by Barry Keate
Researchers from a hospital in Hubei Province in central China have conducted a clinical study on the effects of a combination of acupuncture and ginger moxibustion on patients with intractable tinnitus. They had excellent results with 91% of the patients having a moderate reduction to complete resolution of their tinnitus. (1)
Moxibustion is a term known by very few in the West, including me until very recently. It refers to the burning of herbs (most often in conjunction with acupuncture) that have healing powers of their own. The primary herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is mugwort. This is dried, powdered and rolled into a “moxa stick.” The moxa stick is then burned over the acupuncture points. The simultaneous use of moxibustion along with the acupuncture needle intensifies the therapeutic effect at the given acupuncture point.
Chinese Medicine for Tinnitus
Many readers of Quiet Times are familiar with acupuncture. We published our first article, Acupuncture and Tinnitus written by specialist Beth Kohn. Beth is a licensed therapist at the Center for Integrative Medicine at Henry Ford Health System and works with tinnitus authority, Michael Seidman, MD. In it’s simplest description, acupuncture is based on the understanding that we have a vital life force in our bodies described as qi (pronounced chee). Qi represents our life force energy and it fuels all the functions of the body. The energy travels along pathways in the body known as meridians. When there are imbalances in the energy system, they manifest as illness or pain. Acupuncture is the method used to rebalance the energy system.
Chinese researchers believe that deficiency syndromes in qi can lead to tinnitus. The blocking of channels is often severe for patients with intractable tinnitus and ginger, which warms and unblocks channels, can improve blood circulation in the ears especially when combined with acupuncture and moxibustion.
Acupuncture Tinnitus Treatment
The researchers treated 34 patients whose tinnitus duration was between 4 months and 11 years. Prior to the study they conducted physical examinations to rule out various organic causes of tinnitus such as middle ear disease, acoustic neuroma, otosclerosis, head injuries, diabetes, hypothyroid, and autoimmune disease.
Ginger moxibustion was applied simultaneously with acupuncture. Pieces of ginger were sliced into 1 cm thick cubes with a small needle-punctured hole in the center. Then moxa sticks were placed on the ginger and lit. The ginger and moxa sticks were placed on the outer ear (pinna). They were moved around the outer ear until the moxa burned out. Two moxa bars were used for every treatment. One treatment was administered every day for 10 days.
A total of 34 patients were given tinnitus treatment in this fashion. After treatment, 22 patients (64.17%) had a full resolution of their tinnitus, 5 patients (14.71%) showed marked improvement, 4 patients (11.76%) showed moderate improvement and 3 patients (8.82%) had no improvement. The overall effective rate was 91.18%. After 4 months following the treatment 27 patients in the study experienced no worsening of symptoms or recurrence.
Tinnitus Treatment Discussion
This was a very small study including only 34 patients. Studies employing hundreds of patients are usual requirements to be considered scientifically significant. Also, there was no placebo group for controls and the placebo effect could have been quite large, especially in such a small group. Nonetheless, this study is exciting and the results are too positive to dismiss out of hand. Further studies in this field should be conducted.
It is important to note that use of ginger was meant to increase blood circulation in the ear. This was supposedly the method of action for the treatment. This is one of the effects Ginkgo biloba has on inner ear circulation. The other two are neuroprotection through glutamate antagonism and antioxidant activity. The proprietary ginkgo found in Arches Tinnitus Formula®, Ginkgo Max 26/7®, includes a higher concentration of active components than the standard Ginkgo biloba extract of 24/6. Arches Tinnitus Formula is very effective in increasing inner ear circulation and reducing tinnitus and the only product in the world containing Ginkgo Max 26/7.
1 – Li, Shilin, Yan Xiao, Yingli Song and Jiang Wu. “Efficacy Observation of Acupuncture Combined with Ginger Moxibustion to Treatment of 34 Cases of Intractable Tinnitus.” Zhongyi Zhongyao (Traditional Chinese Medicine and Herbs) Aug. 2013: 277-278.