Applying certain essential oils to the ear canal appears to be an effective treatment for ear infections, findings from an animal study suggest.

If toxicity studies confirm the safety of (anti-bacterial) essential oil components for use in the ear, then a significant advance can be made in the treatment of ear infections, the investigators conclude in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

The vapours that are released by essential oils, such as oil of basil, have been shown to have rapid bacteria killing effects. Topical therapy for ear infections is usually not recommended because most drugs are in a liquid form that cannot penetrate the eardrum to reach the infected middle ear. However, the vapours form essential oils may be able to diffuse through the eardrum and destroy the microbes present.

To investigate, Dr Karl G. Kristinsson, from Landspitali University Hospital in Reykjavik, Iceland, and colleagues used oil components and inactive "placebo" on rats with experimental ear infections. Treatment with the oils cured up to 81% of the animals. With placebo, by contrast, cure rates did not exceed 6 %.

The team notes that based on their properties, essential oils may be able to destroy a variety of bacteria that can cause ear infection. They also point out that essential oils are generally considered to be safe. 

Source Journal of Infectious Diseases 1 June 2005.

Please note: Do not use pure essential oils that are undiluted. BE Relieved and BE Sport (which also contains basil) are diluted in sweet almond, wheatgerm and macadamia oils. Apply a few drops into the affected ear.