Mother Earth Living

Herbal Treatments for Tinnitus

Learn about these herbal treatments for tinnitus, includes Q and A with leading natural health experts.
By the Mother Earth Living editors
November/December 2005
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Periwinkle (Vinca minor) is used by some practitioners as an herbal treatment for tinnitus.
Photo by Karen Bergeron, www.altnature.com
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Herbal Treatments for Tinnitus

I have problems with tinnitus, mild dizziness and lightheadedness. I’ve tried many vitamins and herbs, with no success. I tried ginkgo for a month, but I am getting tired of it. Do you have any idea how to solve it?
L.R.
Via e-mail

Willard responds: This is one of the more difficult health issues I have treated in the last 30 years. I have seen research stating that ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is up to 80 percent successful for tinnitus (ringing in the ears), but another research paper from a few years ago found no significant cure rate for tinnitus in almost 1,000 patients, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. My experience in treating tinnitus with ginkgo has produced a success rate of around 20 to 30 percent.

Is there a way to get better results? Well, to be honest, treating tinnitus is very difficult. The overall success rate for treating tinnitus in our clinic is between 40 and 50 percent. I have had the best results when using kidney and/or liver herbs (especially tonics) according to Chinese medical theory. Because ginkgo works as a tonic for the capillaries of the kidneys, treating tinnitus with ginkgo makes sense from this perspective. I also have had favorable results with two Chinese products (patent medicines): Beijing Concentrated Tinnitus pills and Liu Wei Di Huang Wan. These are available at health-food stores and herb shops.

Several other supplements have yielded varying levels of success. One Western herb I recently have used with success is rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea), 1,000 mg twice daily. I also recommend a rotation of the following herbs: black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), 40 to 60 mg twice daily; ligustrum (Ligustrum lucidum), 400 mg three times daily; mullein (Verbascum spp.), 2 to 4 grams daily of herb equivalent, plus mullein oil in the ears; lesser periwinkle (Vinca minor), 20 mg three times daily; and zinc, 50 to 100 mg daily.

Foods also can be helpful, such as sunflower seeds, fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) seed tea, onions and litchi fruit. I often refer patients to a reputable acupuncturist and/or homeopath, as both of these approaches have had some success.

Khalsa responds: Your symptoms are indicative of many possible conditions, some of which are potentially quite serious, so medical assessment is essential. Tinnitus is one of the most difficult conditions to treat with any therapy. It has many causes, including brain dysfunctions and damage caused by loud noises.

Ginkgo has been shown to benefit tinnitus, but scientific results have been mixed. Certain recent experiments have shown very good success, but in others, ginkgo was no better than a placebo. Natural healing practitioners, who use it widely, report good outcomes. Ginkgo has antioxidant qualities, and the herb is an ideal treatment for a host of disorders of the head and brain. And general inner ear dysfunction, including dizziness and vertigo, is treated with ginkgo extract.

The original French study on ginkgo for tinnitus used a simple 95 percent alcohol tincture of dried leaf, which proved to be quite effective, and this preparation is dramatically less expensive than the highly processed European extracts that now dominate the market.

Another plant that may help is the cordyceps mushroom (Cordyceps sinensis). Cordyceps may well be the next ginseng, due to its seeming ability to increase energy levels, sex drive and athletic performance. A dose of 3 grams daily may lead to significant improvements in tinnitus, as well as fatigue, dizziness, cold intolerance, frequent nighttime urination, low libido and memory loss.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, where it is called dong chong xia cao, cordyceps is classified as a general health tonic, with the capability to improve energy, stamina, appetite, endurance and sleeping patterns. It’s also used in treating circulatory, respiratory and immune problems, as well as sexual dysfunction. It is thought to have a particularly beneficial effect on the kidneys and lungs. There are scant human studies on cordyceps, but its traditional uses, along with current animal research, add up to a pretty compelling picture.

Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa has more than 25 years of experience with medicinal herbs. He is a licensed dietitian/nutritionist, massage therapist and board member of the American Herbalists Guild. Khalsa’s book Body Balance is available on our Bookshelf, page 58.

Terry Willard is a clinical herbalist, president of the Canadian Association of Herbal Practitioners and founder of the Wild Rose College of Natural Healing in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He is the author of eight books and a CD-ROM, Interactive Herbal.

Please send your questions to Herbs for Health “Q & A,” 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609; fax (785) 274-4305; or e-mail us at letters@herbsforhealth.com. Provide your name and full address for verification, although both will be kept confidential.

The information offered in “Q & A” is not intended to be a substitute for advice from your health care provider.


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