IN SHORT: Social media posts and accounts advise using CBD, an ingredient of marijuana, to treat tinnitus. But studies have found no compelling evidence for this, and there is also no link between the Shark Tank TV series and the CBD gummies being advertised.
Various posts advertising CBD products for tinnitus can be found on Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) here, here, here, here, here and here, as well as one particularly popular post with 15,000 views here.
The claim has done the rounds on social media before, prompting news outlets like USA Today and AFP to look into it in 2021 and 2022. With the claim spreading again in December 2023, we took a closer look at the science behind tinnitus and CBD.
Tinnitus, CBD and reality TV
One of the posts advertises a “natural remedy” for tinnitus, and gives a testimonial of sorts: “My tinnitus is gone, and I can hear sounds I had in my twenties again.”
The post itself links to a website claiming that chemists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a prominent research university in the US, had pitched a remedy called GreenVibe CBD Gummies while appearing on the business reality TV show Shark Tank. The website claims this is a “powerful treatment for tinnitus”.
But although the contestants mentioned in some of the claims did appear on Shark Tank in 2014, this was to promote an educational subscription service for children, not CBD gummies. As USA Today explained, the contestants have clarified that their supposed connection to the gummies was part of a scam, and that they had never pitched the product on the show.
CBD as a medicine
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of many ingredients contained in the cannabis plant, but is not psychoactive, so does not produce a “high”. CBD has become a popular wellness product, regulated in South Africa as a complementary medicine for consumption in small doses.
This picture looks a little less rosy when it comes to scientific evidence. CBD-containing medicines have been approved in the United States for treating some forms of epilepsy. But, as Africa Check has reported before, other health claims surrounding the product are often not backed by scientific evidence.
Some research suggests CBD may be effective in reducing stress or anxiety symptoms, but this is preliminary, and has tested much higher doses than are permitted in South Africa.
The research landscape around CBD and tinnitus is similar. According to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), as a condition tinnitus involves hearing a sound in one or both ears that does not come from an external source, usually described as a ringing or buzzing noise.
Tinnitus is a common condition and can be short- or long-lasting. It is not always clear what causes it, but it has been linked with ear wax blockages, hearing loss, ageing, and some infections and illnesses. Tinnitus by itself is generally not considered a serious medical problem, but in severe cases it can impact mood, sleep and concentration.
Research on tinnitus and cannabinoids
Research has generally looked at various ingredients in cannabis, collectively called cannabinoids, rather than just CBD, in relation to tinnitus. In a recent survey, a small sample of people reported that cannabis helped their tinnitus. But other studies have found mixed results, with some suggesting cannabis might even be linked to developing tinnitus or making it worse.
Researchers have published papers reviewing the literature around cannabinoids and tinnitus. In one review from 2020, the authors concluded that “there is no compelling data either from animal or human studies” that suggests ingredients in cannabis can treat tinnitus.
The same conclusion was reached by a similar review, which suggested that although CBD could in theory help with the condition, there simply wasn’t proper evidence to support this.
The use of CBD in treating tinnitus is therefore not supported by scientific evidence, and cannabis may even worsen the condition. As always, steer clear of supplements making promises that sound too good to be true.
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