We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.
Garlic has been used to treat a little bit of everything that has ailed people over the centuries, including ear infections and earaches. Though there isn’t much scientific evidence on garlic for ear infections, it has been shown to have several other health benefits.
Garlic’s health benefits include antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. It also has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. When eaten, garlic can help boost your immune system and help fight infection.
Applying garlic topically may help ease the pain of an earache.
A second study on naturopathic ear drops, which had 171 children who had ear pain, found that the ear drops when used on their own may be more effective than anesthetic (numbing) ear drops to treat ear pain in children.
Eating garlic can help boost your immune system in general, which helps you fight or prevent infections. Garlic has been used as a natural remedy for ear issues including earache, ear infection, and tinnitus. The following are a couple of ways to use garlic at home in your ears.
You can buy commercially made garlic oil ear drops from many health stores, groceries, and online.
If you’d like to make your own garlic oil at home, it’s easy enough to do that you can make small batches when you need them to use right away.
Before You Get Started
Consider home canning techniques for sterilizing cooking utensils or storage jars, especially if you plan to store unused oil. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidance for sterilizing jars is to cover the jar you want to sterilize in water in a canner pot and boil it for at least 10 minutes (more if you’re at an elevation above 1,000 feet).
What you’ll need:
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled
- 2 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- small pan
- small glass jar with lid or dropper
- piece of cotton
How to make garlic oil ear drops:
- Peel the garlic clove.
- Crush or roughly chop the garlic to open it up.
- Add the garlic and the oil to a small pan or pot that has not been heated yet.
- Warm the oil and garlic in a pan over low heat—you don’t want it hot. The heat is too high if the oil is smoking or bubbling.
- Swirl the oil around the pan just until fragrant.
- Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool.
- Pour the garlic oil into the jar, straining out the garlic pieces.
How to use the garlic oil ear drops:
The person with the ear infection should be lying on their side with the sore ear facing up.
Put two or three drops of warm garlic oil into the ear. Gently place the piece of cotton over the opening of the ear just enough to stop the oil from seeping out. The person being treated should remain in the same position for 10 to 15 minutes.
Alternatively, you can soak the piece of cotton in the oil and rest it just inside the ear so the oil seeps into the ear canal.
The remaining oil should be stored in the refrigerator in the glass jar to use as needed.
Storing Garlic Oil
The International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) both strongly recommend refrigerating garlic-infused oil and using it within three days after you make it.
Whole clove of garlic
You can place a whole clove of garlic into the ear to treat ear pain or tinnitus. This method is not recommended for children.
What you’ll need:
- one clove of garlic, peeled
- small piece of gauze
Here’s how to do it:
Peel a clove of garlic and cut the tip off of one end. Wrap the clove in the gauze and rest the wrapped clove in the ear with the cut end facing into the ear. The garlic clove should not go inside of your ear canal. Hold a warm washcloth over the ear until the ear pain is gone.
If your ear pain gets worse, stop using the garlic and speak to a medical professional about your symptoms.
There is a risk of skin irritation or chemical burns from putting garlic or garlic-based products on your skin. Test your home remedy on a small part of the skin (such as on the inner arm) before using it on yourself or someone else.
If you or the person who will be using it feel tingling, burning, or discomfort or see redness where oil was applied, wash the area completely with soap and water and do not use the oil.
Do not use if you have a ruptured eardrum
These remedies should not be used if you have a ruptured eardrum. A ruptured eardrum causes pain and you might experience fluid draining from your ear. See your doctor before using garlic oil or any other remedy in your ear.
It’s possible for bacteria like Clostridium botulinum to grow under certain conditions in garlic oil, often caused by items that haven’t been sterilized. C. botulinum can make botulinum toxin in contaminated food or cause botulism.
Otitis media is a middle ear infection. It happens when bacteria or a virus causes inflammation behind the eardrum. This type of ear infection is very common in children. Middle ear infections improve without medication, but see your doctor if you or your child has ear pain that lingers or is accompanied by fever.
Otitis externa is an outer ear infection that affects the outer opening of the ear and the ear canal. Swimmer’s ear is the most common type of Otis externa and results from exposure to moisture, such as from spending a lot of time swimming. Water that remains in the ear canal encourages the growth of bacteria.
Garlic isn’t your only option when it comes to treating an ear infection.
Middle ear infections often go away without medication, and symptoms can be relieved using over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers. Applying warm or cold compresses may also offer some relief, along with other home remedies for earaches.
If you or your child have ear pain that persists or is accompanied by a fever and face pain, see your doctor.
Even though there may not be much scientific evidence available on the effects of garlic for ear infections, garlic and other home remedies may help relieve your pain.
Speak to a nurse or doctor if you have any questions or concerns about earache or using garlic products topically.