Are you on medication for thyroid disease? It may have helped ease your pain, but have you also experienced some negative side effects? Medications for hypothyroid can lead to rapid or irregular heartbeat, muscle weakness, irritability, tremors, impaired fertility, shortness of breath, nervousness, sleeplessness, hair loss, and decreased bone density. For hyperthyroid and Graves’ disease, medications can cause skin rash, itching, abnormal hair loss, vomiting, swelling, joint and muscle pain, dizziness, drowsiness, decreased white blood cells, decreased platelets, and unusual bleeding.
People usually initially feel better on the medication, but within a few months or years, they can often feel much worse. That’s because the root cause of the thyroid condition is never addressed. What’s more, those synthetic prescription medications can contribute to liver dysfunction. It’s a double whammy!
Herbal medicine, on the other hand, can be much gentler on the body than pharmaceutical drugs and can help ease pain without negative side effects. Botanical treatments have been around for thousands of years and are based on the use of plants and plant extracts that can be taken internally or used externally. They also have the ability to heal the body on a deep nutritive level.
I believe it’s time we get back to a more gentle type of healing, which is why for my clients going through the process of healing their thyroid, I highly recommend herbal tinctures and plant medicines for additional support. Herbal remedies are subtle, so they may not be immediately noticeable. Remember, though, that if you’re going to try the herbal route, it’s important to work with a naturopathic doctor or herbal specialist, and the herbs you select should depend on your individual condition, symptoms and concerns.
Below are six possible plant remedies:
1. Eleuthero Root
Otherwise known as Ginseng, eleuthero root has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine since 190 AD. It is considered an “adaptogen” – a substance that strengthens the body and increases the body’s ability to handle stress. It doesn’t directly affect the thyroid gland, but it has been used to help boost immunity, increase energy and vitality, and alleviate chronic fatigue and adrenal exhaustion. If you are suffering with fatigue this might be a good herb to take early in the day to help boost energy.
This herb is also an adaptogen. In Ayurvedic medicine it is used to treat age-related physical debility and impotence. It acts on the reproductive and nervous system and has sedative and immune strengthening properties. If you are feeling stressed out or suffering from insomnia and reproductive issues, Ashwaganda could be an optimal choice for your healing regime.
3. Black Walnut Hull
According to herbalist, Phyllis Light, Black Walnut Hull is the traditional remedy for treating goiter and hypothyroidism. This herb can also be helpful to those suffering from bacterial overgrowth, leaky gut and bloating.
Also know as “lycopus,” Bugleweed can be an excellent remedy for hyperthyroid and thyroid storms. According to Master Herbalist, Matthew Wood, “Lycopus was discovered to be an excellent remedy for hyperthyroidism and hyperadrenalism. It reduces the output of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) from the pituitary, turning down the setting on the thyroid level.” If you can’t sleep or are suffering from extreme nervousness, or heart-pounding thyroid storms, consider this herb to help calm your system.
5. Melissa (Lemon Balm)
This can be an effective treatment for Graves’ and hyperthyroid. Another traditional use of Lemon Balm is as an antiviral. Many people suffering with thyroid disorders often complain of frequent cold sores and herpes virus infections. Lemon Balm directly inhibits viral replication (which eases the load on the liver), so it can help stop cold sores from growing out of control.
A sea plant used as tincture and eaten, too, this plant’s iodine content is beneficial for both hyper and hypo thyroid. Regular consumption of Bladderwrack can also normalize a swollen prostate, lower chronic high blood pressure, promote healing and improve sleep.
I think herbs are so important for supporting the thyroid and adrenals that I’ve included an entire module with Master Herbalist, Matthew Wood, in my Nourishing Thyroid Program. When using herbs of any kind, from the sea or from the land, it’s best to work with a knowledgeable practitioner to ensure the herbs you select are right for your individual condition. If you live in the United States you can find an herbalist near you by checking out The American Herbalist Guild.
As far as reducing your prescription medications, take it slow. Work with a functional pharmacist or an integrative and functional practitioner. Keep in mind getting off your medication is only recommended if you currently have a thyroid. If you do not have a thyroid due to RAI or thyroidectomy, you need to stay on some type of thyroid hormone replacement.
For my clients and students that are actively working on improving their diet and lifestyle, I recommend cutting their medications in half and then giving their body three months to catch up, allowing hormones to readjust. After three months, cut the medication in half again, and give it another three months to normalize. Speak with your doctor to create a plan that will work best for you.
Want more? You might also like:
Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
21st Century Herbal, Michael Balick, PhD, Rodale 2014, pp 306-307
The Earthwise Herbal, Matthew Wood, North Atlantic Books, 2009, p 232