Although more women than ever before are coming into my office at least somewhat aware that imbalances in their thyroid might be at the root of symptoms that are making their lives impossible to enjoy, they often have no idea what to do about it.
Conventional practitioners are often quick to reach for a prescription pad to deal with thyroid problems without even trying more gentle, natural approaches. But the women who come to see me are aware that prescriptions aren’t always the answer — and they certainly shouldn’t be the first course of action. Once you begin taking a prescription, it can be exceedingly difficult to stop. And it is possible to support your thyroid and begin healing naturally, if you have the right information.
Of course, every body responds to treatment differently, and I’m not suggesting that women with thyroid diseases should not consider prescriptions that can protect their health and bring relief. What I’m saying is that there are natural remedies and lifestyle changes that can help facilitate healing your thyroid before you get to that point of no return.
I have a lot of information about thyroid disease, testing and treatment in my health library already. I’ve told you about diet and exercise, reducing stress and eliminating toxins. But one area I haven’t explored much to date is the specific herbs for thyroid support that help you feel your best. While these herbs won’t cure thyroid disease, they can certainly help your body heal. Let’s delve deeper into the benefits of these herbs, and how you can boost your intake. I’ll even give you a delicious recipe to try.
A Brief Discussion of How Your Thyroid Works
Before you can properly support your thyroid, you should know where it is and what it does. The thyroid is a small, butterfly shaped gland in the front of your neck. It’s most basic function is to convert iodine from food into two thyroid hormones: Thyroxine (T3) and Triiodothyronine (T4). Your thyroid is responsible for regulating metabolism in your body.
Your pituitary gland, located just below the brain, determines levels of T3 and T4 hormones, then prompts thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) to either increase or decrease production of each to reach an optimal balance. And where does TSH come from? Well, this is regulated by another master gland – your hypothalamus. None of these systems work in isolation, so it’s important that they are all functioning to their best ability – which is why supporting your thyroid is so critical.
Symptoms That Indicate That Your Thyroid Needs Help
First, let’s talk briefly about the symptoms that suggest you might benefit from adding some herbs that support thyroid health to your daily routine. Because these thyroid symptoms mirror many other conditions, I think thyroid testing is extremely important if you find yourself facing these issues on a regular basis. Realizing that your thyroid needs natural support early on can help you avoid the extremes of thyroid disease.
So what are these signs you shouldn’t ignore? Some are fairly well known: sudden weight fluctuations, extreme fatigue, unexplained pain in joints and muscles. Others may not be as obvious. Changes to hair and skin (like extreme hair loss or dry scaly skin), drastic mood swings, decreased sex drive, and digestive issues can also be indicators of a thyroid imbalance.
If dismissed too long, these symptoms can become more severe, and you risk permanent damage to your thyroid gland. But that can almost always be avoided by taking the right steps towards healing – including knowing the best herbs for thyroid support.
7 Herbs for Thyroid Support
Herbs are an amazing way to boost good health. They contain essential vitamins and minerals that are often lacking in our modern diet. And they’re all natural, so you don’t have to worry about side effects that often accompany lab created chemicals. Of course, you may have sensitivities to particular herbs, so it’s important to pay attention to how you feel and react to anything new you add. I suggest working closely with a health care provider to be sure you’re getting the best combination for your unique circumstances. It’s also crucial that you understand what kind of impact these herbs have on thyroid functioning — after all, you don’t want to go overboard in either direction. Even natural over- or under-stimulation of the thyroid gland can be a real problem! So let’s take a closer look at how these herbs for thyroid support are used.
This adaptogenic herb has been used for thousands of years, and is especially popular in Ayurvedic medicine. Extensive research has been conducted on the benefits of ashwagandha, and in addition to supporting thyroid health, it’s been shown to possess many other beneficial properties. Along with a long history of research indicating a connection between ashwagandha and a positive impact on thyroid functioning, a study published in March 2018 concluded that treatment with ashwagandha may be beneficial to improving thyroid levels in patients with subclinical hypothyroidism.
2. Bacopa Monnieri
Another commonly used herb in Ayurvedic medicine, bacopa monnieri has been found to have positive effects on both hypo and hyperthyroidism. Use seems most effective when taken in conjunction with ashwagandha, green tea, dietary fatty acids, and milk. Research on mice indicated that bacopa monnieri increased levels of T4, indicating it might be an effective treatment for hypothyroidism. It could also be an effective treatment for goiter (enlarged thyroid gland) which occurs when too much TSH collects in the gland, since bacopa monnieri increases T4, which may in turn reduce production of TSH.
3. Black Walnut
Black Walnut is used by many herbalists to treat both goiter and hypothyroidism. Black walnuts contain essential minerals like iodine and manganese, which play a key role in enhancing thyroid function.
Although technically a spice, not an herb, ginger has been used in herbal medicine for centuries. Ginger has well documented anti-inflammatory properties, and chronic inflammation can cause thyroid disorders. Ginger contains both magnesium and potassium, as well as manganese and the antioxidant compound gingerol.
5. Holy Basil
Also known as tulsi, this herb was considered sacred by Indian royalty, and showed up often in Hindu mythology. Nowadays, this herb has been shown to be effective in balancing mind, body and spirit. Part of the mint family, holy basil is well known as an adaptogenic herb in natural medicine. Chronically high cortisol, caused by ongoing stress, can create a host of problems, including thyroid dysfunction. Holy basil helps your body adapt better to stress.
6. Lemon Balm
This herb has many traditional uses, including encouraging restful sleep, calming stress and anxiety, and relieving indigestion. Research has also shown that it can be beneficial to people with hyperthyroidism. One study showed that the extract prevents the components that over-activate the thyroid from binding with thyroid receptors in patients with Grave’s disease. Lemon balm is also frequently used as an antiviral treatment, reducing the load on your liver. Viral infections often go hand in hand with thyroid disorders.
This is often considered the holy grail of thyroid herbs, because it’s effective for both underactive and overactive thyroid issues. Nettle can help turn around iodine deficiency, making it particularly beneficial to those with underactive thyroid. Nettle contains other important vitamins and minerals as well, including Vitamins A and B6, calcium, iron and magnesium. Nettle is also a source of selenium, a trace mineral vital to proper thyroid functioning.
Quick Tips to Make These Herbs Part of Your Daily Routine
So now you know which important herbs for thyroid support are, but how do you get enough of them to make a difference? Again, I suggest working with a professional to determine which herbs are best for your specific situation — remember, some work on hypothyroidism, others on hyperthyroidism, and you don’t want to inadvertently make your situation worse!
- Brew some tea. Drinking tea is a great way to relax and decompress when you need a quiet moment. Why not add a little extra oomph to your ritual by choosing thyroid supporting herbs to make your soothing brew?
- Take a high-quality supplement. Let’s face it, it’s sometimes hard to find ways to get all of these great herbs in regularly. One of the easiest ways to make sure you are getting a medicinal dose is by taking supplements designed for a specific purpose – like supporting your thyroid.
- Throw them in smoothies. If you’re used to drinking your breakfast, just add a bit of flavor and texture with some of the above herbs. Lemon balm is a particularly nice addition, adding just a hint of lemon.
Find a new recipe – or add some of these herbs to your standard meal rotation for a new twist! Food can be amazingly flavorful when you add the right blend of herbs, spices, and extracts. While some of these herbs may not taste great, others can perk up an old recipe or help you find a new favorite.
As promised, here’s one of my delicious recipes from my book, Is It Me or My Hormones?:
Ginger Poached Chicken
4 cups of organic chicken stock
1-inch piece of fresh ginger root-peeled and cut into strips
1 bay leaf
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
6 scallions chopped
1 head endive, cut into quarters
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat stock in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, and add sliced ginger. Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes. Add bay leaf and shallot slices. Simmer for 5 more minutes. Add chicken, scallions, and endive, and cook until chicken is tender approximately 10 to 14 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Makes approximately 2 servings.