9 Proven Essential Oils for Ear Infection

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

For thousands of years, people have been using essential oils to treat ear infections, as these powerful substances have antiseptic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, soothing, sedative and stimulant properties, depending on which oil you use.

What Causes Ear Infections?

Ear infections are some of the most painful experiences for many young children, although they can also affect adults. Ear infections are caused by viral or bacterial infections in the middle ear, typically caused in conjunction with a separate sinus infection or inflammatory condition affecting the Eustachian tubes or respiratory tracts. The most important elements are the Eustachian tubes, which run from the throat to the ear, linking those systems. When inflammation occurs, excess mucus or other factors cause the Eustachian tubes to malfunction or become blocked, fluid will begin to build up in that part of the ear. Inside that fluid, bacterial and viral pathogens can thrive, causing the ear infection.


For children, it can be difficult to explain the pressure, discomfort, fever, headaches, sleeping issues and loss of appetite that typically accompany an ear infection. However, in young children, constant crying is usually a good sign that something is wrong, and medical attention should be sought out. For adults, the symptoms are easier to recognize and subsequently treat and tend to include ear pain and drainage of fluids from the ear.

There are a number of factors that affect ear infections, such as proximity to other children, lack of hygienic conditions, seasonal fluctuations, environmental pollutants, and irritants and age. Regardless of who you are or why you developed the infection, using essential oils for ear infection is an excellent and effective way for rapid relief. [1]

An older man distressed by an earache.

Pain in your ear can be caused by a cold, an ear infection, or both. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Best Essential Oils for Ear Infection

Many of the most powerful essential oils for ear infection are lavender, eucalyptus, rosemary, tea tree, basil, olive, oregano, mustard, and thyme oils.

Oregano Oil

With powerful antibacterial and antiviral properties, oregano oil is an excellent remedy for ear infections, as it can provide an immune system boost and also relieve inflammation in the respiratory tracts and ear canal. [2]

How to Use – Do not place this oil directly in the ear canal; dilute a few drops with 1 teaspoon of carrier oil, such as coconut oil, and then topically apply to the outer ear.

Rosemary Oil

One of the most versatile essential oils for an ear infection, rosemary oil can quickly neutralize any bacterial infections that may be causing the pain in your middle ear. It can also help to soothe the initial sinus infection if that is the cause of your discomfort. [3]

How to Use – You can apply rosemary oil, often mixed with lavender or eucalyptus oil, to the throat and neck, as well as up and under the ears. This oil will quickly get absorbed and begin relieving inflammation in those areas.

Tea Tree Oil

This is one of the most legendary antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal oils on the market, making it highly sought after for ear infections. For hundreds of years, this oil has been used in Australia to treat infections of all kinds, including those of the inner ear. [4]

How to Use – Internal use of tea tree oil is never recommended, as it can be toxic, and will also cause inflammation of the ear canal. You can dilute some tea tree oil in olive oil and then dab it with a cotton ball. Apply this cotton ball to the outer ear and hold it over the ear canal, but don’t force it in.

Basil Oil

If you want to quickly clear up an ear infection, the antiviral and anti-inflammatory compounds in basil oil can be an effective remedy, both for children and adults. However, in both the cases, only a small amount of this oil is needed, as it is quite potent. [5]

How to Use – Mix 5-6 drops of basil oil with a carrier oil, such as olive or coconut oil and then soak a cotton ball in the mixture. Hold the cotton ball over the ear, allowing the aromatic compounds to address the infection, but do not push the cotton ball into your ear canal.

Olive Oil

Although this isn’t technically an essential oil, it still has powerful inflammatory and antibacterial qualities. In particular, it is known to relieve the blockage of the sinuses, which can help unplug the Eustachian tubes and promote fluid drainage. [6]

How to Use – You can add 4-5 drops of warmed olive oil directly to the ear canal and hold it in there for a few minutes. When you are finished, you can flush the ear gently with a bit of warm water.

Thyme Oil

Few essential oils have as powerful an active ingredient as thyme oil, boasting the antibacterial and antioxidant powers of thymol. This can quickly relieve pressure and pain in the middle ear, while also fighting back against the underlying infection of the respiratory system. [7]

How to Use – This oil can be blended with other carrier oils such as sweet almond oil, and then topically applied to the outer ear, or rubbed on the throat, neck, and glands.

Mustard Oil

Although this isn’t the most common oil on your natural remedies shelf, it has strong antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. However, it can negatively affect people with sensitive skin, so caution must be used, particularly near the ear canal. [8]

How to Use – Due to its potency, you should always dilute the mustard oil with a carrier oil (5 drops to 1 tablespoon of coconut oil), before gently applying the oil to the outside of the ear, allowing it to soak into the skin and give the immune system a needed boost.

Lavender Oil

As one of the most common essential oils, lavender oil is unsurprisingly good at treating infections. It can increase blood circulation to increase healing speed, reduce inflammation caused by infections, and also relieve pressure in the sinus cavities. [9]

How to Use – You can place lavender oil on your pillow at night, topically apply it on the outer ear, or even inhale directly from the bottle to benefit from this famous oil’s many health benefits.

Eucalyptus Oil

This essential oil is ideal for soothing inflammation in the Eustachian tube and stopping the blockage that is causing the fluid buildup. This can help the fluid drain and the infection to be eliminated from your system. This oil can also help to treat any other infections in the respiratory system. [10]

How to Use – You can apply this undiluted oil to the throat or neck, as it will soak in and relieve inflammation in the respiratory system. You can also inhale this oil through steam inhalation treatments or in a room diffuser for relief from ear infections.

Word of Caution

While the use of essential oils for ear infection may be simple and effective for many people, there are still some considerations to remember before using these potent substances. Essential oils come from many different types of plants and herbs, and allergic reactions are not uncommon. Furthermore, those with sensitive skin may have negative reactions and experience inflammation, which can make an ear infection worse. In many cases, the essential oils should not be put inside the ear canal, but rather used on the outer ear and allowed to absorb. Before using any essential oils for ear infection, speak with a doctor about potential risks and research appropriate uses for every oil.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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