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Ask the Herbalist - Ear Infection

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EAR INFECTIONS:
QUESTION:
I have an 8 year old son who has suffered from chronic ear infections since birth and he also is asthmatic. He has been on every antibiotic and is treated with bronchial inhalers as well. These medications do seem to help with the problems he has but I was wondering if there wasn't another way to treat this. Is there anything that could act as a preventive..such as with the ear infections? He tends to suffer from the asthma during allergy season and during cold/flu season. Are herbs safe for use in children and if so do
you have any suggestions as to what I could use?  He is rather tall for his age and weighs about 85lbs. I'm not sure if that plays a role in the quantity but if so that's why I put it down. If you have any suggestions,
they would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you so much for your help.

ANSWER: Do you know what "brings the ear infections on"? Does he suffer from seasonal allergies? Are you certain that he has no food allergies that may be causing it? Wheat, citrus, and milk products are the most common culprits. If you've not explored this, I would speak with your medical professional about a test. Ear, nose and throat are closely related, so I'm assuming you've spoken with a specialist at this point. Don't they have a diagnosis for you?
 
I won't go into antibiotics and the issues that are associated with them, but there is plenty of documentation out there on their continued use. There are some herbs that have anti-bacterial properties. Echinacea and goldenseal are my two favorites. You can give them to your son. I would give half the adult dose if you are giving capsules. In a tea, they should be just fine full strength. Don't take the goldenseal for more than 2 weeks without a break in between, but take it for the full 2 weeks, even if your son is feeling better. So many times we quit taking medication when the symptoms disappear. Usually the underlying issue has not been properly addressed and we end up sick again.
 
Another important issue is diet. I'm sure my readers get tired of hearing about it, but this one simple thing can cover a multitude of "sins". If he's consuming white sugar or corn syrup, that needs to go. There is absolutely no nutritive value to it and it has been associate with a myriad of health issues. Same with white flour, artificial colorings, preservatives, artificial sweeteners and caffeine.
 
For the pain associated with ear infections, white willow has some of the same chemicals as aspirin and is better for you. Try giving him 1/2 teaspoon of acidophilus every day to help with the infection and to build up the helpful bacteria in the system. Make sure the kidneys are being supported. Plenty of fluids. Pure, clean (not from the tap) water every day will do miracles.
 
Lastly, you can make an oil from fresh garlic and mullein flowers if you are the do it yourself type. If not, you may be able to find garlic mullein ear oil in your local health food store. It's a pretty common remedy.

QUESTION:
My daughter 1 year old daughter suffers from chronic ear infections, is there 
anything that you can recommend?

ANSWER: Many dietary allergens can keep your child in a cycle of ear aches/infection and antibiotic use; then reinfection shortly after going off the med. If you are receiving antibiotics for this problem, they may also be a culprit in the loop. The medical theory behind continual or chronic ear infections in children of this age, is the Eustachian tube which runs from the inner ear to the throat is short and basically horizontal allowing germs to easily get into the middle ear. (This anatomy changes as the child ages and by 2 to 2 1/2 years the problem associated should disappear by themselves.) One theory suggest kids which drink milk can be allergic to it, causing inflammation and with a histamine response already hyper comes increased risk of infection because of the stasis involved. Another theory suggests kids that are put to bed or held horizontal while drinking their bottle could allow milk to enter the E-tube from the back of the throat and into the ear canal, taking germs with it setting the stage for another infection. When antibiotics are introduced the problem worsens; antibiotics kill most of the pathogens (if bacterial), but some survive these germs are now resistant to the drug used and wait for an opportunity to readvance. This opportunity occurs shortly after the antibiotic is stopped, her immune system is weakened by the previous pathogen's attack and without the assistance of the antibiotic in her system the germ raises its ugly head again and she gets another infection. With each repeated use of the antibiotics regime the germ learns a new drug resistance; in other words we build a better germ after each drug treatment; because the germ become resistant to each drug introduced to it.

Many kids today have ear tubes placed in the eardrums to help relieve pressure from fluid buildup and allow air into the ear canal to alleviate this problem, I do not have an opinion on this procedure. 

Another culprit is sugar and refined/bleached flour and wheat products, sugar is the fuel of infection and high blood sugar levels created by the consumption of these products decrease immune reservoir and response.

My suggestion would be to take her off dairy products and simple carbohydrates, such as sugars and refined wheat and flour products, give her vegetable as a mainstay. If not breast feeding, find an alternative to dairy milk. Reduce the use of juices to absolute minimum or eliminate completely. Increase water, use it as preferred drink, do not put her to bed with a bottle unless it is water. If, she is not eating solid foods yet, blender table foods such as meats and vegetables for her to consume stop using processed or refined foods. No cereal, bread, crackers, bagels, rolls and pasta in her meals, check labels of baby foods for wheat and refined/bleached flour ingredients then avoid. Watch the use of baby food jars or prepackage meals, look for ingredients such as milk or refined wheat and flour or sugar as an ingredient avoid them.

Herbally you will probably want to avoid alcohol based products, such as herbal tinctures made with grain alcohol, but this is a personal choice.

Give teas, such as Lemon Balm and Elderberry leaf which are antiviral. Peppermint, Catnip and Chamomile are good for sickness with GI upset.

Licorice is an immune amphoteric, meaning it elevates a depleted immune system and lowers a hyper immune response. Licorice normalizes the immune system. It also tastes sweet and is used in formulas to harmonize and balance the other herbs. You only need a small amount.

Use Echinacea just as the condition is developing, it is appropriate to lessen length or stave of the cold/flu/infection, find a glycerate based extract if the use of alcohol based products for your child bothers you, give the suggested dose every couple of hours for the first 3 days. She will like glycerin based extracts because they taste sweet. 

I would suggest finding a local holistic practitioner or herbalist to help guide you with an alternative or complimentary approach. 

You can contact the American Herbalists Guild to find an herbalist in your area. 
On the web http://www.americanherbalistsguild.com or email: 
Email: ahgoffice@earthlink.net 

There is also a list of practitioners on the herbnet website, look there.