritional Support and Supplements
  • a. Probiotics: Studies suggest that probiotics can modulate the immune system and potentially reduce the risk of respiratory tract infections, which may indirectly impact otitis media occurrences (Valdes et al., 2021).
  • b. Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Zinc: These supplements are known to support immune function (Hemilä et al., 2017), although their direct impact on otitis media management requires further investigation.
  • Complementary Therapies
  • a. Chiropractic Adjustments: Limited evidence suggests that chiropractic adjustments might aid in improving Eustachian tube drainage, potentially benefiting individuals with otitis media, especially children (Schilder et al., 2016).
  • Cautionary Measures
  • a. Avoidance of Q-tips: Medical professionals recommend against using Q-tips in the ear canal due to the risk of injury and pushing earwax deeper (American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery Foundation, 2017).
  • Professional Guidance and Medical Intervention
  • a. Importance of Consultation: Seeking guidance from healthcare professionals is crucial for accurate diagnosis, appropriate treatment, and monitoring, especially in persistent or severe cases of otitis media (Lieberthal et al., 2013).


While holistic approaches offer potential adjuncts in managing otitis media symptoms, their efficacy requires further scientific validation. This paper underscores the significance of combining holistic practices with evidence-based medical guidance for optimal care and resolution of ear infections.


  • American Academy of Pediatrics. (2013). Diagnosis and Management of Acute Otitis Media.
  • American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery Foundation. (2017). Earwax and Care.
  • Bayan, L., Koulivand, P. H., & Gorji, A. (2014). Garlic: A review of potential therapeutic effects. Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, 4(1), 1–14.
  • Hemilä, H., Chalker, E., & Douglas, B. (2017). Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 1(1), CD000980.
  • Klein, J. O. (2019). Otitis media. In Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics.
  • Lieberthal, A. S., et al. (2013). Clinical practice guideline: The diagnosis and management of acute otitis media. Pediatrics, 131(3), e964–e999.
  • Marshall, S. (2020). The saltwater gargle. Canadian Family Physician, 66(3), 176.
  • Neher, A. (2019). Debrox Earwax Removal Aid. Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, 32(7), 1-2.
  • Schilder, A. G., et al. (2016). Otitis media. The Lancet, 383(9928), 1863–1874.
  • Valdes, A. M., Walter, J., & Segal, E. (2021). Symbiotic gut commensal bacteria for the metabolic and immunologic regulation of the host. Nature Reviews Microbiology, 19(3), 165-180.

Our Recipe: 

  • Garlic Mullein Ear Drops- Prepared or at home recipe
    • Recipe
      •   2.5 oz. Olive or Sesame Oil
      • ½ tsp minced garlic (1 clove) 
      • 1 Tbsp dry Mullein flower (optional)

Heat the oil over low heat and add minced garlic.  Keep on low heat for 20 minutes, allowing the beneficial properties of the garlic to infuse into the oil.  Strain garlic (cheese cloth works well).  Let the mixture cool to body temperature. Place 2 drops in the affected ear.  This is not shelf stable, and it only keeps for 2-3 hours, then discard.