The thyroid gland sits in the throat and plays an important role in the overall well-being of the body.
This particular gland features a butterfly-like shape, with two components at the sides that are called lobules. Each of these lobules consists of many thyroid follicles.
The primary purpose of the thyroid gland is to produce certain hormones.
The thyroid gland can also store the hormones it makes, gradually releasing them into the blood system as the body needs them.
Many hormones play a part in thyroid health, including thyroid-stimulating hormone, Triiodothyronine, and Tetraiodothyronine (1).
While the thyroid can regulate its hormone production normally in most cases, some people may experience the development of thyroid disorders.
This can interfere with the thyroid gland’s ability to produce an appropriate amount of hormones. In turn, complications can develop in the body.
Some people turn to ashwagandha for thyroid problems, but you may feel unsure about whether this is a good idea.
We examine ashwagandha and its potential benefits for thyroid problems in this post.
Types Of Thyroid Disorders
It is important to understand there are two different types of thyroid disorders that can develop. The two disorders are complete opposites of each other.
In order to ensure you have appropriate knowledge of how certain conditions affect your thyroid function, we take a look at each of these disorders below.
Hypothyroidism is a relatively common disorder that affects the thyroid gland. This particular condition refers to an underactive thyroid. It means that your thyroid gland does not produce sufficient thyroid hormones.
The prevalence of hypothyroidism differs between various regions of the world, ranging up to 7% in the United States (2).
One of the major issues with hypothyroidism is that many people will not experience early symptoms. This means the condition causes complications gradually.
When the individual notices symptoms, the condition has already led to health problems. Research papers suggest that hypothyroidism can lead to fatal complications if the condition is left untreated.
When the thyroid gland does not produce enough T3 and T4 hormones, then the following symptoms can start to develop:
- Increase in weight, potentially leading to obesity
- Weakness in muscles
- Stiff and aching muscles
- Hair may begin to thin
- The heart rate may become slow
- Elevated blood cholesterol levels
Some people also develop symptoms generally linked to depression when they have hypothyroidism. Some studies also show a higher prevalence of depression among people who have this particular thyroid disorder (3).
This is because hypothyroidism can cause a decline in glucose metabolism and blow flow toward the brain. In addition to depressive symptoms, these particular complications can also result in impaired memory and overall cognitive functionality.
Thyroid hormones play a role in the body’s ability to regulate internal temperature. This is why some people with hypothyroidism also experience a lower tolerance toward cold temperatures.
Hyperthyroidism is also a thyroid disorder that can affect your overall well-being. This particular condition is quite the opposite of hypothyroidism.
With hyperthyroidism, the thyroid gland produces too many hormones. While not as common as hypothyroidism, this particular disorder still affects up to 3% of the population (4).
The symptoms that hyperthyroidism causes are often also found in other health conditions. This is why several tests need to be done before hyperthyroidism can be diagnosed. This also ensures the healthcare provider can rule out the possibility of other diseases.
Some of the most common symptoms people experience when they have hyperthyroidism include:
- Losing weight without any effort or intention from their side.
- A heartbeat that reaches over 100 beats per minute.
- Heart palpitations can also occur.
- Some people feel irritable and nervous.
- Increase in perspiration.
- Muscle weakness and fatigue.
- Hair becomes brittle and fine.
- The patient may notice differences in their bowel movements.
- Tremors can occur in the hands.
When there are too many thyroid hormones in the body, the sensitivity to higher temperatures can increase. Like hypothyroidism, depression is often also seen among people with hyperthyroidism. In addition to depression, many people will also experience anxiety symptoms when they have hyperthyroidism (5).
What Is Ashwagandha?
There are many natural herbs and plant extracts that companies use to produce natural medicines. Ashwagandha is a particularly popular extract that is used in many types of natural formulas. The extract comes from an evergreen shrub that is commonly found in African and Asian regions.
One of the most common uses for ashwagandha is due to its potential adaptogenic properties. This means the plant extract may help to improve the body’s ability to cope with stress.
While there are still limitations to the studies conducted on ashwagandha, some evidence has already been shared. The specific chemicals that are found in ashwagandha may potentially benefit several aspects of health. Many people also turn to ashwagandha as a supplement to help treat certain thyroid problems.
Can Ashwagandha Improve Thyroid Health?
When it comes to thyroid health, it is important to be careful when you choose supplements to use. This particular type of supplement falls under the use of adaptogens for thyroid health.
You do need to understand how ashwagandha works. We also have to consider how it affects thyroid hormones to determine its potential benefits or drawbacks for the thyroid gland. We will look at ashwagandha’s potential in cases of both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Does Ashwagandha Help With Hypothyroidism?
When you have hypothyroidism, your thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones. There are many potential causes behind this effect.
When looking at whether ashwagandha can help with hypothyroidism, it is important to consider its mechanism of action in the body.
One study (6) divided 50 people into two groups. All of the individuals in the study had hypothyroidism. One group received a daily supplement that contained a 600mg dose of ashwagandha extract. The other group received a placebo supplement.
By the end of the study, the researchers identified potential positive effects in the ashwagandha group. T3 levels increased by an average of 41.5%. Additionally, levels of T4 also increased by 19.6% on average. The researchers also noted an average 17.5% decline in thyroid-stimulating hormone levels.
Many people experience chronic stress, which causes a consistent release of cortisol in the body. Cortisol can have damaging effects on the human body. This includes adverse effects on the thyroid gland. Some studies show that ashwagandha effectively reduces the amount of cortisol that circulates through the body.
Does Ashwagandha Help With Hyperthyroidism?
Things are quite different when looking at using ashwagandha for hyperthyroidism. As we mentioned, ashwagandha seems to lower the amount of thyroid-stimulating hormone in the body. At the same time, it increases the amount of T3 and T4 that the thyroid produces.
With hyperthyroidism, there are already too many of these hormones produced and pushed into the blood circulatory system. While there are no specific human studies that confirm the effects of ashwagandha and hyperthyroidism, you should be very cautious.
There is some evidence that ashwagandha extract can continue to increase levels of T3 and T4 hormones in the body, even when you already have hyperthyroidism (7).
These effects can result in the development of more severe hyperthyroidism. In turn, your symptoms may worsen, and you can also be at risk of a condition known as thyrotoxicosis. This is when levels of thyroid hormones reach dangerously high concentrations in the blood circulatory system.
Can Ashwagandha Raise TSH Levels?
Thyroid-stimulating hormone, or TSH for short, is an important element in thyroid function. This particular hormone regulates the production of T3 and T4 hormones by the thyroid gland.
It is important to note that a higher level of TSH means the thyroid produces fewer hormones. If TSH levels decline, then the thyroid gland starts to make more hormones.
It is important to have a good understanding of how ashwagandha affects TSH levels. As we noted in the previous section, TSH levels decline when people use ashwagandha. This is why it is a useful option to take when you have hypothyroidism.
Can I Take Ashwagandha With Thyroid Medicine?
Some people may want to continue taking their thyroid medicine and combine this with ashwagandha supplements.
First of all, this is not a good idea if you have hyperthyroidism. In this case, the ashwagandha will essentially counter the effects of the medicine you take.
It is possible to take ashwagandha and levothyroxine in some cases. With this said, always check with your healthcare provider.
Taking ashwagandha and levothyroxine together could cause a more significant increase in thyroid hormones, which may result in symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Ashwagandha?
There are several benefits that ashwagandha may offer, apart from helping to increase thyroid hormones in people with hypothyroidism. Some of the added benefits that you may experience include:
- Your body’s resistance to physical and mental stress may improve.
- You may experience a reduction in anxiety symptoms.
- Some people find that their physical performance improves.
- The supplement could potentially help boost male fertility.
- There is also a possibility that ashwagandha may help to lower your blood glucose levels.
Who Shouldn’t Take Ashwagandha?
It is important to avoid using ashwagandha if you are currently pregnant or breastfeeding. Ashwagandha and autoimmune diseases also seem to interact, so it is important to avoid this supplement if you have any disease that affects the immune system.
Ashwagandha and autoimmune diseases could cause overactivity of the immune system, thus resulting in a worsening of symptoms.
If you take certain medication, you also have to consult your healthcare provider to determine if you can safely use ashwagandha supplements.
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How To Use Ashwagandha For Thyroid
Take note that ashwagandha supplements come in different forms. In most cases, you can find a tablet, capsule, or powdered supplement form.
While there are no specific dosage guidelines for ashwagandha, you can refer to studies to get an idea of how much you should use. Most studies use a daily dose between 600mg and 1000mg of ashwagandha root extract when treating hypothyroidism.
Ashwagandha poses as an attractive natural remedy for people with thyroid disorders. The natural extracts of the plant may produce some benefits, but there are also precautions that you need to understand.
You may experience positive results with ashwagandha and Hashimoto’s. This is because ashwagandha could potentially help increase the production of the two main thyroid hormones.
On the other hand, it is not recommended to use ashwagandha for hyperthyroidism. Ensure you are cautious when using these supplements and consult with your doctor if you are taking existing medication. This can help you understand whether you can safely take ashwagandha supplements.