Break the ache: how I healed my ear infection without antibiotics

I’m a big one for natural therapies. Anyone who knows me well knows I have next to no faith in the medical profession, even though I have met a few doctors who are great. My mum rarely took me to see doctors and it just wasn’t the done thing in our family. We always relied on natural remedies, proper nutrition, and good knowledge of our own bodies. I was an extremely healthy child. I never had any refined sugar until I was about five or six, and I was vegetarian until about age seven or eight (not that I’m saying that’s the cornerstone of good diet, but I was). We never had chips or lollies or any processed snack foods in the house. I was never vaccinated either. Of course, kids still get sick.

I was one of these kids that gets ear infections. Not many, but I did have a few during childhood. I have a distinct memory of lying on our couch in our house in Mawson (which means I must have been about seven), in lots of pain with my ear while my parents argued over whether I should be taken to the doctor for antibiotics. My mum, bless her, did everything she could to prevent me from having any poisons or drugs or processed anything, and because of her knowledge about health and nutrition, she knew that the side effects of antibiotics can be terrible. To be honest, I can’t remember what home remedies she used for my ear at all, although I do remember taking big doses of horseradish and garlic in capsule form, crushed up and mixed in a spoonful of honey. But that was possibly for a cold. And I remember the fever being brought down to my feet by having them wrapped in tea towels soaked in vinegar. That worked! But eventually I think my mum relented and agreed to take me to the doctor where I was prescribed antibiotics. I remember them distinctly, they were strawberry flavoured. My ear infection did eventually go away and I think I had probably two or three more bouts. Since then, I’ve always been quite sensitive to cold air being blown at my head and have ended up feeling a bit worse for wear after not wearing a hat in the cold or sleeping with a fan blowing at me all night. My ears are sensitive. And what’s more, they store a lot of wax, I’ve been told, because my ear canals are unusually curly. But I’ve not had ear infections since childhood; until I had a child of my own.

I think the dude was probably about six months or so when the first bout appeared. But it wasn’t as I remembered it being as a child. The pain wasn’t as sharp and excruciating and it didn’t feel like my ear drum was about to burst. It was more just an uncomfortable build up of fluid causing dull aching throbbing pain. One ear became completely blocked within a day or two, which I found almost as bad as the pain. If I lay on the other ear, it was like being deaf!

I definitely didn’t want to have antibiotics as I knew just how quickly I’d end up with thrush (always the side effect for me) and I especially didn’t want to take that risk with a baby. By sheer coincidence, I went to a mother’s group meeting organised by the midwifery practice through which I had the dude, and got chatting to my midwife. When I mentioned the ear ache, she immediately said: ‘onions!’  Her sure fire cure that she’d used with her kids was to take a raw onion, cut a little piece off and crush it to get a few drops of juice and put that in the ear. Hold that ear uppermost for a while to get the juice to settle in and then wait for it to work its magic. So I decided to try it. And it worked! Within a few days, the ache had gone and the fluid cleared… only to be replaced by the exact same thing in the other ear, urgh! This time I went straight for the onion, and soon enough, that had cleared up too.

But it wasn’t more than a month or two before the infection returned. I still wasn’t willing to give in to antibiotics, mainly because I could feel that this infection wasn’t out of control and was something that I could do something about myself. I know that sounds weird but I wasn’t in excruciating pain all the time, I just knew I was on the right track. It was quite bizarre though, because I started having black stuff come out of my ear! It reminded me of when my dad used to clean his pipe, and he’d scrape years of sticky, black tar out of the bowl and stem. It was the consistency of watery grease and sometimes pitch black, but more often a sort of dark greyish green. So I thought, okay, this is odd, I will go to the doctor and see what she has to say. I always end up giving doctors another chance and they inevitably let me down. Which was the case here. The doctor looked in my ear and said, “yes, there’s black stuff in there.” Gee, really? No shit, Sherlock! I explained all my symptoms and she listened for about two minutes before interrupting to tell me to go across the road to the pharmacy and buy “ear clear”. She didn’t seem to care whether there was an infection or not, and she dismissed my claim that the black stuff had been coming out BEFORE I put in the onion juice, saying that it ‘must’ be the onion that’s causing the black. I was desperate to clear my ear, though, so I actually did buy what she said. Which was a complete waste of money as it did nothing but smell like I was putting petrol in my ear.

So back to the onion. I did it for three or four nights in a row, sleeping on the side that wasn’t blocked so the onion juice could really sink into the ear overnight. I plugged it with some cotton wool so the juice couldn’t dribble out but only once it had been in for half an hour, just in case the cotton wool soaked up any juice. And eventually, the blockage went and any ache with it. It was gone! But it left me with the distinct impression that this was not the last of it. I felt that at some level it was a constitutional thing, a reaction of my body to a time of stress. And the change in my hormones and body generally as a result of pregnancy and birth and breastfeeding affected it.

Fast forward over a year and I started to get sick. I thought it was just the flu, but I had a suspicion it was something more specific to me as both Mr C and the Dude had no symptoms whatsoever. It wasn’t long, maybe 48 hours, before the dreaded earache struck again. It was the same dull, fluid-engorged throbbing pain as before. And as I did before, I embraced the onion juice. There were one or two days where I felt a little uneasy about it, as I was in a fair bit of pain and didn’t sleep well for a couple of nights because the pain was just too much. But it wasn’t eardrum pain, it was just the result of the fluid building up in there. One night I actually took a pain killer, which is rare for me. But as before, the onion did its job, and the infection subsided over about ten days. Because it took longer, I also soaked some raw crushed garlic in olive oil and warmed the oil through and put a couple of drops in my ear. I also put a whole unpeeled onion into the oven until it was softened, cut it in half, and held it against my ear as soon as I could stand it. That didn’t seem to help the infection but the pain was hugely diminished instantly.

I can’t say I won’t ever take antibiotics again in my life, they have their place, but I think onions are absolutely amazing and this remedy is worth a good go!