Can essential oils help with ear infections? Best oils and methods

Infection of the ear, also called otitis, occurs most often in children, but it can also affect adults. Ear infections can be challenging to treat.

Essential oils are concentrated liquids that contain extracts of plants from around the world. The manufacturers of these oils often use steaming to separate the natural oils from the rest of the plant.

Essential oils are suitable either for inhaling or for diluting and applying topically. It is vital never to ingest an essential oil.

Researchers have discovered that some essential oils have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, which may make them beneficial in treating infections.

In this article, we look at the best essential oils to try for ear infections, how to use them, and other natural remedies. We also consider whether or not essential oils are effective and safe to use.

How can essential oils treat ear infections?

Some people find that essential oils can help reduce the symptoms of an ear infection, which typically include pain, swelling, and ear discharge.

Some essential oils have antibacterial or antiviral properties that may allow them to kill bacteria and help fight off an ear infection. Other essential oils may prevent viruses from reproducing.

However, there has been no high-quality research into whether or not essential oils are an effective treatment. Proof of how well they work is generally limited to anecdotal evidence.

Essential oils require the use of carrier oils to dilute them.

People should use a teaspoon of carrier oil for every 1–2 drops of essential oil. Examples of carrier oils include:

  • coconut oil
  • olive oil
  • jojoba oil

Learn more about carrier oils here.

People can use a few different techniques to apply essential oils to the ear:

  • Use an oil mixture to clean the outside of the ear. This should remove any bacteria or other infectious material. An oil with anti-inflammatory effects, such as tea tree oil, could reduce swelling in the outer part of the ear.
  • Soak a cotton ball in essential oil. Place the cotton ball on the opening to the ear and let the oil slowly seep into the ear. Do not place the cotton ball inside the ear.
  • Warm a few drops of essential oil and olive oil. Place the drops directly into the ear. This method can help break up ear wax and allow the oil to reach deeper parts of the ear. Avoid using too much oil as this can clog the ear.

When warming up essential oils, it is vital not to make them too hot because the delicate structures in the ear are sensitive to heat.

It is also crucial for people to ensure that they will not have an allergic reaction or be sensitive to the oil. It is possible to test this by dabbing a tiny amount of the oil onto a small area of skin. If the skin does not react after a few hours, it should be safe to use the oil.

The skin inside the ear may be more sensitive than other areas, so people should continue to monitor the skin for any signs of irritation.

Ear infections do not usually require treatment. They will often go away on their own within 2 weeks. Pain and swelling often resolve within a few days.

In addition to or instead of essential oils, people can try the following natural remedies for an infection of the ear:

  • Applying a warm compress to the ear. A warm compress is a damp towel or cloth that is slightly above body temperature. Warm compresses can help reduce swelling.
  • Using olive oil. Placing a few drops of olive oil into the ear canal may help break up ear wax and potentially reduce pain as a result.


Ear infections typically resolve without treatment. People who wish to speed up recovery or reduce symptoms naturally can try using essential oils.

With sufficient dilution, essential oils are generally safe for most people, but they may not be as effective in treating ear infections as some advocates claim.

Before using any essential oil, people should test it on a small area of skin.

If the ear infection does not clear up within a 2-week period or an essential oil has an adverse effect, the individual should speak to a doctor about other treatment options.

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