Published October 17 2016
There are numerous factors which are important to help restore the health of someone with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease, including eating a healthy diet, doing a good job of managing stress, healing the gut, and minimizing one’s exposure to environmental toxins. Taking nutritional supplements and herbs can also be beneficial for people with a hyperthyroid condition. And in this article I’ll discuss five of the most important supplements and herbs for those with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease.
So let’s take a look at each of these supplements and discuss how they can be beneficial:
1. Bugleweed, along with other herbs for symptom management. I decided to start off by talking about herbs which can help to manage the symptoms commonly associated with hyperthyroidism. Bugleweed is an herb with antithyroid properties, and by lowering the thyroid hormone levels this can help to decrease many of the hyperthyroid symptoms, including the increased resting heart rate, palpitations, weight loss, increased appetite, etc. Motherwort doesn’t affect the thyroid hormone levels, but is more specific to the cardiac symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism, including the increased pulse rate and heart palpitations. Lemon balm has some antithyroid activity, and due to its calming effect it can help some people with hyperthyroidism to sleep better.
Dosage: According to master herbalist Kerry bone, 2 to 6 mL of a 1:2 liquid extract of bugleweed should be used, although I have used higher doses than this on some patients. 6 to 18 mL/day of a 1:5 tincture is recommended by Kerry Bone. As for motherwort, Kerry Bone recommends for 2 to 4 mL of a 1:2 liquid extract should be used, although I have used higher doses of this in some patients. If using a 1:5 tincture then 6 to 12 mL should be used by most people.
2. L-carnitine. When taken in higher doses, L-carnitine also has antithyroid properties. Not all of my patients take L-carnitine, and when I was dealing with Graves’ Disease I didn’t take this either. On the other hand, I have some patients who take both bugleweed and L-carnitine to help lower the thyroid hormone levels.
Dosage: To lower thyroid hormone levels you typically want to take 2,000 mg to 4,000 mg/day
3. Vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for the health of the immune system, and a few studies show that a vitamin D deficiency may exacerbate the onset and/or development of Graves’ Disease, and the correction of this deficiency may help to reverse it (1) (2).
Dosage: The amount of vitamin D one needs to supplement with depends on the severity of the deficiency. If someone has a severe vitamin D deficiency then I will commonly give 10,000 IU/day for two to three months before reducing the dosage. In other cases I might have someone take 5,000 IU/day initially. I do recommend to get your vitamin D levels tested.
4. CoQ10. Hyperthyroidism is associated with reduced circulating levels of CoQ10 (3). In addition, many people with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease take beta blockers, and this can potentially block the production of CoQ10 (4) (5).
Dosage: Those who supplement with CoQ10 should consider taking at least 100 mg/day, although if someone is taking a beta blocker such as Propranolol or Atenolol then taking a higher dosage might be a good idea, such as 200 mg/day.
5. Magnesium. Having a magnesium deficiency is also common in hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease (6). And since magnesium plays a role in over 300 enzyme reactions, making sure you have sufficient magnesium levels is a very good idea. In addition, a magnesium deficiency can commonly cause problems with sleep, as well as muscle spasms. Green leafy vegetables, along with nuts and seeds, are excellent food sources of magnesium. But those who have a moderate to severe deficiency may need to take a magnesium supplement.
Dosage: Depending on how deficient someone is it might be necessary to take anywhere from 200mg to 800mg of magnesium per day. If someone is dealing with constipation then magnesium citrate is usually the best form to take. Other forms of magnesium that can be beneficial include magnesium malate, magnesium glycinate, and magnesium taurate.
3 Other Supplements Worth Mentioning
1. Fish oils. Although there are other sources of omega-3 fatty acids such as flaxseed, chia seeds, krill oil, and cod liver oil, the reason why I commonly recommend fish oil supplements is because they are higher in EPA and DHA, which can help greatly with reducing the inflammation associated with autoimmune conditions such as Graves’ Disease (and Hashimoto’s as well). Of course quality makes a difference with any supplement, but perhaps is even more important with fish oils, as poor quality fish oils might be rancid, and also might be high in heavy metals and other environmental toxins.
2. Milk thistle (Silymarin). For those people with hyperthyroidism who are taking antithyroid medication, milk thistle is something to consider supplementing with. And the reason for this is because antithyroid medication can potentially cause liver damage, with PTU being more harsh on the liver than Methimazole (7) (8). Numerous studies show that milk thistle can prevent liver damage, and in some cases can also regenerate liver cells. I have written an article on this herb entitled “Milk Thistle and Thyroid Health”.
3. Royal Jelly. Royal jelly is produced by bees, and there is evidence that royal jelly can have a positive effect on the autoimmune component on those with Graves’ Disease by reducing proinflammatory cytokines (9) (10).
In summary, while eating well and modifying other lifestyle and environmental factors is important, taking certain nutritional supplements and herbs can benefit many people with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease. Some of the most beneficial supplements and herbs for people with hyperthyroid conditions include bugleweed, motherwort, lemon balm, L-carnitine, vitamin D, CoQ10, and magnesium. Fish oils, milk thistle, and royal jelly also can offer some great benefits.