If you are suffering from noise or ringing in the ears, you may be experiencing tinnitus. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is not actually a disease or a condition but rather a symptom of an underlying issue such as an ear injury, circulatory disorder or hearing loss due to age. Treatment for tinnitus varies but may include supplements such as ginkgo biloba.
Tinnitus is often described as phantom noises in the ear, which may include ringing, roaring, buzzing or whistling. These sounds can be heard in one or both ears and can get so loud that if affects your ability to concentrate. The most common type of tinnitus is caused by ear problems in the outer, middle or inner ear. Less frequently, it may also be caused by a blood vessel issue or from an inner ear bone condition. Tinnitus can be a symptom of age-related hearing loss, earwax blockage, stress, depression, Meniere's disease, TMJ disorders and head or neck injuries. Treatment for tinnitus is dependent on its cause but may involve hearing aides, white noise machines, antidepressants, and alternative therapies such as hypnosis and acupuncture, as well as herbs and supplements such as zinc, lipoflavonoid and ginkgo biloba.
Ginkgo biloba is an herb that has strong antioxidant and circulatory-promoting properties. It contains two active compounds, flavonoids and terpenoids, that appear to help protect the nerves, blood vessels and heart muscles from free radical damage, as well as improves blood flow by dilating the blood vessels. Ginkgo can be found in capsule, tablet, liquid extract and tea form. Since tinnitus is often associated with blood vessel disorders and ginkgo biloba improves circulation, it is often used for tinnitus.
Unfortunately, scientific studies are showing that ginkgo biloba does not help tinnitus. In fact, it may be harmful. In a study published in the June 2004 issue of "Clinical Otolaryngology and Allied Sciences," researchers proved that using ginkgo to treat tinnitus symptoms showed no significant impact compared to a placebo. A year later, in the August issue of the "Journal of Ethnopharmacology," ginkgo biloba was once again proved to be an ineffective treatment for tinnitus. Researchers stated that using it as a therapeutic remedy was a waste of money and could have potential adverse side effects if used with other medications. In 2011, in the January/February issue of the "American Journal of Otolaryngology," clinicians did show a very small improvement using ginkgo as a treatment for tinnitus but not enough to be considered significant or to recommend as a viable treatment option.
Ginkgo biloba is considered safe but with any herb or supplement, it is best to check with a doctor before using. There may be some minor side effects while taking ginkgo that may include gastrointestinal upset, headaches, skin reactions and dizziness. The University of Maryland Medical Center advises that if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have epilepsy or are taking blood thinners to avoid using ginkgo without the knowledge of your physician. It is also imperative to stop consuming ginkgo prior to surgeries or dental procedures because it might increase your risk of bleeding complications.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Ginkgo Biloba
- Mayo Clinic: Tinnitus
- "Journal of Ethnopharmacology"; Ginkgo Biloba Extracts For Tinnitus: More Hype Than Hope?; P.F. Smith, et al.; August 2005
- "American Journal of Otolaryngology"; Simvastatin and Ginkgo Biloba in the Treatment of Subacute Tinnitus: A Retrospective Study of 94 Patients; M. Canis, et al.; January/February 2011
- "Clinical Otolaryngology and Allied Sciences"; Ginkgo Biloba Does Not Benefit Patients With Tinnitus: A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Double-Blind trial and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Trials; D. Rejali, et al.; June 2004