Vertigo was first recognized as an inner ear disorder in the 1860s by the French physician Prosper Meniere. The syndrome we now refer to as Meniere's (pronounced men-EARS) Disease was named after him.
Meniere's Disease (MD) is a disorder of the vestibular system, or inner ear, and affects hearing and balance. The disorder presents in the adult years, and its prevalence increases with age. It affects more women than men. MD is characterized by intermittent episodes of tinnitus (ringing in the ears), vertigo and hearing loss. It affects different people differently, and can range in severity from mild to severe. Related symptoms can include a sensation of pressure in the ears, migraine headaches, anxiety, sweating, nausea, vomiting, and nystagmus (uncontrollable jerky, rhythmic eye movements). Vertigo, or dizziness, does not cause loss of consciousness, but can cause motion sickness and can also lead to falls.
There are three types of vertigo which have been identified. If one has the sensation that the environment is in motion, they are experiencing objective vertigo. If the person feels as though he or she is in motion, it is called subjective vertigo. Rotational vertigo is the sensation of spinning. Initially, vertigo is experienced intermittently, but it can become chronic and debilitating. Tinnitus and loss of the ability to hear lower frequencies of sound may come and go, and may affect one ear or alternate between ears. The loss of hearing may eventually become permanent.
There is no definitive test for MD, so it is diagnosed when other causes for the symptoms have been ruled out. If you have symptoms which suggest MD, consult your physician to make sure it is not another, more severe condition before trying to treat the symptoms on your own.
MD is linked to an excess of fluid in the ears, called “hydrops”, which is associated with a number of conditions. These include labyrinthitis, middle ear infection, head trauma, spinal misalignment, autoimmune disorders, upper respiratory infection, food allergies, smoking tobacco, alcohol consumption, poor circulation, excessive salt in the diet and use of aspirin. It is also associated with a reactivation of a dormant herpes virus (HSV). Studies have shown a very strong correlation between a history of HSV infection and the presence of Meniere's Disease.
Doctors prescribe a wide variety of prescription drugs to manage the symptoms of MD. There are also many effective natural remedies, which can relieve symptoms and even complement the treatment your doctor prescribes.
Natural Remedies for the Symptoms of Meniere's Disease
There is no cure for Meniere's Disease, so treatment is focused on relieving the symptoms. As there are many potential causes for the disorder, each person will find their own unique solutions. Here are some suggestions for a natural approach to symptom management.
Diet : My first recommendation is always to drink plenty of water. Water helps the body in many ways, and with MD, it helps eliminate sodium in the body through increased urination, thus decreasing fluid collection in the inner ear and reducing vestibular pressure.
Many individuals get much relief from adopting a low salt diet, which can also help reduce the amount of fluid collecting in the ear. If you tend to have low blood pressure, use caution in reducing salt consumption, as it can drop your blood pressure.
Often, symptoms may be caused or made worse by inflammation in the gut related to foods we eat, or inflammation elsewhere due to allergens in personal care products. It will be important for you to determine if there are foods or products which may be triggers for your symptoms, and avoid them. The Autoimmune Protocol Diet (also called 30-day Autoimmune Reset Diet) recommends nutrient rich foods which can help alleviate autoimmune disorders, and often reduces MD symptoms. You may also consider the possibility of environmental allergies as triggers.
Two food additives which have been shown to generate the symptoms of Meniere's Disease are the sugar substitute Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal, etc.) and the flavor enhancer MSG. Many processed foods contain MSG, but it is listed under different names to conceal its presence. Find out more about other names for MSG at https://www.kitchenstewardship.com/msg-labels-hidden-ingredients/
Supplements : The enzyme Lipase improves digestion and has been shown to be deficient in most patients with MD. Lipase capsules are available over the counter, and may be useful if you are deficient. Cayenne Pepper, CoEnzyme Q10, Ginko Biloba, MSM, Niacin and Vitamin B3 have all been shown to improve circulation, which can help to reduce vestibular pressure. A high quality B Complex is useful any time the body is stressed.
Essential Oils and Herbs : There are many essential oils and herbs on the market, which vary greatly in terms of quality. Always use pure, therapeutic essential oils and high quality fresh or dried herbs for remedies. If you are taking any prescription medications, make sure to check for any possible interactions with essential oils or herbs before you use them.
Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum) and Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) essential oils are antiseptic and help reduce vertigo. Diffuse, or inhale the oil directly from the bottle or inhaler. Steam inhalation is another way can be used for symptom relief and to help fight sinus infection. Place a bowl of hot water on the table and add a few drops of essential oil. Lean over the bowl and inhale the fragrant steam deeply. Draping a towel over the head helps to contain the steam. The fresh herb can also be used in a similar way. Boil the leaves in a pot of water. Remove from the heat and inhale the fragrant steam deeply. Use caution not to be burned by the steam.
Citrus Oils : Tangerine (Citrus reticulata var tangerine), Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis), Lemon (Citrus Limonum), or Lime (Citrus recutita) Pure Citrus essential oils are commonly used for their antimicrobial qualities, and are also effective in relieving tension headaches, migraines, dizziness and vertigo. Diffuse or inhale the essential oil directly from the bottle or inhaler, or with steam inhalation (see Sweet Basil, above). Fresh or dried citrus peels can also be boiled in water and the steam inhaled. A few drops of Pure Lemon essential oil taken in a cup of water can also be effective for nausea. Some forms of vertigo are best relieved with a blend of Pure Peppermint and citrus essential oils. Sweet Almond, Fractionated Coconut or Jojoba oils work well as carriers. Add 10 drops Peppermint and 10 drops citrus essential oil to a teaspoon of carrier oil. As a preventive, massage a few drops onto the bottoms of the big toes, the thumbs, behind the ears and the nape of the neck twice a day. For symptomatic relief, inhale the oils deeply for 2-3 minutes and massage a few drops on the thumbs, behind the ears and the nape of the neck. Caution: Citrus oils can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight, so avoid use if you are going out into direct sun.
Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea) Also good for vertigo, Clary Sage essential oil will help balance the nervous system and relieve anxiety. It is also used for seizures, hysteria and sedation. Diffuse or inhale directly from the bottle or inhaler. Caution: Clary Sage essential oil can be irritating to the skin.
Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) essential oil is antiviral, effective in relieving vertigo, relieves sinus congestion and increases circulation. Diffuse or inhale the oil directly from the bottle or inhaler, or with steam inhalation (see Basil).
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus radiata, Eucalyptus smithii, or Eucalyptus citriodora) To help relieve sinus pressure and congestion, a few drops of Pure Eucalyptus essential oil alone or with Pure Peppermint essential oil in a teaspoon of Sweet Almond, Fractionated Coconut or Jojoba oil can be applied to the chest, temples, behind the ears and along the jaw. These essential oils can also be directly inhaled directly or from an inhaler to help open sinus passages.
Frankincense (Boswellia carterii) and Sacred Frankincense (Boswellia sacra) essential oils have many varied uses, and are very effective for vertigo. Diffuse or inhale directly from the bottle or inhaler, or with steam inhalation (see Basil). It can also be massaged on the nape of the neck or crown of the head. A drop of Frankincense can be placed on a cotton ball which is then inserted into the fold in the upper part of the outer ear (not the ear canal). A small piece of tape will hold it in place. A drop of Frankincense can also be placed under the tongue or taken in a cup of warm water. Frankincense can be used as a personal fragrance by both men and women, and be therapeutic as well.
Ginger (Zingiber officinalis) is commonly used for nausea, but is also effective in relieving dizziness and vertigo by increasing circulation to the brain. Diffuse, or inhale essential oil directly from the bottle or inhaler. You can also add a few drops of Ginger essential oil to a teaspoon carrier oil and massage on the bottoms of the feet (especially the big toes), the thumbs, the nape of the neck and behind the ears. Two drops of Pure Ginger essential oil in a cup of warm water will settle the stomach. Using ground or fresh ginger in cooking and baking is effective as well.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil has many uses, and is commonly used for relief of stress, anxiety and depression, but is also effective for dizziness. The oil can be diffused, inhaled directly or used topically by itself or in a lotion or cream. Fresh lavender flowers can also be used to create a relaxing environment. Lavender is a wonderful oil to place in a diffuser locket to be worn around the neck. Perfume made from Pure Lavender essential oil can also be used to relieve symptoms all day.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) is highly effective for vertigo and nausea which often occurs with it. Pure Peppermint essential oil will also help to relieve sinus congestion. Its cool, crisp fragrance relaxes and refreshes. Inhale directly from the bottle or inhaler. Two drops of Pure Peppermint oil in a cup of water can help to settle a queasy stomach.
Rose (Rosa damascena or Rosa centifolia) Commonly used for skin care, Pure Rose essential oil is also effective for depression, vertigo and relaxation. Diffuse or inhale directly from the bottle. Diluted to 3 – 5% with distilled water, it can be spritzed in the room or on the skin. Perfume made from pure Rose absolute or essential oil can be worn for all day relief of symptoms.
Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis) essential oil is helpful in relieving depression, fatigue, migraine headache and dizziness. Inhale directly from bottle or inhaler, or with steam inhalation. Fresh Rosemary herb can also be boiled in a pot of water for inhalation (see Basil).
Sea Bands : Sea Bands are two small bands which apply pressure to the acupressure points on the wrists, and are often very effective in relieving nausea. They are inexpensive, and can be purchased at most drug stores.
Chiropractics : Proper alignment of the cervical vertebrae in the neck supports healthy inner ear and sinus function. For some, misalignment of the cervical spine can be a major contributor to their symptoms. For these individuals, finding a good chiropractor can make a world of difference.
Exercise : Regular exercise helps to maintain strength and keeps the vestibular system tuned up. If you feel you need assistance with exercise, some communities offer classes in balance training that you could enroll in.
A Tai Chi practice called Heel Thumps will stimulate the cerebellum (primitive brain) and help improve balance. Wearing athletic shoes, hold on to a chair or wall. Rise up on the balls of your feet and thump your heels down on the floor. Do 20 thumps each time, twice daily. If this method is going to benefit you, you should notice improved balance in 2 – 4 months.
Neti Pot and Oil Pulling : These two practices are of East Indian origin.
Use of a neti pot helps clear the sinuses and draw out excess fluid by rinsing with a saline solution introduced through one nostril and expelled through the other. This is a simple process which can be very helpful in reducing sinus congestion, although it can be an awkward procedure and not tolerated by some. A neti pot can be purchased at most pharmacies, and include instructions for their use. For safety, use only uniodized salt and filtered, distilled or boiled water in a neti pot. Always clean and thoroughly dry the pot between uses. I also recommend regular cleaning of a neti pot in a dishwasher or in the sink with very hot water to reduce the possibility of infection.
An ancient Ayurvedic practice called “oil pulling” is used to reduce the load of bacteria in the mouth and sinuses, and can help clear sinus congestion. Upon arising in the morning, take a tablespoon of Raw Organic Sesame or Sunflower oil into the mouth and swish all around for 20 minutes, then spit it out. Rinse with water and spit again. Four drops of pure Tea Tree or Lemon essential oil can be added to the oil for increased antibacterial effect. Follow this routine daily for at least 40 days initially, then as desired. Bacteria will cling to the oil and be removed, whitening the teeth and reducing bad breath, gingivitis and the risk of sinus infection. Some sources also report many other health benefits.
Barron, Jon, 2015, http://jonbarron.org/article/oil-pulling-detoxing#.VoMXVmQrLw4
Battaglia, Salvatore, The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, Second Edition, 2003. The International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy, Brisbane, Australia.
Cooksley, Valerie Genari, Aromatherapy : A Holistic Guide to Natural Healing with Essential Oils (2015). Floramed Publishing, The Woodlands, TX.
Gladstar, Rosemary, Herbs for Stress & Anxiety (2014). Storey Publishing, North Adams, MA.
Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menieres-disease
Schnaubelt,Kurt, The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils: The Science of Advanced Aromatherapy, 2011. Healing Arts Press, Rochester, VT.
Worwood, Valerie Ann, The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy (1991). New World Library, San Rafael, CA.
For a little over a year, we enjoyed having TIMELESS Aromatics, a small retail shop in South St Paul, Minnesota. It was fun to meet many of our local customers ! Current events have made it difficult for many small businesses to keep doors open, and we made the decision to close the shop. Thank you to all who shopped at TIMELESS Aromatics. We look forward to continuing to serve you online.