The thyroid is a large, ductless gland located in the frontal part of the neck below the thyroid cartilage known as Adam's apple. The gland is stimulated by the hypothalamus part of the brain and produces two hormones namely L-thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). The thyroid hormones regulate long bone growth, body metabolism, and neuronal maturation. The thyroid gland also requires large amounts of dietary iodine to produce T4 and T3. Many people suffering from thyroid related ailments are interested in herbs that can help restore their health back to normal. When combined with other nutritional supplements, certain potent herbs are found to be useful in managing the symptoms of both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Before consuming herbs to treat thyroid gland conditions, consult a qualified medical herbalist to know about the correct dosage, possible side-effects and potential drug interactions.
What are the types of Thyroid Disorders?
Primarily, there are three types of thyroid problems: hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and goiter.
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce adequate quantity of thyroid hormones (underactive thyroid). Hypothyroidism can also be caused by Hashimoto's thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease where the immunity system is mistakenly attacked by the thyroid gland. It has been seen that hypothyroidism can occur due to surgical removal of the thyroid gland, irradiation or use of certain medications that reduce thyroid hormone levels. The disease affects all races and genders equally. However, it is most common in females over fifty years of age. Common symptoms are slow pulse, fatigue, hoarse voice, slow speech, sensitivity to cold, weight gain, constipation, dry hair, hair loss, numbness in fingers or hands, confusion, depression, dementia, headaches, milky discharge from the breasts (galactorrhea), and menstrual issues.
Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland starts producing excessive amount of thyroxine. Common symptoms are insomnia, hand tremors and nervousness.
Thyroid Goitre is an enlargement or swelling of the thyroid gland that can occur along with hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. In many cases, thyroid goiter also occurs with benign or malignant (cancerous) nodules. Iodine deficiency is the most common cause of goiter.
What is the role of the herb Bugleweed for treating overactive Thyroid?
Bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus) belongs to the mint family which is useful in treating hyperthyroidism symptoms.
Where does it grow: Bugleweed is a flowering plant native to Europe, North America and certain parts of Asia.
Active compounds: Being rich in lithospermic acid and other organic acids, Bugleweed plays a pivotal role in decreasing the level of thyroid-stimulating hormones and thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4) in the body. Additionally, Bugleweed prevents the binding of antibodies to the thyroid gland. These antibodies are responsible for causing hyperthyroidism and Graves’ disease Bugleweed is used in combination with other herbs such as gromwell (Lithospermum ruderale) and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis).
Dosage: Individuals with mildly overactive glands should not consume more than 1–2 grams each day. In case of tincture, dosage should be limited to one to two ml 3 times a day.
How effective is the herb Bladderwrack at treating the symptoms of Hypothyroidism?
Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus) is a type of brown seaweed belonging to the Fucaceae family. It is known by several names such as bladder fucus, rockweed, black tang, black tany, sea oak, dyers fucus, cut weed, rock wrack, and red fucus. It was first discovered in 1811, and was used to cure goitre.
Where does it grow: It is native to the Atlantic coasts (Europe) and Northern coasts of the United States. This herb belongs to the Fucaceae family.
Active compounds: Bladderwrack is enriched with three active ingredients including iodine, alginic acid, and fucoidan. Regular consumption of Bladderwrack tincture helps to replenish iodine back to the thyroid gland and cure hypothyroidism.
Parts used: Herbalists use Bladderwrack plants' fronds or thallus to prepare liquid extract. Bladderwrack is available in various forms i.e. tincture, tea and capsule.
Dosage: The recommended dosage for alcohol extract is 600 mg to be taken 3 times a day.
Caution: Pregnant and lactating women should avoid Bladderwrack tincture. Individuals who suffered from alcoholism should not consume Bladderwrack extract.
How does the herb Kelp help to cure Hyperthyroidism?
Kelp (Saccharina japonica) is marine herb belonging to the Phaeophyceae (brown algae) family. This seaweed thrives well in shallow water with temperature ranging between 6 and 14 °C. Kelp can grow as fast as half a metre a day. During the early 19th century, kelp was burnt to obtain soda ash.
Active compounds: Kelp contains more than 60 minerals, elements, and amino acids including iodine, calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and B-vitamins. This herb is employed by herbalists to treat low-functioning thyroid gland. Iodine plays crucial role in the production of thyroid hormones. This herb is found to be helpful in weight loss, goiters, low blood pressure, and fatigue caused by sluggish thyroid gland. Kelp is one of the most popular ingredients used in herbal concoctions for treating hypothyroidism.
Dosage: An adult should restrict kelp-based supplement to 150 mcg per day. Raw kelp can be soaked, chopped and served with gourmet soup and salad recipes.
What are the benefits of the herb Lemon Balm in Thyroid Conditions?
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is an aromatic herb belonging to the mint family. It is considered as a calming herb. During the Middle Ages, it was used to promote sleep, decrease stress and anxiety, enhance appetite, and ease discomfort from abdominal bloating.
Where does it grow: Lemon Balm is native to Europe. The plant reaches a maximum height of 2 feet. In the summer and spring, the plant bears clusters of small, light cream colored flowers.
Active compounds: The active ingredients present in lemon balm are terpenes, polyphenol tannins, citral, citronella, and geraniol. Regular consumption of lemon balm helps to normalize an overactive thyroid gland. Lemon grass is widely used in Europe to treat common symptoms of Graves’ disease such as hypertension, nervous disorders and migraines. This herb is also used to increase thyroid hormone levels in patients suffering from hypothyroidism. Lemon balm helps to strengthen rather than stimulate thyroid function. It is often combined with bugleweed to prepare thyroid tonics.
Dosage: The recommended dosage for capsules should range between 300 mg to 500 mg daily. One can safely make lemon balm tea by adding 1 teaspoonful of dried lemon balm herb in hot water. This herbal concoction can be drunk a single cup thrice a day. Lemon balm tea can be prepared by steeping two tbsp. of fresh leaves in one cup of boiling water.
Caution: Do not use lemon balm if you are suffering from hypothyroidism. This herb should only be used under the supervision of a qualified health practitioner.
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