Aminoglycosides are antibiotics given intravenously to treat certain infections. These drugs can damage the kidneys as well as the nerve supplying the ear (the auditory nerve).
The herb ginkgo is thought to increase circulation and protect nerve cells from damage. On this basis, it has been proposed as a possible treatment to help protect the auditory nerve from damage caused by aminoglycosides. However, the one animal study performed to evaluate this potential benefit found instead that the herb increased damage to the auditory nerve.1 Based on this finding, individuals using aminoglycoside drugs should avoid ginkgo.
Weak evidence from animal studies hints that use of gentamycin may reduce levels of magnesium and calcium.2 Supplementation may therefore be helpful on general principles if gentamicin treatment is used for a long time. One animal study suggests that calcium supplements in particular might help prevent gentamicin-induced kidney damage.3
One exceedingly preliminary animal study suggests that N-acetylcysteine might help protect the kidneys from damage caused by gentamicin.5
1. Miman MC, Ozturan O, Iraz M, et al. Amikacin ototoxicity enhanced by Ginkgobiloba extract (EGb 761). Hear Res. 2002;169:121–9.
2. Kes P, Reiner Z. Symptomatic hypomagnesemia associated with gentamicin therapy. Magnes Trace Elem.1990;9:54–60.
3. Humes HD, Sastrasingh M, Weinberg, JM. Calcium is a competitive inhibitor of gentamicin-renal membrane binding interactions and dietary calcium supplementation protects against gentamicin nephrotoxicity. J Clin Invest. 1984;73:134.
4. Jin X, Jin X, Sheng X. Methylcobalamin as antagonist to transient ototoxic action of gentamicin. Acta Otolaryngol. 2001;121:351–4.
5. Mazzon E, Britti D, De Sarro A, et al. Effect of N-acetylcysteine on gentamicin-mediated nephropathy in rats. Eur J Pharmacol. 2001;424:75–83.
Last reviewed December 2015 by EBSCO CAM Review Board Last Updated: 12/15/2015