Many people are familiar with the herb Echinacea, which is readily available in most health food stores, as well as many retail stores which sell supplements and herbs, along with most pharmacies. This herb is known for its effect on the immune system, and as a result, many people take this herb on their own to prevent the onset of a cold, or an attempt to reduce the symptoms when they already have a cold. But does Echinacea have any value in people with autoimmune thyroid conditions, such as Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?
Well, some sources claim that because Echinacea boosts the immune system it should be avoided with anyone who has an autoimmune condition of any type. After all, why would you want to “boost” the immune system when it’s already overactive? The truth is that many people with autoimmune thyroid conditions can benefit from taking this herb, and I’m about to discuss why.
Echinacea Doesn’t Exacerbate The Autoimmune Response
Echinacea has numerous different functions. With regards to the immune system it is both immune modulating, and immune enhancing. Kerry Bone, who is a well known herbalist and has been in practice for well over 20 years, plus is the author of numerous books, including “Principles And Practice of Phytotherapy”, recommends Echinacea to help balance the immune response in people with autoimmune conditions. This of course would include those people with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. There is no conclusive evidence that Echinacea is contraindicated in autoimmune disorders. Despite this, sometimes when I bring up Echinacea to my patients they argue that taking it will worsen their condition.
When I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease, I initially took Echinacea as part of my natural treatment protocol, and I didn’t have any problems at all. While not all of my patients with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis take Echinacea, many of my patients have taken this herb without a problem. Of course just as is the case with other herbs, as well as different types of foods, some people are sensitive to Echinacea. In addition, both the quality of the herb and the dosage are very important. You preferably want to use the root of the plant. There are a few different strains of Echinacea, and I recommend a combination of Echinacea Purpurea and Echinacea Angustifolia. The dosage of course will vary depending on numerous factors. Plus Echinacea can be taken either as a liquid, or as a tablet or capsule.
Does Echinacea Stimulate the TH-1 Pathway?
I’m not going to get into detail here about TH-1 and TH-2 dominance, but with regards to the immune system there are numerous pathways, and two of these pathways are the TH-1 pathway and the TH-2 pathway. These in turn involve the TH-1 and TH-2 cytokines. In any case, people with an autoimmune condition are either TH-1 dominant, or TH-2 dominant. And there are certain compounds which can exacerbate these pathways. For example, some sources state that Echinacea will exacerbate the condition of someone who is TH-1 dominant. And supposedly most people with autoimmune thyroid conditions are TH-1 dominant. This would mean that most people wouldn’t do well when taking Echinacea. But I haven’t found this to be true, and so I’m honestly not sure how valid this is. I’m not suggesting that there aren’t some people who don’t do well when taking Echinacea, but this seems to represent the minority of people.
With that being said, not everyone with an autoimmune thyroid condition needs to take Echinacea as part of their natural treatment protocol. On the other hand, many people with these conditions can benefit from taking this herb, although as usual it is a good idea to take it under a guidance of an expert, rather than just taking it on your own, which is what most people do. It’s one thing to take some Echinacea when you have a cold, but it’s a different situation when you’re addressing an autoimmune thyroid condition.
In summary, Echinacea is a wonderful herb that can benefit many people with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. While some people think that it will worsen an autoimmune condition, there is no evidence that it has this effect. Although not everyone with an autoimmune thyroid disorder needs to take this herb, many of my patients have taken Echinacea as part of their natural treatment protocol.