This is an issue dear to my heart because I have this condition. It started with me when I was 11 years old, just after I entered puberty. I started menstruating early and I had a hormonal imbalance right away, with overly enlarged breasts and a startling gain in weight. But I was not, at first, hypothyroid. In fact, treatment with thyroid hormones made me violently ill, complete with seizures and foaming at the mouth. The subsequent rush from doctor to doctor eventually revealed the truth: I had Graves Disease. I had this condition from that moment on and am still considered suffering from it, but in remission. This remission was acheived by destroying my thyroid gland with drugs and forcing it into failure. So today I am dependant on synthetic thyroid for the rest of my life.
Right off the bat, let me say that I would never advocate not taking your thyroid meds. Whatever they are, do not stop, even if you consider trying other therapies. I have made the unfortunate mistake of stopping mine and I can tell you that myxedema, the result of this stupidity, is not an experience you will relish. It takes forever to lose the edema, the puffiness that results but that is the small of it. The loss of hair is substantial and the weight gain is tragic. I was pulling my hair out in handfuls and since then it has never been the same. So DO NOT ever stop taking your meds, not even because of lack of funds.. I would stop buying food or paying for the car before I’d give up my medication. And you should do the same.
But what I do want to suggest or advocate is to experiment with different therapies that might aid your gland, support your immune system and/or lessen the symptoms to some degree. No matter how much thyroid you take (I take the highest dosage available), whether you are only slightly hypothyroid or if you are like me, at the outer limits, you can benefit to some degree by using alternative therapies and supplements. I do not advocate taking thryoid drugs if you do not have a thyroid condition. The urban legend that I keep hearing is that they will make you lose weight and make you feel peppy. For one thing, they take two weeks to get into your system so if you’re willing to wait that long just to feel peppy then that might be the result but it won’t be like you imagine it to be, it isn’t like cocaine or meth. And, on the issue of being a weight control medication, I can debunk that. It is just as hard for me to lose a pound on the pills as it is off of them. They do not make that much difference, even for those who are diagnosed with the disease. They just don’t raise your metabolism anymore than thyroid by itself does this for your body when you’re healthy. Metabolism is created by a large number of various organs and hormones combined in your body. If you’re healthy, just say Thank God! and enjoy it.
For those of you who are dragging around, feeling the exhaustion that so many thyroid sufferers feel, there are treatments you might want to think about. The objective of any supplemental treatment is to improve all sysmptoms, prevent and treat later complications, correct imbalance, adjust the immune system and most importantly to boost energy and strengthen the body for better health and quality of life. The following herbs have been shown to have some effect on hypothyroidism and can be used in combination with the presciption medication.
These are the most prescribed herbs in traditional Chinese medicine:
Radix Ginseng (the dried root of Panax Ginseng)
Originally used in Chinese medicine as a muscle relaxant, panax ginseng has come to be known for many other beneficial uses. The roots are taken orally as adaptogens, aphrodisiacs, stimulants and in the treatment of type II diabetes, as well as for sexual dysfunction in men. The root is most often available in dried form, either whole or sliced. Ginseng leaf, although not as highly prized, is sometimes also used; as with the root, it is most often available in dried form.
Fructus Psoralea (extract)
Related to “Babchi” (in Indian medicine), whose seeds have a variety of medicinal uses, in both Asian (Chinese) and eastern practices in both India and other parts of Indonesia. Psoralen itself has a number of commercial uses. An extract of the plant’s fruit Fructus psoraleæ has been shown to act as a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor. It is this extract that I am referring to here.
Codonopsis Pilosulae (Dried Root)
Known as “poor man’s Ginseng” or dang-shen, this root is grown most widely in southeast Asia. It is a suitable and less expensive alternative to Panax Ginseng. Here in the USA, we cultivate a flower called “bonnet bellflowers” that is related to this plant but is not the same. The roots of this plant are used in traditional Chinese medicine to lower blood pressure, increase red and white blood cell count, cure appetite loss, strengthen the immune system, and replenish qi.
Aconiti Praeparata (Dried Root)
Famous in Asia for it’s use in the making of Gou Pi Gao, this herb has come into it’s own in traditional medicine. Related to common Monkshood, this herb is known for dispelling cold, increasing energy and relieving pain. It is used in treating thyroid conditions by increasing body heat and energy.
This Rhizome has been used for generations in China and in most parts of Asia. It is known for it’s ability to aid bone healing and for strengthening the bones. It is useful in cases where osteoporosis is starting or for those who would like to prevent it from starting.
Herba Epimedii (Epimedium Herb )
Herba Epimedii is traditionally used to relieve stress and fatigue. Chinese folk healers use 100-200g (10 times the common modern clinical dose) of Herba Epimedii decocted with squid and red wine as a treatment for bodily fatigue and lack of strength due to overtaxation. It is believed to remedy fatigue and absent-mindedness by flooding the brain with blood. Additionally, Herba Epimedii leaf extracts have long been used as an aphrodisiac, and the herb is a common ingredient in the alcoholic “Spring Wine”.
Also known as dried Ginger, a common spice here in the US, this herb has been used in traditional Chinese medicine as an antiemetic, most often for pregnancy-related nausea and vomiting. The herb is also used to alleviate osteoarthritic or other pain, because ginger interferes with the inflammatory cascade and the vanilloid nociceptor. Also an antioxidant, antitumorigenic and immunomodulator, it is an effective antimicrobial and antiviral agent. It has been shown to have effects on the gastrointestinal tract, the cardiovascular system, on pain and fever, also being antioxidative, antilipidemic and having antitumor effects, as well as other beneficial effects.
Cortex Cinnamomi (Cassia Bark)
Known as Chinese Cassia Bark, Cinnamomi acts on the heart, spleen, liver and kidney channels. As a pungent, sweet, extremely hot and pure Yang herb, it is similar to but slightly weaker than prepared aconite root (see Aconiti Praeparata above) in supplementing heat and dispersing cold. It has been used to treat sluggishness of the spleen and kidney, loss of energy due to exhaustion, pain due to coldness and stiffness and the overall depletion of life resources.
If you would like to look at a prepared mix of these herbs by chinese herbalists, I have a link here to a site that offers these treatments. Go to : Hsin Kuang Herbal Store & Clinic
If you are interested in buying these herbs for yourself, one at a time, or in various quantities and types, you can click on the name to go to a link with more information. I like to provide this service to my readers, even if you don’t buy from these sources, which are good ones anyways, you can, at least, get an idea of what I am talking about.
These supplements may also help:
Omega-3 fatty acids, such as Fish Oil , 1 – 2 capsules or 1 – 2 tbs. of oil daily, to help decrease inflammation and help with immunity. Omega-3 fatty acids may increase the risk of bleeding, especially if you already take blood-thinning medication. Ask your doctor before taking omega-3 fatty acids if you take blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin) or if you have a bleeding disorder. Other sources of Omega-3 fatty acids are coldwater fish like Salmon, Mackeral and Herring; flaxseed and olive oils; tree nuts like walnuts; winter squash, radish seeds, basil, cloves, broccoli.
L-tyrosine, 500 mg two to three times daily. The thyroid gland combines tyrosine and iodine to make thyroid hormone. If you are taking prescription thyroid hormone medication, you should never take L-tyrosine without direction from your doctor. Do not take L-tyrosine if you have high blood pressure or have symptoms of mania.
Do not take an iodine supplement unless your doctor tells you to. Iodine is only effective when hypothyroidism is caused by iodine deficiency, which is rare in the developed world. And too much iodine can actually cause hypothyroidism. If you are concerned about your iodine levels or believe you are deficient, simply added salt with iodine to your diet will solve any problems you may have.
Herbs that can help
Here are some common everyday herbs that may help with your condition. Herbs can be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). People with a history of alcoholism should not take tinctures. Unless otherwise indicated, make teas with 1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 – 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 – 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 – 4 cups per day. You may use tinctures singly or in combination as noted.
Few herbs have been studied for treating hypothyroidism. More research is needed. These are some of the few that have been used with moderate success.
Coleus (Coleus forskohlii), standardized extract, 50 – 100 mg two to three times a day, for low thyroid function.
Guggul (Commiphora mukul), standardized extract, 250 – 500 mg three times a day, for low thyroid support.
Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus), 600 mg one to three times daily, for low thyroid support. Do not take bladderwrack unless directed by your doctor. Bladderwrack contains iodine. Although lack of iodine can cause hypothyroidism, most cases of hypothyroidism in the developed world are not caused by iodine deficiency. In fact, too much iodine can actually cause hypothyroidism. Bladderwrack may also contain toxic heavy metals.
For more information on the prices and availability of the herbs and supplements I’ve mentioned here, you can go directly to Herbs Pro . They have an entire health library you can use for help with other conditions, as well.