Medical Herbalism: Clinical Articles and Case Studies

Search entire site by keyword(s)
Free electronic MH newsletter
Information on Distance Learning in Herbalism
Back to articles index page
Back to

Pediatrics - Natural treatments for Otitis Media

Mary Bove ND, LM, MNIMH

Medical Herbalism 4(3):6

Otitis media, an inflammatory state of the tissue lining the eustachian tube or middle ear, which leads to eustachian obstruction, decreased drainage of fluid, increased pressure, and possible rupture, is one of the most common reasons children see the doctor. It is important to ascertain the cause of the inflammation. There are several common etiologies:

Bacterial/Acute Otitis Media

Often secondary to an upper respiratory infection.

Common pathogens are Heophilus influenza & Strep. Pneumonia; recent studies show that up to 75% of patients tests negative for bacterial pathogens. (see Jung)


Foods, smoke, airbornes, pollution, etc.

Allergic response causes narrowing or collapse of the eustachian tube, swelling of the tonsils and adenoids, leading to impaired lymphatic drainage and obstruction. (see Kramer)

Food allergens, such as cow’s milk products, have been found to be directly related to middle ear problems in children, as has early introduction of solid food (possible allergens).

There is an increased rate and risk of recurrence of otitis in children loving with one or more smokers, compared to children living in non-smoking homes.

Mechanical Obstruction

Due to biomechanical problems with the structural components surrounding the ears, TMJ, cranial bones, and cervical spines.

Leads to interference with nervous supply, impaired lymphatic drainage, and an inhibition of the local immune response.

Nutritional Deficiency

Zinc-deficient children suffer from more otitis media than children with normal zinc status. (see Bondestam)

Dietary fats can impair or improve immune function, via stimulation or inhibition of prostaglandin cascades.
Copyright 2001 Paul Bergner    346


    Medical Herbalism: Clinical Articles and Case Studies    


Immune Support:

Botanical: echinacea, baptisia, sambucus, astragalus, allium spp, chamomilla

Nutritional: beta-carotene, zinc, Vit C, omega 3 and 6 oils

Echinacea & Vitamin C liquid

Thymactiv: Homeopathic preparation containing echinacea and thymus

Solid extract of Rosa canina - 1/3 tsp to 1 cup water

Lymphatic and Mucous Membrane Support:

Botanical: galium, euphrasia, sambucus, calendula, plantago

Nutritional: zinc, beta-carotene

Eliminate Possible Allergens:

Common foods: wheat, dairy, peanuts, corn, soy, citrus, chocolate


Local Botanical Support:

Basic ear oil: equal parts verbascum, hypericum, & Calendula succus (and glycerine if no botanical glycerite is being added)

Additions: Allium cepa or sativa for acute bacterial

Liquid hydrastis for acute bacterial

Ephedra for narrowing of the eustachian tube

Aconite for severe pain

Plantago glycerite for chronic catarrh & fluid

Mechanical Support:

Cranial sacral soft tissue manipulation—particularly in chronic cases and case with history of trauma to head and neck (including birth trauma). Also useful in acute cases to suport lymphatic drainage and to release cranial restrictions.
Copyright 2001 Paul Bergner    347


    Medical Herbalism: Clinical Articles and Case Studies


Bondestom, M. Fouchard, T.; Gerbre-Medhin, M.; “Subclinical Trace Element Deficiency in children with Undue Susceptibility to Infection,” Act. Paed. Sc. 74:515-520, 1985.

Jung T.T.K., et al; “Effectsof Ibuprofen, Carticosteroid, Penicillin on the pathogenesis of Experimental Pneumococcal Otitis Media,” Recent Advances in Otitis Media with Effusion, D.J. Lim, C.D. Bluestone, J.O. Klein, et al. (Eds.), B.C. Decker, Inc., Philadelphia, pp. 269-272, 1984.

Kramer, M.J., et al; “Risk Factors for Persistent Middle Ear Effusions: Otitis Media, Catarrh, Cigarret Exposure and Atopy,” J.A.M.A. 249(8), pp. 1022-5, Feb. 25, 1983.
Copyright 2001 Paul Bergner    348