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Garlic, onion top herbal cures for earache

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Can extracts from onion, garlic, lime, olive oil, hog plum, chieftaincy leaf, asthma herb provide novel cure for ear, nose and throat infections? CHUKWUMA MUANYA (Assistant Editor) writes.

Recent studies have shown the efficacy of naturopathic herbal extract (consisting of Allium sativum (garlic), Verbascum thapsus (mullein flowers), Calendula flores (marigolds), and Hypericum peroforatum (St. John’s wort) in olive oil in the management of ear pain associated with acute otitis media (AOM).

The study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics and Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine is titled “Efficacy of Naturopathic Extracts in the Management of Ear Pain Associated With Acute Otitis Media.”

The researchers evaluated the efficacy and tolerance of Otikon Otic Solution (Healthy-On Ltd, Petach-Tikva, Israel), a naturopathic herbal extract (containing Allium sativum, Verbascum thapsus, Calendula flores, and Hypericum perforatum in olive oil), compared with Anaesthetic (Vitamed Pharmaceutical Limited, Benyamina, Israel) ear drops (containing ametocaine and phenazone in glycerin) in the management of ear pain associated with acute otitis media (AOM).

Children between the ages of six and 18 years who experienced ear pain (otalgia) and who were diagnosed with eardrum problems associated with AOM were randomly assigned to be treated with Otikon or Anaesthetic ear drops, which were instilled into the external canal(s) of the affected ear(s). Ear pain was assessed using two visual analog scales: a linear scale and a color scale. Pain assessment took place throughout the course of three days. The mean score of pain reduction was used to measure outcome.

The results showed each of the two treatment groups were comparable on the basis of age, sex, laterality of AOM, and the effectiveness of ameliorating symptoms of otalgia. The two groups were also comparable to each other in the initial ear pain score and in the scores at each application of Otikon or Anaesthetic drops. There was a statistically significant improvement in ear pain score throughout the course of the study period.

The researchers concluded: “Otikon, an ear drop formulation of naturopathic origin, is as effective as Anaesthetic ear drops and was proven appropriate for the management of AOM-associated ear pain.”

Also, a review of medicinal plants for the treatment of earache and tinnitus in Iran published The International Tinnitus Journal showed that the members of families Asteraceae and Lamiaceae were the most commonly used plants to treat earache.

Tinnitus is the perception of noise or ringing in the ears. A common problem, tinnitus affects about one in five people. Tinnitus is a symptom of an underlying condition, such as age-related hearing loss, ear injury or a circulatory system disorder.

The Iranian researchers noted: “… Allium sativum (garlic) can exert therapeutic effects on otitis media. To achieve this purpose, Allium sativum wrapped up in a small piece of clean cloth is applied into the ear to relieve otitis media. To reduce tinnitus, Amygdalus communis oil is dropped, alongside Matricaria recutita juice, into the ear. To reduce tinnitus, first, Origanum majorana is boiled and then its juice is mixed with olive oil; the resulting solution is poured into the ear. Allium cepa (onion) juice is dropped into the ear to reduce tinnitus…”

Four medical plants consisting of Panax ginseng, Melissa officinalis, Allium cepa (onion), and Ginkgo biloba were frequently reported to be used for the treatment of tinnitus by the people of different regions of Iran. Leaves were the most frequently used parts of the plants, including herbal preparations, followed by the flower and roots, fruits, and seeds. Boiling the plant was the most commonly used method of preparation to use these plants to treat earache and tinnitus.

Tinnitus is one of the most common ear, nose, and throat disorders with an estimated 14.2 per cent prevalence in adults. Tinnitus is considered irritating and a serious issue in three to five per cent of the patients. Tinnitus is a complicated and multifactorial disorder; although certain factors such as stress and anxiety, exposure to loud noises, anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, and sedatives are definite causes of tinnitus in some cases, the definite cause of this disease cannot be detected in other cases.

Holistic and novel approaches and therapies to treat tinnitus, which cause few side effects, are constantly being sought out. In many cases, there is no standard treatment for tinnitus. Anti-depressants seem to reduce tinnitus yet with numerous side effects. Current treatments for tinnitus include the use of hearing aids, voice therapy, environmental sound enrichment, adjuvant therapies, vasodilators using corticosteroids, anticonvulsants, antispasmodics, lidocaine, and benzodiazepines. Cinnarizine is an anti-histamine used to treat tinnitus, however, the use of high doses of cinnarizine causes vasodilation.

Earlier study by Nigerian researchers identified 24 medicinal plants used by the Binis in Edo State for the treatment of eye, ear, nose and throat infections.

The ethnobotanical survey showed that among the plants studied some plant species like Allium cepa (onion), Newbouldia laevis (fertility/chieftaincy leaf), Euphorbia hirta (Asthma herb)) and Spondias mombin (Hog plum) are used for the treatment of more than one ailment.

Ethnobotany is a preliminary method of research, suitable for gathering information on the use of plants.

The enthnobotanical survey of plants used in the treatment of ophthalmic and ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) ailments in Benin City, Edo State was published in Experimental Oncology and Ethnobotanical Leaflets.

The researchers led by Prof. MacDonald Idu, G.O. Obaruyi and J. O. Erhabor of the Department of Plant Biology and Biotechnology, University of Benin City, Edo State, revealed that 24 plant species belonging to 18 families and 22 genera are commonly in use in the treatment of eye and ENT; of these, 16 plant species are used for the treatment of eye ailment, five for ear, three for nose while five are used for throat ailment.

The study is titled “Ethnobotanical Uses of Plants Among the Binis in the Treatment of Ophthalmic and ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) Ailments”.

According to the University of Benin study, the information was obtained through administered questionnaire and personal interviews of local healers in the study area. The documented medicinal plants were mostly used to cure ear ache, sore throat, nasal bleeding and eye ailment.

Onion (Allium cepa) is of plant family Liliaceae. Local names: Edo – alubarha; Efik/Ibibio – oyim mbakara; Igbo – yabasi; Yoruba – alubosa. The leaves and bulb are used for asthma, convulsion, hypotension, ulcers, cough, cold and skin infections.

Previous studies have found onion bulb to serve as a stimulant and expectorant. Generally antimicrobial, it is usually crushed and its juice used against skin infections and insect bites. The roasted onion or its compress is used as poultice for tumours, ulcers, earaches and piles.

Juice of onion is mixed with honey in the treatment of asthma, cough, cold convulsion and hypotension (low blood pressure). Fresh onion leaves are mostly used to eat roasted meat (suya) as a carminative and to reduce cholesterol level. Onion bulb is mostly used for flavouring and garnishing soup and foods.

Onion bulb is used for treating irritation of the eye. Roasted bulb in the form of poultice is used for treatment of earache and it is used for brightening eye colour. It is always recommended for people that have dull or reddish eye colour.

The bulb is broken and brought close to the eye to stop irritation. Onion bulb is roasted, molded with the hand then brought close to the ear that is, pasted close to the ear and onion bulb is eaten raw and always used for preparing meals. The broken bulb is brought close to the eyes twice daily, and drop twice daily and onion bulb is eaten daily.

The bulb eaten raw is used as a remedy for insomnia, loss of memory and diabetes. It is also effective for treating hay fever and catarrh and also to cure chest infection and tuberculosis. Bulbs are used for treatment of hemorrhoids, dysentery and asthma. A compression made of roasted bulb is applied to inflamed or protruding piles for relief.

Bulbs and leaves contain riboflavin, sulphur compound-in-prophyl disulphur. It is rich in iodine, sulphur, phosphorus, potassium, calcium. Bulbs contain arginine histidine and isoleucine.

Commonly called fertility plant or tree of life, Newbouldia laevis belongs to the plant family Bignoniaceae. It is called ogirishi in Igbo, akoko in Yoruba, ukhimi in Esan. According to previous studies, the leaves of smooth Newbouldia laevis are squeezed and the extract use to treat eye problems. Roots, barks and leaves are used during childbirth, constipation and on septic wounds. Decoction of the leaves is used to treat sore eye, young fresh leaves are used to cure eye inflammation and redness and the leaves are used for the treatment of ear pain. The leaves are squeezed and the juice from it is dropped into the eye and the young fresh leaves are crushed in little amount of water and the extract is dropped into the eye to cure eye inflammation and redness and the leaves are heated and became weak and squeezed. The juice from it is dropped into the ear against ear pain; one drop, twice daily.

Commonly called Asthma herb, Euphorbia hirta belongs to the plant family Euphorbiaceae. It is called malnomme in French. In Nigeria, it is zgban (that which grows thorns) or asin uloko in Edo, endamyel in Fula-Fulfulde, nnn krcy (dove’s milk) in Hausa, bin (ground fig tree) in Igbo (Asaba), bin (ground fig) in Igbo (Okpanam), banala in Igbo (Owerri), bou obrma (the fruit) in Ijo-Izon, akun esan in Yoruba.

Euphorbia hirta is also locally known as ogwu ngwo (eczema drug) in some Eastern parts of Nigeria is used locally to arrest bleeding in the event of an injury. Leaves of Euphorbia hirta are used in traditional medicine for the treatments of boils, wounds and control of diarrhoea and dysentery.

Commonly called Hog plum, Ashanti plum, Spanish plum, mombin or monbin; Spondias mombin is of the plant family Anacardiaceae. To the French, it is mombin, or monbin. In Nigeria, it is kechibo in Bokyi; ogheeghe (the fruit) in Edo; nsukakara in Efik; tsadar masar in Hausa; ijikara, ogogo, ngwu or ungwu in Igbo; aginiran in Ijaw; kakka in Tiv; ogghighen in Urhobo; iyeye (the fruit) or akika (the tree) in Yoruba.

Preliminary results report a wide range of antibacterial and antifungal properties. The chemistries of this plant has been reported, recommended its use for pregnant woman but only after five months of pregnancy. The results indicate that the cytotoxic effects of the plant may have some benefits in protecting the foetus from foreign pathogens. High levels of cytotoxicity are believed to be a good indicator of analgesic properties. The use to ease pain during childbirth supports this evidence. The results of antibacterial and antifungal bioassays demonstrate growth inhibition.

Nigerian researchers have studied the sedative, antiepileptic and antipsychotic effects of Spondias mombin in mice and rats. Infusion of fresh leaves is used for the treatment of short sightedness and Infusion of fresh leaves plus lime juice is used for the treatment of cataract. The fresh leaves are squeezed in water and filtered and also fresh leaves are squeezed in water plus lime juice; and taken one cup thrice daily.

The juice from fresh leaves with lime juice is used against cataract. The leaves are used against convulsion and stomachache. Infusion of leaves is used for the treatment of cold and cough. The decoction or macerated stem bark is used against severe cough, with immature palm nuts used for the treatment of fibroid. The juice from the fruit is used as a febrifuge (a medication that reduces fever) and for diuretic (any drug that elevates the rate of urination) purpose. The stem bark is fungicidal and showed anti-tumour property when it was administered on Wister Rat.


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