Your ears, nose and throat are not only in close proximity to each other. They are, in fact, intimately connected. When things are going well, this trio elicits no complaint. But if an infection, inflammation or allergic response occurs, they are no slouches at expressing discomfort.

Sinus cavities in the skull are not only for filtering and warming air before that air reaches the lungs. They also lighten the skull and act as resonance chambers for sounds. These air pockets are connected with your throat and ears. When the passages become congested through inflammation or mucus accumulation, our ears hurt. The open connection between nose, ear and throat allows for the exchange of fluids, permitting the transformation of a cold into an excruciatingly painful ear infection.

For any of us, child or no, infections and inflammations in one area can often be readily communicated to another. However, there’s a plus side to this: the herbs and nutrients that tone and protect the sinuses do the same for the ears and throat.

Nasal Nutrients

It’s a rare individual for whom cod liver oil is a fond childhood memory. But guess what? This oil is loaded with the very things that keeps your mucus membranes in top condition (and you thought colds stayed away because of your fish breath!) Chew a sprig of parsley after taking cod liver oil to avoid burping and fish odors.

A deficiency of vitamin A is a frequent culprit for sinusitis. Both vitamins A and D protect the skin lining your air passages, helping them function at their peak.

Zinc is another ear, nose and throat helper. Sucking on a zinc lozenge will coat the cells lining your throat, creating a barrier that viruses can’t easily penetrate. (Viruses perpetuate themselves by invading cells and forcing the cells to replicate more viruses.) Make sure you consume lots of copper-rich foods like dark leafy greens, dates, black figs, raisins, blackstrap molasses, beans, nuts and seeds to avoid creating a zinc-copper imbalance. Vitamin C also helps to reverse the effects of congestion, inflammation and infection. If you’re taking more than 500 mg a day, choose a buffered form of vitamin C to reduce the irritation that its acidity can cause your stomach, kidneys and bladder.

Rich herbal sources of vitamins A and C are dandelion greens, stinging nettle, alfalfa, raspberry leaf, chickweed and hyssop. These are also rich in iron, which is an important mineral for rebuilding healthy cells.

Dandelion root and greens, along with Siberian ginseng, will improve your immune system response. Better still, all have demonstrated that large amounts consumed over a long period of time will have no negative side effects. These herbs can also be treated as foods. Steam the nettles, but all others can be eaten raw in salads, or included in soups, sandwiches or even lasagna. Or be conventional and enjoy them in teas. An adult’s therapeutic dose would be one teaspoon of dried herbs per cup of boiled water, taken three times daily. Infants up to one year old can take one or two teaspoons of this liquid three times daily. One- to five-year-olds can take one eighth of a cup just as frequently. From ages five to 12, I advise half a teaspoon of dried herbs per cup of boiled water and between one half and one cup taken three times daily.

Throat Therapy

If you or your child presently suffer from earaches, try this simple but effective remedy given to me by a terrific Edmonton physician. Pour two tablespoons into a small stainless steel or enamel pot. Add two or three cloves of peeled garlic. Simmer this over low heat until the garlic blackens. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain out the garlic. Apply the oil into the ear by dropper and feel the relief. The oil softens ear wax and the garlic is antiseptic, antibacterial, antimicrobial and antifungal. I also put four peeled and sliced garlic cloves into cold-pressed olive oil and let sit for 24 hours, then strain. This remedy will yield the same results.

Another of my time-honored remedies for sore throat has even defeated more than a few strep throat infections. Dilute apple cider vinegar with an equal amount of water. Gargle. That’s it. Your throat will feel less raspy and painful right away. Otherwise, add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and one tablespoon of unpasteurized honey to a cup of boiled water. This blend will thin mucus and reduce acidity in the body, making your ears, nose and throat less hospitable to viruses and bacteria. Add a slice of ginger for extra warming benefits.

For congested sinuses, try inhaling the steam from a bowl of boiled water in which you have steeped elder flowers and peppermint. Drape a towel over your head, trapping the steam. Inhale deeply for five to 10 minutes. Both of these herbs have antiseptic qualities and help to cleanse the sinuses and throat.

An alternate steam recipe is the simple addition of one or two drops of essential oil of peppermint in boiled water. More is not better, for peppermint oil is powerful and can irritate your eyes and skin if used in greater amounts.

Finally, eat lots of dark leafy greens, especially herbs, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables; avoid processed foods, sweets and fried foods; drink plenty of water; and give your body the rest it needs to restore and maintain your health. Supplement your diet with zinc and vitamins A, C and D. Yes, Mom was right. Cod liver oil is very good for you!

About the Author

Ruth Yanor-McRae is a master herbalist, iridologist, writer and speaker working in the Edmonton General Hospital.