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Tinnitus Library

Ask Barry - May 2006

Ginkgo and Cancer? Hi Barry, Always enjoy your email newsletters....very informative. I am unable to take Gingko Biloba; my sister had breast cancer several years ago and her Oncologist told her daughter and also me to not take Gingko Biloba. Have you ever heard any connection to it and cancer?

Therefore, I cannot take your product that contains Gingko Billboard, but do suffer greatly from tinnitus. Do you think your Stress Formula would help my tinnitus? Your response would be greatly appreciated.


Dear Sandra, Thank you for asking this question. It is extremely important that the relationship between Ginkgo and cancer be understood. It is important enough that it may be the source of a newsletter article in the future.

Yes, I have heard of a connection between Ginkgo and cancer. However, the connection is the opposite of what your sister’s oncologist told her. Everything that I have seen shows that Ginkgo is a powerful inhibitor of cancer growth. This has just been hitting the news in the past few months and is extremely exciting.

The idea that Ginkgo should not be used by women susceptible to breast cancer has arisen from the fact that it has weak estrogenic activity. This was found in a study investigating whether Ginkgo could be used as an alternative to Hormone Replacement Therapy. However, this did not show that Ginkgo is counter-indicated for women susceptible to cancer. Studies conducted below have shown this not to be the case.

In a study reported by Reuters and published by MSNBC on November 10, 2005, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that women who took Ginkgo biloba extract for the previous 6 months were 60% less likely to develop ovarian cancer. They then decided to test this hypothesis in their laboratory. In a laboratory study, Dr. Bin Ye treated ovarian cancer cells with Ginkgolides A and B, active ingredients in Ginkgo biloba extract, for 72 hours. This led to an 80% decrease in the growth of the cancer cells. “To conclude, Ginkgo biloba may decrease the risk of ovarian cancer in the general population,” Ye said.

"While the detailed mechanism of ginkgo action on ovarian cancer cells is not yet well understood," Ye explains, "from the existing literature it is most likely that Ginkgo and Ginkgolides are involved in anti-inflammation and anti-angiogenesis processes via many extra- and intra-cellular signal pathways.” Angiogenesis is the process whereby tumors promote formation of new blood vessels to facilitate their growth. Anti-angiogenesis research is on the cutting edge of cancer treatment and is thought by many researchers to be the most promising area of research in the search for a cancer cure.

There is also good news about breast cancer, which totally refutes the oncologist’s recommendation, published by the journal Anticancer Research in January-February, 2006. Georgetown University Medical Center researchers reported that treating mice with the extract both before and after implanting human breast or brain tumors decreased expression of a cell receptor associated with invasive cancer. The growth of the breast tumors was slowed by an impressive 80 percent as long as the extract was used.

The study found that in addition to one form of aggressive breast cancer (invasive estrogen-receptor negative), certain brain, colon, and prostate cancers also responded to treatment. While the extract did nothing to cancers that were not invasive, it significantly slowed the growth of aggressive cancer cells. Again, most likely though the property of anti-angiogenesis.

"It is very encouraging that Ginkgo biloba appeared to reduce the aggressiveness of these cancers, because it suggests that the leaves could be useful in some early stage diseases to prevent them from becoming invasive, or spreading," said the study's senior author, Vassilios Papadopoulos, DPharm, PhD, Director, Biomedical Graduate Research Organization and Associate Vice President of Georgetown University Medical Center.

Please present these findings to your sister’s oncologist. I will be very interested in the reply.

Wishing you quiet times, Barry Keate

Viagra and Tinnitus

Hi Barry, Do drugs like Viagra and Cialis worsen tinnitus either temporarily of permanently?


Dear RJ, This is an important question and one that has not been previously asked. Thank you for sending it in.

Viagra and Cialis should not cause or worsen tinnitus for most people. One effect of these medications is to lower blood pressure temporarily. Lowering blood pressure should help relieve tinnitus.

I’ve found an interesting contradiction in the literature about these medications. The 2006 Physician’s Desk Reference (PDR) does not list tinnitus as a possible side effect of either Viagra or Cialis. But an on-line search for side effects shows that tinnitus occurs in less than 2% of people who use them. This is not a high number and it should not necessarily discourage use. However, if you’re in that 2%, you don’t care that 98% of people did not have this happen.

I suggest you use the medications but be watchful of whether they affect tinnitus. If they don’t, I wouldn’t worry about it. If they cause or worsen tinnitus, discontinue immediately. I doubt that they will cause permanent damage if stopped quickly.

Wishing you quiet times, Barry Keate

Cordyceps for tinnitus? Dear Barry, Thanks for all of the answers. I read all of Quiet Times because I too am a victim of tinnitus. My question is about cordyceps. Has any research been done? I received information from two different people that it will reduce tinnitus.

Thanks and keep up the good work W.A.

Dear WA, Cordyceps is a mushroom fungus that attaches itself to caterpillars in China. For centuries it was very rare and only used in the Emperor’s court. Recently it has been cultivated on brown rice and is now available through health food stores. It is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for its anti-asthmatic and expectorant properties. It boosts energy levels, is very healthy for the liver and kidneys and improves immune function. It is a very healthy product to use.

There was one small clinical study of cordyceps on 23 people who had tinnitus. Eight people claimed it cured their tinnitus and nine said they had significant relief. There are conflicting reports on this study. Some say the participants involved suffered from tinnitus due to fluid build-up in the middle ear. This view holds that the expectorant properties of the cordyceps are what helped them relieve their symptoms and it is not effective for those who have cochlear or hearing nerve damage. However, there have also been reports that IV infusion with cordyceps has helped people with tinnitus.

I think the jury is still out on this issue. Since cordyceps is very healthful and doesn’t seem to have any harmful side effects, I think it’s worth a try. Please let me know how it works for you. If it is effective, we’ll let others know.

Wishing you quiet times, Barry Keate

NOTE: "Ask Barry" is pleased to be able to answer your questions based upon the information we have available. Our answers to your email inquiries are not substitutes for a physician's advice nor are they reviewed by a physician. If you are under a physician's care, please share with your doctor any suggestions you have received from Ask Barry.