Natural Immune Booster

Safety Concerns Using Echinacea for Ear Infections

Can echinacea safely prevent or treat ear infections?

Can echinacea safely treat ear infections? Study results are conflicting. Lab studies show that echinacea blocks the bacteria that cause swimmer's ear. And preliminary studies suggest echinacea might be useful in treating acute ear infections. That's because echinacea has pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects.(925)

But what do clinical studies show?

Echinacea May Increase the Risk of Ear Infection in Some Young Children

Results of a clinical study in Arizona suggest that one preparation of Echinacea purpurea may not be safe to use in young children prone to repeated ear infections. The 3-6 month clinical trial involved 90 children between the ages of 12 and 60 months old. All had experienced recurrent, separate incidents of acute ear infections (common in this age group) prior to the study.(21)

During the trial period, extract made from echinacea roots and seeds were given to the treatment test group for 10 days at the first sign of a cold. Doses were 0.5 mL orally 3 times a day for 3 days followed by 0.25 mL for a week.(21)

Results showed that this particular echinacea extract did not prevent this type of ear infection. Moreover, those children given the echinacea had a slightly increased risk for this type of ear infection.(21)

Echinacea May Prevent Ear Infections Related to Respiratory Infections

Ear infection is a known complication in people with respiratory tract infections. In fact, in babies ear infections are very common with both upper and lower respiratory tract infections.(2627)

A meta-analysis of clinical studies suggests that echinacea could help. The analysis studied results from 3 randomized clinical trials involving patients with recurrent respiratory tract infections.(2628)

In two of the studies, Echinacea purpurea and E. angustifolia were used, either by themselves or combined. The third study combined 50 grams of echinacea with 50 grams of propolis and 10 grams of vitamin C.(2628)

Compared to placebo, echinacea was found to significantly reduce risk of complications from these respiratory infections, including ear infections. Echinacea also reduces the risk of recurrent respiratory infections themselves.(26)

Fun Fact

Traditional Native American medicine practiced by the Crow people used echinacea to treat earaches. They would burn the root like incense. Then the healer would catch some of the smoke by mouth and blow it into the affected ear, stuffing it with cloth to keep the smoke captured.(7)

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Otitis externa, a type of ear infection.(25)
Otitis media.(9)
A randomized, placebo-controlled study.(21)
A resinous substance produced by honeybees.(28)