Terrific Herbs for Thyroid Support
The thyroid is probably one of the most interesting and important glands in the body. It is small but mighty, butterfly-shaped, and is located midway between the under part of your chin and the base of your neck. It regulates temperature, energy, mood, menstrual cycles, and metabolism, which explains why it can affect fertility and cause fatigue, hair loss, irritability, anxiety, depression, and weight gain (or loss) when not properly functioning. It also explains why it can wreak absolute HAVOC on many individuals.
The two most common disorders of the thyroid are primary hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism is the UNDER-working of the thyroid (hence “hypo”) and hyperthyroidism is the OVER-working of the thyroid (hence “hyper”).
Signs/Symptoms of a Thyroid DisorderPeople with hypothyroidism may feel lethargic, fatigued, depressed, experience weight gain, have sluggish bowel movements or be constipated, and they might feel cold when everyone around them feels fine.
People with hyperthyroidism experience almost the opposite and may feel anxious, overwhelmed, exhausted in the morning and at the end of a day, have increased frequency of bowel movements, hair loss, and feel warm or hot when everyone around them feels fine. Thyroid conditions affect women more than men.
How Primary Thyroid Disorders Are Diagnosed
These thyroid disorders are diagnosed using blood tests that measure thyroid-stimulating hormone aka TSH, which is secreted by the pituitary gland in the brain, and not the thyroid, but TSH takes actions on the thyroid. Contrary to what seems logical, because of the intricate pathways involved in the production and function of TSH, high levels of TSH indicate hypothyroidism, whereas low levels of TSH indicate hyperthyroidism.
Other tests that may be required include free T3, free T4, thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPOAb), thyroglobulin antibodies (TgAb), and reverse T3.
In my view, the most important hormone with regards to the thyroid is free T3 as this is the hormone that goes about our body and takes action. TSH stimulates the release of T4, which then gets converted into T3 with the help of micronutrients, such as selenium, iodine, and iron. A deficiency in any of these nutrients can inhibit the conversion of T4 into T3, and should especially be considered for those on Synthroid for hypothyroidism. Synthroid is a synthetic version of T4, which still requires conversion into T3 in order to have an impact on your metabolism and other jobs of the thyroid; therefore, it is important to ensure you're getting adequate levels of selenium, iodine, and iron in your diet when taking Synthroid.
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Herbs for Thyroid Conditions
Naturopathically supporting the thyroid can be accomplished for either hypo- or hyperthyroidism and with or without conventional treatment. Although each person can benefit from case-specific natural medicines, there are some herbs that can be beneficial in many thyroid disorders.
1. Rhodiola rosea is an Adaptogenic herb, meaning it helps to balance the stress response generated by the adrenal glands by suppressing cortisol. It has been shown to improve concentration, energy, sleep, and irritability. Although there is no scientific evidence that directly relates its actions to the thyroid, it is a good herb for simple symptom management.
2. Withania somnifera aka Ashwagandha is another Adaptogen that helps to manage stress and anxiety. It too improves sleep, concentration, and energy, in addition to promoting libido, improving fertility, and reducing inflammation and oxidative stress.
1. Leonurus cardiaca aka Motherwort has been found to have antithyroid activity, meaning that it can diminish the function of TSH or block its actions, preventing overstimulation of the thyroid gland. Leonurus is also used for heart palpitations, and can help to ease this symptom of hyperthyroidism, particularly in Graves disease. Interestingly, its use is supported in Germany as an adjuvant therapy for hyperthyroidism. It is also known traditionally to improve menopausal complaints, sleep, and anxiety.
2. Melissa officinalis aka Lemon Balm is beneficial in hyperthyroidism as it has been shown to reduce the effects of TSH. Lemon balm is a calming and a mildly sedating herb, and can especially help with feelings of anxiety and stress.
Please keep in mind that herbs, just like medications, can interact with other medications, including those that are not for your thyroid condition. I HIGHLY recommend checking interactions with someone with herbal and medical knowledge. You deserve proper and professional care and support for your health.
I'm in the office Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday and I have early morning and evening appointments available. If you'd like to come in to tackle your thyroid condition, give us a shout at 902-407-3347, email email@example.com, or book online here for your free 15-minute naturopathic discovery session. I'm looking forward to working with you!
Kennedy D, Little W, Scholey A, 2004, “Attenuation of Laboratory‐Induced Stress in Humans After Acute Administration of Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm)”, Psychosomatic Medicine, vol. 66, pp. 607‐ 613.
Orhan I, Gokbulut A, Senol F, 2016, "Adonis sp, Convallaria sp, Strophanthus sp, Thevetia sp, and Leonurus sp - Cardiotonic plants with known traditional use and a few preclinical and clinical studies", Curr Pharm Des, Oct 10, 2016.
Dr. Megan Bernard, MSc, ND
Dr. Megan Bernard, ND completed a Masters in Pathology at Dalhousie University and a Doctorate in Naturopathy Medicine from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. Dr. Bernard believes in empowering and educating her patients to make sound and informed choices. She is caring and empathetic, and ready to work with her patients through difficult decisions. A strong advocate for integrative care, Dr. Bernard encourages the concurrent use of Western and naturopathic styles of medicine.