Garlic and Olive Oil, an Ear’s Best Friend.

November 3rd, 2011 § 5 comments § permalink

This is a post I shared a few months ago at my friend’s Suzie’s inspiring blog, Key & Bones. I want to share it because I am reaping the benefits of this extremely simple little remedy. Last week my ear started to feel a little funky/gunky, swollen, itchy. Each day it got a little worse until my left ear was entirely clogged for two days. Garlic oil, just a drop or two in the ear canal, every other day, relieved the irritation and opened it right up.

In the past I have made more of an ‘ear formula’, with another fabulous standby, mullein flowers. Now that I live in a city, my mullein flower harvesting has diminished. There are still plenty of mullein around, but not in my back yard garden like it was before (so spoiled I was, sigh…). Willow bark, cayenne, eyebright, St. John’s wort and calendula are some other options (among many) to add to your herbal ear oil.

I do have to say, however, that just plain good old garlic does the job quite nicely.

Garlic has been hailed as a super-food for millennia, and rightfully so. Every year it seems that the powers of garlic expand as the scientific community catches on to folk uses of of garlic. Recently, there has been investigation around garlic and weight loss, but it has long been know for other benefits. It is widely accepted as having anticancer, high blood pressure and high cholesterol reducing, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and immune-stimulating effects, in addition to being a nutrient-dense food.

One common folk use of garlic is an oil used topically and in the ear for infections. A 1995 University of New Mexico study looked at garlic oil’s effect:

“Aqueous garlic extract (AGE) and concentrated garlic oil (CGO) along with various commercial garlic supplements and pharmaceutical prescriptions were used in an in-vitro study. AGE and especially CGO were found to have antifungal activity. These agents showed similar or better inhibitory effects than the pharmaceutical preparations…” [emphasis added].

Garlic oil for medicinal purposes is easy to make and easy to use. It is essentially just like making culinary garlic oil, except that extra care is taken to strain all the garlic particulate out of the garlic before bottling. It smells delicious (in that garlic-y sort of way), and of course can be used for cooking, salad dressing and bread-dipping. Just store it away from the stove, so it doesn’t get the chance to raise its temperature. If you are making a large batch, use a wide-mouthed jar and store it in the fridge. Olive oil, being an unsaturated plant fat, will solidify in the fridge, so you’ll have to scoop it with a spoon and melt it before using in the ears.

Don’t waste any of that liquid gold, use a funnel.

Garlic Oil Recipe and Dosage:

  • Peel a few heads of garlic, trim the bottoms, rinse and air dry (or pat with a clean towel).
  • Lightly crush, chop well and let it chill out on your cutting board for a few minuets before adding it to the jar. Crushing the garlic opens the cells and allows health-benefiting alliinase enzymes (one of the multiple compounds in garlic) to become active. I don’t recommend using a garlic crusher, though, because it opens the cells too much, expressing a lot of the garlic’s water quickly. Introducing extra water to the oil to increase the likelihood of bacteria and mold growth, as well as promote oxidation and rancidity.
  • Add to a small jar, cover with extra virgin olive oil until a half inch of oil is over the top of the garlic.
  • Cover with a tight-fitting lid and let sit in a sunny window for 4-6 weeks, shaking every now and again (once a week or every-other day is good).
  • Occasionally, open the jar to check for extra moisture beads condensing along the lid. If there is moisture, simply wipe it off with a clean towel.
  • After steeping, strain the oil into a clean, dry bottle. This is the time to add other medicinal ingredients, if desired.
  • Label and date, store in a cool, dry place. Use within 18 months.
  • Use one drop for kids over 2 in each ear, and three to five drops for adults.
  • Drop the oil in, one drop at a time, while side laying. Drape a towel under your head, and adjust your head position so that the ear canal feels vertical. Play around with moving your head around to distribute the oil, lingering at any sweet spots, or tug on the ear and massage the area. Kids and dogs love that part.
  • Sit for a few minuets, maybe more if it feels good and you have the time. When you sit up, wipe the outside of your ear off with a clean towel. Yes, your ears will kind of smell like garlic. It should dissipate after an hour.
  • Administer twice daily for acute infections, once daily or every other day for a week for lingering problems (recovering from a cold, itchy ears, ect.) or once a week for maintenance (this is the best dosage for prevention).
    A warm oil is a nice oil…
  • Warm the bottle in a cup of hot (almost boiled) water for a minute or two before dropping in the ear, making sure to test the temperature before using. Warmth thins the oil, so it can penetrate the ear canal, and provides comforting relief for infections. A warm oil makes all the difference. If you are in a pinch, wave the dropper over a candle flame, being mindful not to spill the oil from the dropper as it thins. I loosely fix the label on the bottle so I can take it off when it is warming.

Now that you have your lovely garlic oil, what can you do with it? If you are like I was when I first heard of garlic oil, you will be asking, why would I want to put it in my ears? It just so happens that oil is very soluble in the ears because its normal environment is oily (well, waxy, but close).

Uses for garlic oil:

  • Ear infections.
  • To prevent swimmer’s ear, use a drop or two in each ear a few hours before swimming. Dry the ears extra well before swimming. Once swimmer’s ear has set in, it is best to avoid garlic oil.
  • Fighting a cold. The ears are closely connected with the nose and the throat, areas that first come into contact with microbes causing the common cold or influenza. A little garlic oil in the ears at the first feelings of a scratchy throat, drippy nose, itchy ears can sometimes kick the cold out before it sets in.
  • Excessive wax build-up, or gummy or closed ears. Use one drop daily in each ear.
  • Eat on food for the medicinal effects mentioned above, a teaspoon or more per day.
Good for four-legged friends, too.

 

Sources:

Lett Appl Microbiol. 1995 Jan;20(1):14-8. Antifungal effects of Allium sativum (garlic) extract against the Aspergillus species involved in otomycosis. Pai, ST, Platt, MW. Department of Microbiology, University of New Mexico, School of Medicine, Albuquerque 87131

Supplements & Recipes for Cleansing

April 18th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Demulcent Tea Blend

I go back and forth about how I feel about supplements (which includes but is not limited to vitamins, fiber, herbal capsules, amino acids, essential fatty acids, ect…). There have been times where they have served my health extremely well, and other times where I felt it had little if any effect. But that’s just my experience.

Now I honor supplements almost the same way I do Western biomedicine; as a wonderful offering of modern day technology that we can intentionally choose or occasionally need to take to empower our health or correct a serious imbalance.

That being said, there are two supplements I have seen work well with cleansing. The first is a fiber and/or digestive demulcents. I say “and/or” because although they are often combined together and work well as one, considering they act on the same place (the gut) they don’ necessarily need to be. Fiber supplements can do more than simply add more dietary fiber to your diet.¬† The “bulking” or absorptive quality of fiber can bind to heavy metals, cellular waste products and other general “toxins” and remove them, as well as increasing healthy bacteria in the gut. Demulcent herbs often added to enhance the actions of fibers, but offer their own level of healing, soothing and support for gut as well.

Fiber + Herbs Powder

  • 3 parts Psyllium husks
  • 2 parts Apple pectin
  • 1 part Triphala – (harada (Terminalia chebula), amla (Emblica officinalis), behada¬† (Terminalia belerica))
  • 1 part other demulcent herbs blend – marshmallow, licorice, plantain, ginger, or slippery elm

Mix all the powdered ingredients by weight, take 1 teaspoon mixed (shake water and herbs vigorously in a jar to mix thoroughly) in a cup of water or juice one a day. I think it is best to take fiber on an empty stomach or between meals, but I haven’t hear the final word so use your own judgment. During a cleanse, take daily. Some cleanse kits offer a similar fiber supplement to take three times a day during a fast. Doing so works surprisingly well at keeping hunger at bay while providing enough bulk to stimulate digestion.

The next supplement is a mild herbal laxative. The only reason you may need a laxative during a cleanse is when you are fasting and thus not having regular (daily) bowel movements. During a cleanse in which you consume a normal amount of food (although it may be different food than normal!) you generally do not need a mild laxative.

You can find herbal “digestive simulators” on the market, but why not make your own? Making your own tea is cheaper and engages your senses, which is helpful when taking herbs like cascara sagrada and senna. Who knows? Maybe one sip is all you’ll need, and you can tell the moment it hits your tongue. Here’s a classic recipe from Rosemary Gladstar:

“Emergency Constipation Remedy”

  • 4 parts fennel
  • 3 parts licorice
  • 2 parts yellow dock
  • 1 part cascara sagrada
  • 1 part psyllium seed
  • 1 part senna

Prepare as a decoction. How much should you drink? That will be up to you. Start with one small cup a day, increase if needed. Not for long term use.

Another “supplement” comes to mind for cleansing, although it is more of an herbal formula, and that is a bitters tincture. Bitters! I love them. I love making them, because you can personalize the bitters to your needs.

Formula for Bitter Tincture:

  • 1 part artichoke leaf
  • 1 part dandelion root
  • 1 part wild yam
  • 1 part gentian root
  • 1 part fennel seed
  • 1/2 part orange peel
  • 1/2 part ginger
  • 1/2 part cardamon
  • 1/2 part angelica root

Prepare as a tincture. Take 45 drops (or a large dropperful) 30 mins. before each meal. Bitters assist digestion and assimilation, and are especially good for reliving bloating.

Garlic Lemonade/Broth

  • Chop 4-6 cloves raw garlic.
  • Bring to low a boil in 4 cups water for 30 minuets.
  • Cool a bit, add juice from 1 to 2 lemons.
  • Mix in honey or maple syrup to taste to taste.
  • If you would like a savory broth, add miso, bulion, ginger, scallions and grated veggies instead of the lemons and sweetener.

Here’s a time-tested recipe for a surprisingly tasty garlic drink. The first time I had it, a friend had cut me off – it was that good! It is pretty strong, so it might be a too stimulating to drink on a regular basis. 4 cups for a day or two in the spring, fall is the “dosage” I was told. This drink doesn’t have any particular reason to be affiliated with a cleanse, although the “stinking rose” is almost a household panacea with numerous health benefits.

Berry Congee

Basic Congee Recipe

  • Add 1 cup white rice to about 8 cups water
  • Cook on medium for 2-4 hours. It takes a long time!
  • Add in your medicinal herbs, spices or veggies about half way through.
  • Eat and enjoy!

Congee is basically rice that has been cooked so much that it has fallen apart – it almost has the consistency of watery rice pudding. The congee is derives its flavor from the what you put it in. Actually, the rice in congee is simply a vehicle to deliver the herbs, spices of veggies you want. It makes a great meal during a cleanse because it is a gluten-free and easily digestible.

Don’t forget to add herbs! That’s one of the perks of congees – it blends easily with herbs. One of my favorite additions are Chinese herbs lotus berries, white mushrooms and black cumin seeds with a chopped fresh pear flavored with cinnamon, ginger and cardamom. Or I go for a fruity version: lycii (goji) berries, schizandra berries, elder berries and rose hips with a sliced blood orange and cinnamon.

The herbs that work good in congees are dried fruits, berries, roots, seeds, fungus, that sort of thing. Anything you would normally decoct for a tea would probably fly (although some really woody roots would not be fun to chew, so remove them before serving). I would not add leaves and flowers, like peppermint or calendula as they would not blend well in the congee.

Resources:

Gladstar, Rosemary. Rosemary Gladstar’s Family Herbal.

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