Symptom family: Ear Disorders and Symptoms

Parent symptom: Otitis

Sub-symptom(s): Chronic Otitis Media Acute Otitis Media

What is Otitis Media?

Otitis media is an infection or inflammation of the middle ear that often arises after a cold or respiratory infection. It can present as either acute, with rapid onset and significant pain, or chronic, where the condition persists or frequently recurs, sometimes with fluid persistently trapped behind the eardrum. It is a common ailment, particularly in children, and can lead to symptoms such as earache, fever, and hearing difficulty.

How does TCM view Otitis Media?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approaches otitis media as a manifestation of imbalance within the body's energetic system. The ear is viewed as a convergence point for Channels that connect to internal organs, so ear health is intricately linked to the overall Qi (vital energy), Blood, Yin, and Yang of the body.

TCM recognizes that identifying the root pattern of disharmony, which could be an Excess, Deficiency, or Stagnation of these energies, is essential in selecting the appropriate treatment strategy.

Causes of Otitis Media According to TCM

In TCM, the causes of otitis media are often attributed to external pathogenic factors like Wind, Heat, or Cold invading the meridians that reach the ear. For example, Wind-Cold may obstruct the ear's Channels, leading to the typical symptoms of an ear infection.

Conversely, Heat can cause inflammation and pain. Recognizing these patterns is critical, as they guide the practitioner to the appropriate therapeutic approach, whether it involves expelling Wind, clearing Heat, resolving Phlegm, or tonifying the Qi and Blood to strengthen the body's resistance.

TCM Herbal Formulas for Otitis Media

The selection of TCM formulas and herbs for otitis media is tailored based on the identified pattern. For Wind-Cold invasions, formulas like Ge Gen Tang, which utilizes the properties of Kudzu Roots, can be effective in expelling the Cold and releasing the exterior. In cases of Wind-Heat, Jing Jie Lian Qiao Tang, with its pungent and neutral properties, may be used to clear Heat and dispel Wind.

Shi Wei Bai Du San could be applied when Toxic-Heat is present, indicating a more severe and possibly infectious condition. Each formula is carefully chosen to address the specific type of imbalance causing the otitis media.

Explore below some TCM herbal formulas used to address otitis media, organized by formula type.

  • By Formula Type
  • Formulas that clear wind-Cold
  • Formulas that clear wind-Heat
  • Formulas that clear external abscesses and sores
  • Formulas that secure irregular uterine bleeding and stop vaginal discharge
  • Formulas that clear qi-level heat
  • External formulas for external disorders
  • Formulas that warm the middle and dispel cold

All "formulas that clear wind-Cold" recommended for otitis media

Formula Key herbs
Ge Gen Tang Kudzu Roots (Ge Gen)
Ma Huang Tang Ephedra (Ma Huang)

Acupoints for Otitis Media

TCM also incorporates acupuncture as a treatment modality for otitis media. Points like Tinghui GB-2, located anterior to the intertragic notch, are selected for their effectiveness in benefiting the ears and expelling Wind.

Xiaxi GB-43, found between the toes, can be useful in subduing Liver Yang and expelling Damp-Heat. These points are stimulated to open up the meridians, alleviate pain, and address the underlying disharmony contributing to the ear infection.

Explore below some acupoints used to address otitis media, organized by meridian.

  • By Meridian
  • Gall Bladder Channel
Tinghui GB-2

Tinghui GB-2

Anterior to the intertragic notch, directly below Tinggong SI-19, at the posterior border of the condyloid process of the mandible.

Xiaxi GB-43

Xiaxi GB-43

Between the 4th and 5th toes, proximal to the margin of the interdigital web.

TCM Herbs for Otitis Media

Explore below some TCM herbs used to address otitis media, organized by herb category.

  • By Herb Category
  • Tonic herbs for qi deficiency
  • Warm/Acrid herbs that release the exterior
  • Cool/Acrid herbs that release the exterior
  • Herbs that clear heat and relieve toxicity
  • Herbs that clear heat and purge fire and/or clear summer heat
  • Herbs that open the orifices
  • Herbs for external application

"Tonic herbs for Qi Deficiency" recommended for otitis media

Herb Formulas they belong to (if applicable)
Atractylodes Rhizomes (Bai Zhu) Wan Dai Tang
Yam (Shan Yao) Wan Dai Tang
Milkvetch Roots (Huang Qi) Huang Qi Jian Zhong Tang
Maltose (Yi Tang) Huang Qi Jian Zhong Tang

"Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior" recommended for otitis media

Herb Formulas they belong to (if applicable)
Japanese Catnip (Jing Jie) Jing Jie Lian Qiao Tang | Shi Wei Bai Du San
Ephedra (Ma Huang) Ma Huang Tang
Saposhnikovia Roots (Fang Feng) Shi Wei Bai Du San