herbsOne of the reasons doctors prescribe medication for thyroid disease is to help ease a patient’s suffering and pain. The problem with most prescription medications though, is their 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.[1]

Medications for hyperthyroid and graves 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.[2]

People usually initially feel better on the medication, but within a few months or years, they can often feel much worse.

Unfortunately, when taking the medications, the root cause of the thyroid condition is never addressed. And, those synthetic prescription medications can contribute to liver dysfunction.[3] It’s a double whammy!

Herbal medicine, on the other hand, is much gentler on the body than pharmaceutical drugs. 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.[4]

Many of these time-tested remedies can help ease suffering and pain without negative side effects, as well as heal the body on a deep nutritive level.

I believe it’s time we get back to a more gentle type of healing.

While my clients go 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.

Below are some of the possible plant remedies:

Ginseng– 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 would be a good herb to take early in the day to help boost energy.

Ashwaganda – 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.[5] If you are feeling stressed out or suffering from insomnia and reproductive issues, Ashwaganda is a good herb to include in your healing regime.

Black Walnut Hull – according to herbalist, Phyllis Light, Black Walnut Hull is the traditional remedy for treating goiter and hypothyroidism. The hulls are rich in iodine. This herb is also used to tonify the intestines and digestive system as a whole. It is especially useful for those suffering with bacterial overgrowth, leaky gut and bloating.

Bugleweed – also know as “lycopus” is 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.”[6] If you are feeling hyper at night and cannot sleep or you are suffering with extreme nervousness, or heart-pounding thyroid storms, put this herb to work on calming down your system.

Melissa (Lemon Balm) – is an effective treatment for Graves and hyperthyroid. “In the Middle Ages, people used this herb to reduce stress and anxiety, promote restful sleep, improve appetite, lower fever and ease the pain and discomfort of indigestion.”[7] 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.

Bladderwrack – a sea plant used as tincture and eaten, too. This plant is beneficial for both hyper and hypo thyroid. Regular consumption of Bladderwrack can normalize a swollen prostate, lower chronic high blood pressure, promote healing and improve sleep. “Much of the iodine in bladderwrack presents as di-iodotyrosine, an immediate precursor of the thyroid hormones thyroxine and tri-iodothyronine. This makes it the sea vegetable of choice for treating thyroid disorders by providing the immediate precursors for T4 and T3.”[8]

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 Health Program.

Don’t disregard the power of botanical medicine. Some of these herbs, combined with a thyroid healing diet, could shift your body into healing and move you out of suffering!

When using herbs of any kind, from the sea or from the land, it’s best to work with a knowledgeable practitioner. If you live in the United States you can find an herbalist through The American Herbalist Guild.

As far as reducing your prescription medications, remember to take it slow. Work with a knowledgeable 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 would need to remain 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. The blood and hormones need time to readjust.

You may initially feel unbalanced energy when getting off the medications, but it will eventually normalize because the body is always seeking balance. After three months, cut the medication in half again, and give it another three months to normalize.

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[1] https://www.synthroid.com/whatissynthroid/sideeffects.aspx

[2] http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a682464.html

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10580751

[4] http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00469/Herbal-Botanical-Medicine-Dr-Weils-Wellness-Therapies.html

[5] 21st Century Herbal, Michael Balick, PhD, Rodale 2014, pp 306-307

[6] The Earthwise Herbal, Matthew Wood, North Atlantic Books, 2009, p 232

[7] 21st Century Herbal, Michael J. Balick, PhD, Rodale 2014, p. 204

[8] http://www.ryandrum.com/seaxpan1.html