Summer is upon us. Otitis Externa or external ear infection, also known as “Swimmer’s Ear,” can be a troubling nuisance, putting a damper on the lakeside experience. In some cases, the acute inflammation of the outer ear and ear canal can be alarmingly painful. A common cause is prolonged exposure to water from swimming.
In the case of external ear infections, unlike those of Otitis media or the inner ear, touching the ear, and especially the tragus, aggravates the pain and discomfort. Otitis externa also often manifests with discharge and itchiness. With enough swelling and discharge, the ear canal can become blocked and cause temporary hearing loss.
Where’s the Fun in Fungus?
Some external infections are indeed triggered by fungal conditions. Over the counter eardrop preparations may also contain a steroid, which can in fact aggravate these fungal infections. Furthermore, prolonged use of antibacterial eardrops promotes the growth of antibiotic-resistant funguses.
Garlic is a potent antifungal. It’s also antibacterial, thus inhibiting the majority of pathogens that cause these infections. Garlic is especially potent against the most common external ear pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Small wonder that garlic is one of the four ingredients that make up St. Francis Herb Farm’s Ear Oil.
William T. Fernie (1895), one of the most brilliant of the Eclectics—physicians of the 19th and early 20th centuries who tended to rely on herbal therapies –is so effusive on the effectiveness of mullein for earaches that he is worth quoting despite his quaint and dated turns of phrase. Fernie calls mullein oil, i.e. mullein flowers infused in oil, “a most valuable destroyer of disease germs.” He praises its effectiveness for pain associated with infection: “instilling a few drops two or three times a day into the ear, all pain therein, or discharges therefrom, and consequent deafness, will be effectually cured.”
A clinical trial compared ear oil comprised of a mixture of St. John’s wort, mullein, garlic, and calendula (which reflects St. Francis Herb Farm’s Ear Oil recipe) with a standard anodynal drug preparation for ear pain associated with acute otitis media. The authors found a statistically significant benefit for pain with both treatments, remarking that there was no difference of note between groups. The research team reinforced their findings in another trial conducted two years later.
As a happy practitioner asserts in a letter to St. Francis Herb Farm, “This is one marvelous product. I would like to express my greatest joy in using and recommending your Ear Oil to many of my clients and patients.”
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A tall plant with a stem that rises to a spike characterized by small yellow flowers, mullein grows in well-lit, disturbed soils throughout the temperate zones of Europe and Asia, as well as North America.
Plant pharmacological studies have suggested that Calendula extracts may have anti-viral, anti-genotoxic, and anti-inflammatory properties in vitro.In an in vitro assay, the methanol extract of C. officinalis exhibited antibacterial activity and both the methanol and the ethanol extracts showed antifungal activities. Along with horsetails (Equisetum arvense), pot marigold is one of the few plants which is considered astringent despite not being high in tannins.