Conditions & Ailments

Herbal supplements and thyroid disease

There are two forms of thyroid disease
Hyperthyroidism - overactive thyroid
Hypothyroidism - underactive thyroid

Your thyroid gland sits at the base of your throat and consists of two large lobes.  It produces hormones that are essential for the proper functioning and maintenance of all the cells in your body.  When the thyroid gland secretes too much thyroid hormone, a condition known as hyperthyroidism occurs.  On the other hand, when the thyroid gland secretes too little hormone, hypothyroidism occurs.  Hyperthyroidism affects more women than men and women between the ages of thirty and fifty are most affected.   Hypothyroidism is much more common than hyperthyroidism.

The symptoms of these disorders can appear very quickly and often mimics long-term depression.  All of your body's processes speed up with hyperthyroidism and slows down with hypothyroidism.  Your thyroid gland also acts as a built-in, natural thermostat, regulating your body temperature and it controls how quickly your body burns calories and uses up energy.  

There are three forms of hyperthyroidism that all show several of the same symptoms, the most common form is Graves disease.

Several types of hypothyroidism are known of which the most common is Hashimoto's thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the thyroid gland.

An abnormal immune response is thought to be the cause of thyroid disorders.  Your immune system produces antibodies that invade and attack your thyroid which then disrupts the normal functioning of the thyroid gland.  Hyperthyroidism can also be caused by growths or tumors that form on the thyroid gland.  Temporary hyperthyroidism is often caused by infection or inflammation of the thyroid gland and certain prescription drugs.  Smoking and a diet high in unsaturated fats can also cause thyroid problems.

Symptoms of hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)                                                
  • A constant feeling of being hot and an intolerance to heat
  • Increased perspiration
  • Insomnia and fatigue
  • Irritability and nervousness
  • Hair and weight loss
  • Less frequent menstruation and decreases menstrual flow
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Hand tremors
  • Increased bowel movements
Symptoms of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Low body temperature and an intolerance to cold
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • Easy weight gain
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Muscle weakness and muscle cramps
  • Painful and heavy menstruation
  • Fertility problems
  • Dry and scaly skin
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hoarseness
  • Slow speech
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Drooping and swollen eyes

Herbal supplements for Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)

  • Lemon balm is helpful to stabilize an overactive thyroid.  The recommended dosage is 300 - 500 mg three times daily.  Steep 2 tablespoons lemon balm in a cup of boiled water. Strain and cool, making sure that you drink the entire cup during the course of one day.
  • Green tea adds extra antioxidant effects.  Use 250 - 500 mg daily of standardized extract, making sure that it is a caffeine-free product.
Avoid the following herbs:
Ashwagandha, bladderwrack and Panax ginseng.  These herbs will further stimulate your overactive thyroid thereby making the problem worse.

Herbal supplements for Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)

  • Green tea adds extra antioxidant effects.  Use 250 - 500 mg daily of standardized extract, making sure that it is a caffeine-free product.
  • Use Gugulipid standardized extract 250 - 500 mg three times a day.
  • Use 600 mg one to three times daily of Bladderwrack.
  • Use Coleus standardized extract 50 - 100 mg two to three times a day.
To determine if you have a thyroid problem, your doctor will do a simple blood test to measure the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).  This hormone is secreted by the pituitary gland and helps to regulate thyroid hormone production.

Vitamin C and B-complex vitamins are very important in treating both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.  These vitamins work by improving the function of your immune system and your thyroid gland.  Check for a vitamin B supplement that contains 100 mcg vitamin B12 and biotin, 400 mcg folic acid and 100 mg of all other B vitamins, take one pill of this supplement daily.  A dosage of 1 000 mg vitamin C is recommended.  Also important is vitamins A and E.  Take a mineral supplement daily that contains magnesium, selenium, zinc and calcium.

An omega-3 fatty acid supplement will help to decrease inflammation.  Take 1-2 capsules daily.

For antioxidant support, take 25 - 50 mg of Alpha-lipoic acid twice daily.

Kelp is one of the most beneficial herbal supplements used to treat thyroid problems, especially if your thyroid disease is caused by an iodine deficiency.  Take 10 grains of powdered kelp daily which will supply 300 mcg iodine.  Make sure that you check the expiry date of the kelp as the iodine content may decline with storage.

The amino acid L-tyrosine plays an important part in maintaining healthy thyroid function.  Take 500 mg two to three times daily.  It is important that if you are taking prescription thyroid hormone medication, to check with your health care practitioner before adding an L-tyrosine supplement.  Do not take L-tyrosine if you have high blood pressure.

Do not take an iodine supplement unless recommended and prescribed by your health care practitioner.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is key to treating both thyroid disorders.  Make sure that you drink plenty of water and start with a mild exercise program.  

Further recommendations

  • There is evidence that soy products interfere with the absorption of thyroid hormone, so if you are taking thyroid hormone medication, talk to your doctor before consuming soy products.
  • Eat antioxidant foods, including fruits such as blueberries, cherries, and tomatoes and vegetables.
  • Avoid refined foods, such as white breads, pastas, and sugar.
  • Eat foods high in B-vitamins and iron, such as whole grains.
  • Use olive oil which is a much healthier cooking oil.
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco and caffeine.
  • Eat fewer red meats and more lean meats.  Supplement your diet with cold-water fish, or beans for protein. Limit the intake of processed meats.
  • Certain foods interfere with thyroid function, these include broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, spinach, turnips, soybeans, peanuts, linseed, pine nuts, millet, cassava, and mustard greens.
  • Your health care practitioner might want to test you for certain food allergies, but you can also try to eliminate foods that can cause allergies such as dairy products, wheat, preservatives and chemical additives in food.
  • Reduce or eliminate trans-fatty acids.

Please consult your medical practitioner prior to using any herbal medications should you be under their care.

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