If your thyroid gland fails to work properly, the hormone produced by the gland won't achieve proper levels, leaving you either fatigued and with inexplicable weight gain or losing weight rapidly while unable to relax or sleep. In some cases, an inflamed thyroid can lead to stages of both overactive and underactive thyroid, with each stage requiring different treatments. Some herbs and minerals may help ease the complaints of a poorly functioning thyroid, but always check with your doctor for proper dosage and for possible side effects and drug interactions.
Herbs for Hyperthyroidism
The American Thyroid Association reports that primary symptoms of hyperthyroidism, also known as overactive thyroid, include nervousness, excessive weight loss, rapid heartbeat and insomnia. Hyperthyroidism occurs when the gland produces too much of the thyroid hormone into the system.
Bugleweed may help stabilize overactive thyroid, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. UMMC recommends making bugleweed tea from 2 grams of the dried herb. Lemon balm tea may be used alone or with bugleweed to treat hyperthyroidism. Use 2 tbsp. dried lemon balm.
Sip motherwort tea three times a day for the rapid heartbeat associated with an over-active thyroid. Use 2 grams when making tea. An enzyme extracted from pineapple, the supplement bromelain, appears to soothe inflammation. When this occurs in the thyroid, it can trigger hyperthyroidism. UMMC suggests taking 250 to 500 mg of bromelain three times a day.
Taking a turmeric supplement each time you take bromelain may increase the effectiveness of the latter, UMMC notes. Take 500 mg doses.
Herbs for Hypothyroidism
Underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism, occurs when the thyroid under-produces the thyroid hormone. Symptoms include fatigue, weight gain, chills, muscle cramps and heavy menstrual flow in women.
The herb coleus forskohlii appears to help underactive thyroid glands by increasing the amount of the hormone it produces, according to UMMC. Take 50 to 100 mg three times a day.
Hawthorne may help lower high cholesterol, a symptom that sometimes accompanies underactive thyroid. Take 500 mg capsules twice a day to counteract this effect, suggests UMMC.
Taking bladderwrack is only advisable when underactive thyroid can be linked to an iodine deficiency, which is rare in the Western world, according to UMMC. Take the high-iodine seaweed bladderwrack only when directed by a doctor.
Herbs for General Thyroid Health
UMMC singles out horsetail, kelp and oat straw as three botanicals "rich in minerals that may help promote thyroid function." Additionally, research continues on the mineral selenium, found in certain foods and herbs, including wheat germ, raspberry leaf, alfalfa, burdock root, ginseng and yarrow, selenium also comes in capsule form.
Medline Plus notes that the selenium's specific effectiveness on thyroid function remains unclear, but that people with natural deficiencies of the mineral often develop thyroid problems. Selenium may help with thyroid-related Grave's disease and goiter, but ask your doctor about the latest research and the pros and cons of adding selenium-rich foods or herbs to your diet or taking supplements.
"Selenium plays a role in thyroid function and is needed for the immune system to work properly," notes UMMC. "However, in most cases scientists aren't sure whether low selenium levels are a cause or an effect of the disease."