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Ask the Herbalist--Thyroid Problems

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ANSWERS FROM CARLOS: 
QUESTION
: My wife is currently taking 150mgs per day of Thyroxine for an under active thyroid, she suffers greatly from night sweats.  Could you possibly recommend any herbal teas etc ,that would help with night sweats but not interfere with the Thyroxine she is taking any advice would be greatly appreciated many thanks for your time

ANSWER: Hypothyroidism is a common condition in which an under active thyroid which causes the body's whole metabolic rate to slow down. Women are most susceptible to this condition, especially during times of hormonal stress, in example, during menopause and pregnancy. In many cases both the absence of iodine in the diet, poor nutrition and lack of exercise will contribute to thyroid gland dysfunction. In other cases the autoimmune system is compromised.

As to diet we suggest you take 1 tablespoons of Wheat germ 3xs day, eat plenty of cold fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines) weekly and fresh garlic and onions.
Add to all your broths, soups and stews a large piece of Astragalus root and a tablespoon of Kelp.

I suggest she eliminates the following from her diet: Pork, heavy red meats, all dairy (except yogurt), white sugar, cabbage, turnips, peanuts, mustard, all fried and greasy foods and all foods containing additives and/or preservatives.

Enhance her diet with: Oily fish (mackerel, sardines), shrimp, oysters, steamed fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, brown rice, brewer's yeast, yogurt, honey, onions, garlic, kale, spinach and kelp.

Add to your broths, soups and stews Astragalus root, Chinese Angelica, a small piece of white Chinese ginseng and a pinch of seaweed.

A glandular thyroid extract may also prove of help. Drinking infusions of Dandelion root will help keep the toxins at bay. Sweeten with honey and drink 3xs day.

Daily exercise will help stimulate the thyroid gland, taking saunas and steam baths will also prove of help. Add 25 drops of essential oil of Rosemary, 10 drops of essential oil of Geranium and 15 drops of essential oil of Lavender to all your warm baths.

A low-level exercise program such as T'ai Chi or QiGong will prove of invaluable help.

QUESTION: My wife is currently taking 150mgs per day of thyroxine for an under active thyroid, she suffers greatly from night sweats ,could you possibly recommend any herbal teas etc ,that would help with night sweats but not interfere with the thyroxine she is taking any advice would be greatly appreciated many thanks for your time ,

ANSWER: Anytime there are hormonal changes within a woman's body, symptoms like these can develop as the system is trying to rebalance itself.

Here's what I suggest. Avoid all foods that are heating, such as: Cinnamon, garlic, onions, ginger root, black pepper, cayenne pepper and radishes. Avoid hot drinks and alcohol and moderate your caffeine intake.  Avoid hot showers and baths also.  Eat cooling foods for now, such as, salads and drink cool or cold drinks only. Add to your diet: Yogurt, whole grains, seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame), raw or lightly steamed vegetables and fresh fruits.

Here's a few other blood building and cooling foods that you can certainly add: Asparagus, Bananas, Watermelon, Kelp, Grapes Lettuce, Mushrooms, Chestnuts, Rice, Oysters, Clams, Cucumber, Eggs, Barely, Duck, Garbanzos, Fava beans, Watercress, Broccoli, Papaya, Peaches, Millet, Dandelion greens, String beans, Fish oils, Wheat germ, Celery, Swordfish, Tuna, Salmon, Black beans, Kidney beans and Bean sprouts.

Drink infusions of Green tea adding 20 drops of tincture or extract of Chinese angelica (Dang Gui). Sweeten only with honey and drink 2xs during the day and once an hour before bed.

Chinese angelica is also called the ďfemale ginsengĒ and is excellent as an all purpose womenís herb. For centuries, Dang Gui has been used by women in China to help regulate the menstrual cycle and to ease premenstrual pain, migraine, mood fluctuations and cramps. It can also help speed a womanís recovery after childbirth and deal with symptoms of low energy or chronic fatigue. Not only does Chinese angelica help to relax the muscles of the uterus, it also keeps the muscles in the arteries dilated, helping to maintain regular blood flow and heartbeat. This dilation is going to definately help with the night sweats.

QUESTION: I just got put on 30 mg of armour thyroid.  Very hypothyroid labs always come back. I started taking ashwaganda herb - 500 mg.  Is it ok to take both of these?  I read that ashwaganda can raise thyroid levels.

ANSWER: Ashwaganda may stimulate thyroid function and you should avoid it. Please also discuss this with your physician.

QUESTION: Hoping you can help me.  I am a 30year old female with ~hypothyroidism with TSH level 6.32 lab results from Feb 2011.  The only other outstanding medical problem is polycystic ovary syndrome for which I take birth control pill.  I am on no other medications.  I have been working out and eating healthier x 1.5 months and have not been able to loss weight and I feel depressed and anxious.  I have seen my family physician who proved to be of no help with ignoring that my TSH levels require treatment and also unable to provide any lifestyle change tips I can make to improve my health. I am not keen about synthetic cures even know I am a Registered Nurse.  Can you help me make my TSH level therapeutic. 

ANSWER: In many cases both the absence of iodine in the diet, poor nutrition and lack of exercise will contribute to thyroid gland dysfunction. In other cases the autoimmune system is compromised. 

As to diet we suggest you take 1 tablespoons of Wheat germ 3xs day, eat plenty of cold fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines) weekly and brown rice, kale, ginger root, honey, fresh garlic and onions. Eat plenty of raw or steamed fresh locally grown vegetables and fruits.  Add to all your broths, soups and stews 30 drops extract or tincture of Astragalus root and a teaspoon of Kelp.  Avoid heavy red meats, all dairy pork, white sugar and all fried and greasy foods. These stagnate the system. Avoid cabbage, turnip, mustard and peanuts they interfere with the body's ability to absorb iodine.   A glandular thyroid extract may also prove of help, so it is something you may want to consider.

We suggest you take a good multi-vitamin multi-mineral daily,one containg all the amino acids and vitamin B complex as well as zinc, vitamin B6, tyrosine and iodine. Daily exercise will help stimulate the thyroid gland, taking saunas and steam baths will also prove of help. Add 25 drops of essential oil of Rosemary, 10 drops of essential oil of Geranium and 15 drops of essential oil of Lavender to all your warm baths.

We also suggest that you begin drinking infusions of Chamomile 4-5xs day. Add to these 15 drops of extract or tincture of Bugleweed and 10 drops of extract of Dandelion. Sweeten only with honey.

Remember that daily exercise will help stimulate the thyroid gland. A low-level regimen of Tai chi or Qi Gong will certainly help, just 10-15 minutes a day will do wonders.

I know this is hard, but in as much as you can avoid stress. Take up a new hobby, nature watching, Yoga, meditation, painting, etc.

QUESTION: I was diagnosed with a hyperthyroid (Graves) at age 27. I am now 48 and been on PTU since I was diagnosed. Due to my hyperthyroid I was diagnosed with Osteopenia about 10 years ago. The  last 2 years Iíve been taking Ipriflavone which seems to have stopped my slow bone loss (DEXA scans from before Ipriflavone and the most recent one show no change, before that I was losing a percent or so at every scan).

In the last year or so my thyroid glands have become enlarged. Could this be due to the Ipriflavone (soy) supplement? Iíve stopped taking it but really want to continue  for my bone loss.

What other herbs are good for hyperthyroid? Iíve heard turmeric is good and can help shrink the thyroid gland so I recently started taking it.  I also take a multi-vitamin, bone building formula, fish oil, glucosomine/chrondroitin, vitamin C, and vitamin K.

ANSWER: Ipriflavone has a very poor absorption rate, so I suggest you take it on a full stomach.  When used in combination with estrogens, it might allow lower estrogen doses to be used in postmenopausal women, and it may be an effective supplement for battling bone loss. It's also been shown to enable heart muscle tissue to survive longer without oxygen.

Unfortunately not enough research has been done to fully answer your question concerning the thyroid glands. Ipriflavone is a fairly new find.

Soy though, may make the condition worse.  It is the extract of Turmeric called Curcumin that is a very effective anti-inflammatory and can deal with all disorders or inflammations brought on by such conditions. I suggest you use it instead of the Turmeric. 

First I would suggest and strongly encourage you to avoid foods that can make the condition worse. Avoid red meats, white sugar, all dairy, wheat, soy, gluten, all fried foods, white bread, pastas, chips, all processed foods and foods with preservatives. Avoid cookies, candy, sodas and colas. Moderate your intake of coffeee and alcohol.  Enhance your diet with plenty of fresh fish (in particular salmon and mackerel), eat plenty of fresh garlic and onions, blueberries, cherries, squash, tomatoes, raw or steamed fresh vegetables and fresh fruits.  I would suggest infusions of Green tea adding 20 drops of extract of Lemon balm. Lemon balm will help to normalize an overactive thyroid. Sweeten only with honey and drink 2xs day.

ANSWERS FROM AMANDA:
QUESTION
: I am new to the herb community, and I am looking for a remedy for the thyroid, my symptoms are fatigue, hair loss, unable to lose weight. And I heard that seaweed kelp is good for iodine deficiency. I donít want to over dose myself so if you could kindly let me know what is a good dose for me I would greatly appreciate it. I am at an age where you start being concerned about your health, well better late than never. Well about me I am 50 going on 51 this July, about 5" 7 ' and weight 220 lbs. if that helps. If you could give me some other suggestions about this subject that would be wonderful, also about natural herb remedies for the prostate because I am at that age now.

ANSWER: I am glad you are becoming interested in your health, and 51 is hardly too late, so be of good cheer. Seaweed is a great source of all the minerals of the ocean, and many herb suppliers on our site as well as Asian food sections of regular grocery stores carry packages that have recipes printed on them. In our family, we eat some type of seaweed two times a week. Kelp is of such variable quality in the marketplace, I cannot recommend a product or dose, since we don't know what your thyroid needs.

Your weight to height ratio suggests that cutting down on refined and even healthy carbohydrates is a good way to help your entire endocrine system,  not just your thyroid. focus on three to four servings a day of fresh and steamed vegetables or raw fruit in season every day. Increase your intake of plain water in between meals, hot water and lemon juice in the mornings or evenings, as you prefer. This goes a long way toward gently stimulating your metabolism to self-correct, before you begin dosing with kelp tablets. In 90 days you will be a different David. Please stay in touch and tell me how you are getting on.

QUESTION: Actually before I had written you I had purchased a bag of seaweed kelp granules and saw palmetto powder , and some empty five hundred mil caps from the S.F. herb store on fourteenth street, and have been taking one of each daily. Just to keep you updated, as far as your advice I have started to cut down and eat more fruits vegetables and nuts, and I also want to take up yoga. Thanks again for your help.  p.s what about the hair loss, are there any direct remedies for this ?

ANSWER: I have a whole show on men's hair loss and herbs, on Veria.com, cable channel 218 from DISH or Verizon FIOS. You can get the transcript from there and recipes online.

QUESTION: Can you tell me which herbs would be helpful for Graves Disease?  I was told that Lemon Balm is good for Graves in that it lowers TSH in the blood.  They told me that when TSH levels are lower, thyroid hormone production is lower.  But I thought this was the opposite?  If the TSH levels go lower, wouldn't that make you underactive?  My TSH is zero and my doctor increased my PTU because he wants the TSH to go higher.  He said when the levels are at zero, that means it's overactive.  I just wanted to make sure about this. 

ANSWER: It is not surprising you have questions. Thyroid hormone problems can be complex to understand. TSH is Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. It is raised when the the thyroid is not producing sufficient thyroxine, the hormone produced by the thyroid. Thyroxine is in two forms, T3 (10%, appears to be the active form) and T4 (90%, appears to be converted into T3). These two forms of thyroid hormone are either free (1%, able to enter cells) or bound to proteins for circulation (99%).

The relationship between low TSH and low T3 & T4 isn't as simple as see-saw, one going up when the other is low. The control of their release is through the hypothalamus, pituitary, and thyroid. 

The evidence on Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is suggestive of a supportive role for underactive thyroid, as is the evidence of Ashwagandha (Withania somniferum), an herb of the Ayurvedic tradition from India. Ashwagandha has been well studied for its benefits on stress response and the hypothalmic-pituitary-adrenal axis. The safety data on both are good. I do not see a reason to recommend against you taking one or both. 

Graves Disease is not the same as underactive thyroid, though. An auto-immune condition, Graves requires a more sophisticated herbal medicine approach than taking one or two herbs for the organ affected. This is especially true if your PTU dose has been raised by your physician. Your best interest lies in seeing a Naturopathic or Integrative medicine physician who can work with you, recommend herbs, understand your prescription(s), and monitor a holistic treatment that is specific to you. There is no "herb for Graves." 

There is every reason to be encouraged that the world of holistic natural medicine has some answers for you specifically.

QUESTION: This enquiry is on behalf of my mom, she is 69 years and has an over active thyroid. I would like to know if there is anything natural that can be used to cure this  and what would you recommend?

ANSWER: Thank you for your question regarding your mother's overactive thyroid. While the herb Ashwagandha (Withania somniferum) has been shown in some studies to lower excess thyroid activity, extracts of this root appears to work via the endocrine system rather than suppressing the overactive glad.  

A second herb, Lycopus europaeus or L. virginicus (Bugleweed or Gypsywort), is also used for an overactive thyroid but is best used with professional help. The reason her thyroid is secreting excess hormones must be evaluated and treated by a health professional. Consider finding a licensed integrative medicine specialist or Ayurvedic physician near her, and best of luck. Meanwhile, the dose of Ashwagandha is in the range of 750mg-2000mg per day for a woman of her age.

ANSWERS FROM KAREN MALLENGER
UNDER ACTIVE THYROID

QUESTION:
I would like to find out what can be taken for an under active thyroid.  I am taking 0.1 mg Levoxyl for it now, but would like to switch to something natural.  What would you recommend?  Thank you,

ANSWER: Let's start with your diet. Include molasses, egg yolks, parsley, apricots, dates and prunes in your diet. Avoid all processed food. Easy rule of thumb: If it's white, don't put it in your mouth! This means white sugar, white flour, all artificial sweeteners, and anything containing them. Avoid chlorine and fluoride. (That's right, the stuff in your toothpaste) They block iodine receptors in the thyroid gland.
 Bayberry, black cohosh and goldenseal may help you, though you will need to check with your medical professional about the drug interactions with your current medications. If you are interested, I can make a custom formula for you. I would need to know every medication you are taking, and what you're taking it for.

QUESTION: Can you recommend herbs for an over active thyroid?

ANSWER: An over active thyroid, or hyperthyroidism, occurs when the thyroid produces too much of the hormone, thyroxine, which causes the body functions to speed up. To ensure that this is really what's going on, you need to have a blood test to verify it. The symptoms are similar to a variety of other ailments, so please ensure you have had the proper diagnosis with a blood test to confirm. If left untreated, it can lead to bone and heart disorders. Three conditions of hyperthyroidism are Graves disease, Plummer's disease and a potentially dangerous form called Thyroid Storm.  Graves disease is related to the immune system, while Plummers and Thyroid Storm are not. Common herbs for this condition are Bugleweed and Motherwort. Those suffering from Graves disease should avoid the following herbs: Aloe, American ginseng, Astragalus, Bamboo, Burdock, Chrysanthemum, Echinacea, ginger, ginseng, lemon balm, Siberian ginseng and wheat grass. Vitamin E as well as plenty of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, peaches, pears, soybeans and spinach will help as well.

ANSWERS FROM DAVID BRILL:
HYPERTHYROID
QUESTION:
  i would like to know what herbs are used to normalize this condition.

ANSWER:  A combination of the following herbs have been used in the past for Hyperthyroidism.

Lemon Balm, Latin Name: Melissa officinalis
Bugle Weed, Latin Name:  Lycopus virginicus
Motherwort, Latin Name: Leonurus cardiaca. 

If you are talking Graves disease add in Medicinal Mushrooms such as those in the Ganoderma family to balance the immune system.