EARACHE

2010

In Ireland, the sap of an ASH sapling was use to cure earache. A sapling would be cut and put into the fire. One end was kept out so that when the stick started to burn, the sap came out and was caught in a spoon. This could be put on cotton wool, and put in the ear. This is actually a very old remedy; take, for instance, this leechdom from the fifteenth century: “Take young branches of ash when they are green. Lay them on a gridiron on the fire, and gather the water that cometh out at the ends of them, an egg-shell full; and of the juice of the blades of leeks, an egg-shell full; and of the drippings of eels. Mix all these together, and seethe them together a little; and cleanse them through a cloth, and put it in a glass vessel. And when thou hast need, put this in the whole ear of the sick man and let him lie on the sore ear. And with [this] juice [used] twice, he shall be whole…” Something similar appears in the Welsh medical text known as the Physicians of Myddfai. Evelyn had heard of it, but misunderstood the usage, for he claimed that “oyl from the ash… is excellent to recover the hearing, some drops of it being distill’d warm into the ears. In America, PERSIMMON sap was used in the same kind of way, merely by letting the sap from a burning branch drip into a spoon, and letting that drop into the ear. Another tree thought to provide relief for earache is WHITE POPLAR, though in this case it was the leaves, or rather “the warm juice” of them “dropped into the eares” (to) “take away the paine thereof”, and some American Indians, the Winnebago for example, steeped YARROW, the whole plant, and poured the resulting liquid into the ear. West African peoples drip the juice of GREEN PURSLANE into the ear, and COLTSFOOT juice was used in Ireland.

CARAWAY was used, too — the patient was advised to pound up a hot loaf with a handful of bruised seeds, and clap that to his ear. A Sussex remedy was to bake a SHALLOT and put that in the ear. ONION was used, as early as Apuleius. In an Anglo-Saxon version the prescription required one to boil an onion in oil, and then drip the oil into the ear. The detail may vary, but onions are still being used for the complaint, either, as in America, by putting the heart of a roasted onion in the ear, or, as in Cornwall, by putting a boiled onion in a stocking and holding that to the ear (Hawke). It was treated in Cheshire by warming a small onion and holding it to the ear, or it could be put in flannel and applying that (Cheshire FWI). TOBACCO could be put in the ears to stop the pain, just as a piece could be put on an aching tooth.

A decoction of dried SUMMER SAVORY is used in Russian folk medicine for earache, the method being 2 tablespoonfuls to a glass of water, boiled for a quarter of an hour, and used warm as an ear wash. Ear drops were made from MULLEIN flowers. The method was to take fresh flowers, steep them in olive oil, leave them for three weeks in a sunny window, then strain off. Two or three drops in the ear will relieve earache quickly. Herbalists still use the juice of HOUSELEEK as ear-drops, and squeezing the juice, sometimes mixed with cream, into the ear to cure earache, has been known for a very long time. A name for houseleek used in the north of England is Cyphel, or Syphelt, from the Greek juphella, which means the hollows of the ear. In the Middle Ages, the plant was often called Erewort, too, because it was used for deafness. FEVERFEW was apparently used, warm, on the ear, according to a Suffolk record, and a Wiltshire domestic medicine for earache used CAMOMILE. People made a flannel bag and filled it with camomile heads. This was warmed by the fire and held against the ear. In any case camomile flowers were made into a poultice for the relief of any pain.

An African way of getting relief was to use the juice of a warmed leaf of NEVER-DIE (Kalanchoe crenata).