Published January 15, 2011
Updated October 7, 2014
Many people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions are interested to know which herbs can help restore their health back to normal. Of course there isn’t a single herb or nutritional supplement that can accomplish this on its own. However, when used in combination with other factors, such as eating well, managing stress, and minimizing one’s exposure to toxins, some herbs can be extremely helpful not only in managing the symptoms of both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, but they can also be an important part of restoring someone’s health back to normal.
For example, when I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease, which is an autoimmune hyperthyroid condition, I used multiple herbs as part of my natural thyroid treatment protocol. Some of these herbs I’ll be discussing below. While using these herbs alone wouldn’t have restored my health back to normal, combining them with other changes I made in my lifestyle did help to contribute to my successful recovery from Graves’ Disease.
As you’ll soon find out, not all of these herbs are necessary to take. Some of these herbs are beneficial for hyperthyroidism, while others should be taken when someone has a hypothyroid condition. Some of these herbs can be taken with either condition, while others are contraindicated for certain conditions. For example, one of the herbs I took while on a natural thyroid treatment protocol was Bugleweed, which can be extremely helpful for hyperthyroid conditions, but is contraindicated for hypothyroidism. Similarly, the herb Bladderwrack can be taken by many some who have a hypothyroid condition, but is contraindicated for someone who has hyperthyroidism.
I don’t recommend for anyone to just randomly begin taking these herbs, as they first should consult with a competent natural healthcare professional. After all, different people will require different herbs, as well as different dosages. And while these herbs are natural, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t risks involved when taking them, which is yet another reason not to self-treat your thyroid condition. With that being said, let’s take a look at the following herbs that might be able to help restore your health back to normal:
1. Eleuthero. This herb is one that many people with both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can take (including both Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and Graves’ Disease). The herb doesn’t directly affect the thyroid gland, but instead affects something called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which helps the body to adapt to stressful situations, and this herb also provides immune system support. For people with adrenal problems, which is common in people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions, eleuthero is a very beneficial herb. This is one of the herbs I took when I was initially diagnosed with Graves’ Disease, and many people who have problems with their adrenal glands can benefit from taking this herb. Eleuthero is considered to be an adaptogenic herb, and some other examples of adaptogenic herbs include ashwagandha, rhodiola, and maca.
2. Echinacea. This is very popular herb, and is responsible for enhancing the immune system function. Many people with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis can benefit from this herb, since it can help improve their immune system health. However, one needs to realize that the quality of the herb you take is important. This of course is the case with all of these herbs I’m discussing. But the reason why I brought this up now is because Echinacea can be purchased in many different places, including health food stores, nutrition stores, retail stores such as Wal-Mart and Target, as well as most pharmacies. And of course there are many online stores which sell this herb. So it’s important to make sure that you purchase a high quality product in order to receive optimal results.
Some people are concerned about Echinacea “boosting” the immune system and thus exacerbating the autoimmune response. Kerry Bone, who is a well known herbalist with over 20 years of experience, gives Echinacea root to most of his patients with autoimmune conditions, and rarely encounters a problem. I don’t give this herb to every person with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, but I have given Echinacea root to many people, and I also took this herb without incidence when I was following a natural treatment protocol for my autoimmune thyroid condition. So while Echinacea might not be for everyone, it sometimes can be an important component of a natural treatment protocol. If you are thinking about taking this herb then you might be interested in checking out a post I wrote entitled “Echinacea: Harmful for Hashimoto’s, Beneficial For Graves’ Disease?“.
3. Bugleweed. This is my favorite herb for managing the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, as when I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease this herb did a great job to help manage the hyperthyroid symptoms I was experiencing. Once again, this isn’t to suggest that everyone with a hyperthyroid condition should take Bugleweed, as you do want to consult with a natural healthcare professional first. But as someone who decided not to take any anti-thyroid drugs or beta blockers, I will admit that I might have not been able to avoid taking prescription drugs if it wasn’t for this herb. I also consult with people who are taking Methimazole or PTU and want to try weaning off the medication and instead take Bugleweed, which essentially is an “antithyroid herb”. As I mentioned earlier, this herb is contraindicated for people who have hypothyroidism, and also shouldn’t be taken by those women with hyperthyroidism who are pregnant or lactating.
4. Bladderwrack. This herb is for people with hypothyroidism. Taking this herb, along with other herbs and supplements, plus incorporating other lifestyle factors, can help restore the health of someone who has hypothyroidism. This can mean that some people who have been taking synthetic or natural thyroid hormone may eventually be able to stop taking these drugs with the help of this herb (under the supervision of their medical doctor of course). In fact, Dr. Janet Lang, who is the founder of Restorative Endocrinology, talks about this herb as being “liquid magic” for people with hypothyroid conditions. When combined with the herb ashwagandha this herb can stimulate the production of thyroid hormone in some people with hypothyroid conditions. I’m not suggesting that most people with hypothyroid conditions can stop taking thyroid hormone medication and substitute this with bladderwrack and ashwagandha, as one also needs to address the underlying cause of the condition.
This herb does include iodine, and as a result, some people with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis don’t do well when taking this herb. However, some people with Hashimoto’s don’t have a problem taking this herb, although many will still choose to avoid it out of fear that it will exacerbate their condition. I don’t consider this an “essential” herb for most people with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, but for someone who wants to follow a natural treatment protocol and isn’t taking synthetic or natural thyroid hormone, taking Bladderwrack might be beneficial. This herb shouldn’t be taken by those with hyperthyroidism, and is contraindicated in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
5. Ashwagandha. Yet another adaptogenic herb for people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions that has many different benefits. And this is one of the great things about most herbs, as they usually benefit the body in many different ways if used appropriately. For example, ashwagandha helps the body to cope with stress by affecting the HPA-axis, and is also beneficial for the immune system. It also has some other benefits as well, as it has some anti-inflammatory effects, and is also used as a tonic for children. I’ve written a separate article entitled “Ashwagandha and Thyroid Health“.
In addition to these five wonderful herbs, I wanted to briefly mention two additional “herbal complexes” I took when I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease. These complexes are manufactured by the company MediHerb, and can be taken by most people with hypothyroidism, as well as those with a hyperthyroid condition.
1. Adrenal Complex. As the name implies, “Adrenal Complex” is a great product for people who have adrenal problems…specifically low cortisol levels. Licorice is the main herb in this complex that helps to extend the life of cortisol, although this herb has other benefits as well. Rehmannia is another herb in this complex, and this herb offers both adrenal and immune system support. I took both Eleuthero and Adrenal Complex to help address my adrenal glands. Of course just taking these two herbs alone wasn’t responsible for restoring the health of my adrenals. Eating well, getting sufficient sleep, and doing a good job of managing stress are all important lifestyle factors when it comes to adrenal health.
2. Rehmannia Complex. This is another complex which consists of numerous herbs, and just like some of the other herbs I mentioned in this article, this complex also helps with the immune system, as well as offering some support to the adrenal glands. Another benefit is that it helps support the liver in the removal of toxins. Perhaps the most important herb this complex includes is Hemidesmus, as this is an herb which helps to suppress the autoimmune response, which of course is important with both Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
In summary, using one or more of these herbs can help to restore the health of someone who is following a natural thyroid treatment protocol. They do carry some risks when not used appropriately, and there are certain contraindications as well, which is why it’s best not to self-treat your condition, but instead it’s wise to consult with a competent natural endocrine doctor. Doing this is the best approach if you want to receive optimal results. There are of course other herbs which might be beneficial for thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions, but these are some of the more effective ones I have used in my practice. And I’d just like to remind you that taking these herbs alone usually won’t be sufficient to restore one’s health back to normal, but in many cases they can help to speed up the recovery process.
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