Tinnitus according to Chinese Medicine

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Tinnitus can be the consequence of several so-called “patterns of disharmony” in Chinese Medicine.

Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted, leading to symptoms or signs that something is wrong (like tinnitus here). It is similar to the concept of disease in Western Medicine but not quite: a Western disease can often be explained by several Chinese patterns and vice-versa.

A pattern often manifests itself in a combination of symptoms that, at first glance, do not seem necessarily related to each others. For instance here tinnitus is often associated with dizziness, night sweats and insomnia in the pattern “Kidney Yin Deficiency”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause tinnitus.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of tinnitus we’ve identified five herbal formulas that may help treat patterns behind the symptom.

We’ve also selected below the five medicinal herbs that we think are most likely to help treat tinnitus.

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause tinnitus

In Chinese Medicine tinnitus is a symptom for 5 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

The Kidneys is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Kidneys in Chinese Medicine

Kidney Yin Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Empty (Xu), Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Complete absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

Tongue shape: Cracked

Kidney Yin Deficiency causes false Heat symptoms, such as night sweats, thirst and five palm heat. These signs are from a depletion of Body Fluids and Essence. It can be caused by prolonged overwork, excessive sexual activity, chronic long term illnesses, consumption of Body Fluids by Heat, prolonged blood loss, overdosage of Kidney Yang tonics herbs, smoking and Kidney depleting foods such as coffee, alcohol, sugar, and fruit juices.

In addition to tinnitus, other symptoms associated with Kidney Yin Deficiency include dizziness, night sweats and insomnia.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Kidney Yin Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Menopausal Syndrome, Prolonged Periods or Irregular Menstruation.

Kidney Yin Deficiency is often treated with Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Liu Wei Di Huang Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system)".

Read more about Kidney Yin Deficiency here

The Kidneys is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Kidneys in Chinese Medicine

Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu), Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Partial absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

In addition to tinnitus, other symptoms associated with Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency include dizziness, night sweats and insomnia.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Absence Of Menstruation, Menopausal Syndrome or Vaginal Itching.

Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency is often treated with Zuo Gui Wan, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Zuo Gui Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nourishes the Yin".

Read more about Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency here

The Kidneys is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Kidneys in Chinese Medicine

Kidney Essence Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu), Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Complete absence of coating

Tongue color: Pale

Kidney Essence (Jing 精) Deficiency usually involves Deficiency of Kidney Yin and, to some extent, Kidney Yang. Its symptoms are typically in relation to growth, development, reproduction, sexuality, bones, marrow, the brain, teeth, memory and hair.

In addition to tinnitus, other symptoms associated with Kidney Essence Deficiency include dizziness, blurred vision and lower back pain.

Kidney Essence Deficiency is often treated with Zuo Gui Wan, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Zuo Gui Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nourishes the Yin".

Read more about Kidney Essence Deficiency here

The Liver is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Liver in Chinese Medicine

Liver Fire Blazing

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Wiry (Xian), Full (Shi)

In addition to tinnitus, other symptoms associated with Liver Fire Blazing include dizziness, irritability and dry stools.

Liver Fire Blazing is often treated with Long Dan Xie Gan Tang, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Chinese Gentian - Long Dan Cao - as a key herb). Long Dan Xie Gan Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear heat from the organs", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Heat and Fire from the Liver and Gallbladder".

Read more about Liver Fire Blazing here

The Kidneys is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Kidneys in Chinese Medicine

Kidney and Lung Yin Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Empty (Xu), Floating (Fu)

In addition to tinnitus, other symptoms associated with Kidney and Lung Yin Deficiency include dizziness, night sweats and lower back pain.

Kidney and Lung Yin Deficiency is often treated with Ba Xian Chang Shou Wan, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Ba Xian Chang Shou Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Treats Yin Deficiency of the Lungs and Kidneys".

Read more about Kidney and Lung Yin Deficiency here

Five herbal formulas that might help with tinnitus

Liu Wei Di Huang Wan

Source date: 1119 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system).

Why might Liu Wei Di Huang Wan help with tinnitus?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney Yin Deficiency' of which tinnitus is a symptom.

Read more about Liu Wei Di Huang Wan here

Zuo Gui Wan

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes the Yin. Strengthens the Kidneys. Fills the Essence. Augments the marrow.

Why might Zuo Gui Wan help with tinnitus?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency' of which tinnitus is a symptom.

Read more about Zuo Gui Wan here

Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan

Source date: 1550 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Kidney Yang. Strengthens the Essence.

Why might Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan help with tinnitus?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney Essence Deficiency' of which tinnitus is a symptom.

Read more about Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan here

Long Dan Xie Gan Tang

Source date: 1682 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat and Fire from the Liver and Gallbladder. Clears and drains Damp-Heat from the Lower Burner.

Why might Long Dan Xie Gan Tang help with tinnitus?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Fire Blazing' of which tinnitus is a symptom.

Read more about Long Dan Xie Gan Tang here

Ba Xian Chang Shou Wan

Source date: 1615 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Treats Yin Deficiency of the Lungs and Kidneys.

Why might Ba Xian Chang Shou Wan help with tinnitus?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney and Lung Yin Deficiency' of which tinnitus is a symptom.

Read more about Ba Xian Chang Shou Wan here

Acupuncture points used for tinnitus

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat tinnitus

Why might Yam (Shan Yao) help with tinnitus?

Because Yam is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat tinnitus as a symptom, like Liu Wei Di Huang Wan or Ba Xian Chang Shou Wan for instance.

Yam is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney, the Lung and the Spleen.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen and Stomach. Tonifies the Lung Qi and nourishes the Lung Yin. Nourishes the Kidneys and consolidates Jing.

Read more about Yam here

Why might Water Plantain (Ze Xie) help with tinnitus?

Because Water Plantain is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat tinnitus as a symptom, like Liu Wei Di Huang Wan or Ba Wei Di Huang Wan for instance.

Water Plantain is a Cold herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Bladder and the Kidney.

Its main actions are: Causes urination and removes Damp-Heat

Read more about Water Plantain here

Why might Mudan Peony Bark (Mu Dan Pi) help with tinnitus?

Because Mudan Peony Bark is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat tinnitus as a symptom, like Liu Wei Di Huang Wan or Ba Wei Di Huang Wan for instance.

Mudan Peony Bark is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Heart, the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Cools the Blood, activates Blood circulation and resolves Blood stasis.

Read more about Mudan Peony Bark here

Why might Cornelian Cherry (Shan Zhu Yu) help with tinnitus?

Because Cornelian Cherry is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat tinnitus as a symptom, like Liu Wei Di Huang Wan or Ba Xian Chang Shou Wan for instance.

Cornelian Cherries is a Warm herb that tastes Sour. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Preserves and tonifies the Kidney, Liver and Essence. Stops sweating and benefits the Yang and Qi. Assists menstruation and stops bleeding.

Read more about Cornelian Cherries here

Why might Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di Huang) help with tinnitus?

Because Prepared Rehmannia is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat tinnitus as a symptom, like Liu Wei Di Huang Wan or Zuo Gui Wan for instance.

Prepared Rehmannia is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Tonifies the Yin of the Kidneys.

Read more about Prepared Rehmannia here