An onion can cure an ear ache -- here's how to do it

Mummy bloggers have been saying it for years — if your child has an earache, reach for an onion.

Though it sounds odd, it turns out that an onion and its juice can work pretty well at relieving pain from an earache. There are a few different ways to do it, but generally the idea is to heat up the onion, extract some of its juice, and put a few drops into the infected ear.

The testimony is pretty amazing, too.

“Before I put the juice into her ear she was simply unable to be soothed,” one blogger said of her sick toddler. But after administering the onion juice, “within minutes her body calmed (she had been contracting her legs and fidgeting a lot because of the ear pain) and she was able to rest peacefully once again.”

For those still sceptical of the treatment, science seems to support the bizarre home remedy. Onions have been proven to fight inflammation, which can in turn help with swelling and pressure in the ear and relieve the pain.

Though there’s no study that definitively proves what chemicals in the onion are helping to reduce pain, it could be the flavonoid quercetin, which is anti-inflmmatory and is also believed to help and even prevent arthritis.

But no matter what the cause, a small 2001 study in Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine Journal concluded that ear solutions of herbal extracts such as onion juice can reduce the pain “at least as effective[ly]” as anaesthetic ear drops.

Plus, since some ear infections may be viral instead of bacterial (meaning they wouldn’t be treated with antibiotics), doctors will often make patients wait a few days before a follow up visit to see if it resolves on its own. In the meantime, you’ll still need to help with the pain, and an onion is a cheap alternative to try.

Onion in the earShutterstock/Megan WillettAlthough some tips suggest putting an ‘onion heart’ in your ear over night, it’s better to extract the juice.

So, how do you do it?

First, place the onion in the oven at 450 degrees for 15 minutes or into a microwave on high until soft. Remove the onion and once it’s cool, cut it in half and squeeze any juice into a small bowl. Strain out any “stuff” from the juice with a paper towel or coffee filter and fill a medicine dropper with the remaining liquid. Administer a few drops and you’re done.

Another “age old self-healing trick” is to just place a warm onion over your ear or place the “onion heart” — that tiny little nub in the center of the onion — into your ear and let it sit over night.

Though there’s no explicit juice extraction in these tips, the principal is essentially the same — the goal is to get the onion juices inside the ear canal. With this in mind, it’s probably easier to simply extract the juice in the first place.

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