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Last modified on August 25th, 2020
Key Takeaways: Ashwagandha for Thyroid Health
- Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, meaning it helps the body and nervous system adapt to stress
- It’s been used in Ayurveda for thousands of years
- Currently research supports many benefits of ashwagandha include for anxiety, arthritis and pain relief, and perhaps even for cancer
- Ashwagandha may be helpful for thyroid health, particularly for people who deal with hypothyroidism
- Always speak to your doctor before starting a supplement like ashwagandha
Is ashwagandha good for the thyroid, and what else should you know about the links between ashwagandha and thyroid health?
We cover what you should know about ashwagandha and thyroid health, including how it might affect you if you have under- or over-active thyroid.
What Is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is an herb with many benefits for health, and it’s sold as a supplement in liquid, powder and tablet form. Ashwagandha is also known as winter cherry or Indian ginseng, and it’s an adaptogen.
Adaptogens are believed to help your body deal with stress.
While ashwagandha has gained popularity in recent years in alternative and holistic medicine, it’s certainly not new. In fact, it has a history as a medicinal herb dating back thousands of years. Specifically, ashwagandha is considered one of the most important herbs in Ayurvedic medicine, which is an Indian healthcare practice that’s thousands of years old.
What Are the Possible Benefits of Ashwagandha?
There are many possible benefits of taking an ashwagandha supplement, some of which have a strong amount of research to back them up.
- Anxiety: One of the most popular reasons people use ashwagandha supplements is to help with anxiety. According to a study initially published in Phytomedicine, ashwagandha showed the ability to reduce anxiety levels in a way similar to the prescription lorazepam.
- Arthritis: Ashwagandha has potential pain-relieving effects, and it’s an anti-inflammatory, both of which mean it may be helpful for people with arthritis.
- Cardiovascular health: When you take ashwagandha, it may help with a variety of conditions and symptoms related to heart and cardiovascular health. For example, it may reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as chest pain and the risk of heart disease.
- Alzheimer’s disease: Ashwagandha has been shown in some studies to slow the loss of brain function in people with Alzheimer’s as well as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases.
- Cancer: There have been a few studies looking at ashwagandha for cancer, and it’s been found to help stop cell growth in certain types. For example, in an animal study, ashwagandha reduced a lung tumor. Other cancers that ashwagandha may affect include breast, kidney, prostate, and lung.
Types of Thyroid Disease
Before going into the potential benefits of ashwagandha for thyroid disease, it’s important to recognize there are actually different types.
The thyroid creates hormones that play a necessary role in the systems throughout our bodies. Your thyroid can make too little or too much of the hormones.
The thyroid is a gland, and if you make too much, you may develop hyperthyroidism. If your body makes too little thyroid, it’s classified as hypothyroidism.
There are hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.
Hypothyroidism can be caused by thyroiditis and Hashimoto thyroiditis.
Other reasons for hypothyroidism include:
- Iodine deficiency
- Postpartum thyroiditis
- A non-functioning thyroid gland
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism or an overactive thyroid include:
- Irritability, anxiety or nervousness
- Sleep disturbances
- Weight loss
- An enlarged thyroid gland, also known as a goiter
- Muscle weakness
- Irregular or stopped menstrual cycles
- Heat sensitivity
- Eye irritation
Symptoms of hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid can include:
- Weight gain
- Forgetfulness or brain fog
- Frequent or heavy periods
- Dry, coarse hair
- Hoarse voice
- Intolerance to cold temperatures
Hypothyroidism is an especially common condition among people in the United States. There are more than three million cases in the U.S., and it’s more common in females.
When we discuss thyroid function, the primary concern is usually the levels of T3. When you have hypothyroidism, your thyroid gland can’t produce enough T4, and also the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone or TSH are typically high. T4 is an inactive hormone that has to be converted into T3.
There’s also subclinical hypothyroidism, which is mild thyroid failure. People with this condition may have normal T4 levels, but their TSH levels may be high. It’s frequently caused by Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the thyroid and then creates inflammation.
Is Ashwagandha Good for Thyroid Disease?
Is ashwagandha good for your thyroid? First and foremost, you should always speak to your doctor before you take any supplements including ashwagandha for your thyroid. However, if your doctor clears you to take the supplement, there are some possible benefits it can have for people with thyroid disease. There are both direct and indirect benefits of ashwagandha on thyroid health.
Ashwagandha and Adrenal Health
One of the big reasons people use ashwagandha for thyroid health is because of its effects on adrenal health. Whether you have hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, ashwagandha may help support the health and optimal functionality of your adrenal glands. For example, as an adaptogen, ashwagandha may help reduce stress and cortisol levels.
Persistently high cortisol levels can lead to weight gain, including weight gain around the midsection. If you have hypothyroidism and high stress, it may be incredibly difficult for you to lose weight, and since ashwagandha has apoptogenic properties, it may help with this.
Ashwagandha and the Immune System
Ashwagandha may also help your immune system functionality.
For example, there was a study that assessed the effects of ashwagandha on the cellular immune response. The herb was found to help improve levels of bone marrow cells and lymphocytes. The same study also indicated the use of an ashwagandha supplement helped increase the activity of natural killer cells.
At the same time, ashwagandha is thought to be an immune modulator, so it doesn’t just increase your immune system—it can also suppress the activity if that’s what’s needed.
What About the Direct Effects of Ashwagandha on the Thyroid?
Ashwagandha, particularly when combined with an herbal supplement called bladderwrack, may help stimulate your body’s production of thyroid hormone. There have been animal studies showing just taking ashwagandha by itself may help stimulate T3 and T4 production, while a separate study found taking an ashwagandha supplement just helped with the production of T4.
Ashwagandha is believed to be an anti-inflammatory supplement. Inflammation is a big challenge for people who deal with thyroid dysfunction because it affects your thyroid hormone output levels, and it also impacts the ability of your hormones to bind to receptors.
While some practitioners say their patients with hyperthyroidism do well on ashwagandha, you should be cautious, and it may be a better supplement for someone with hypothyroidism. This is because of the possible ability to help the body produce more T3 and T4.
Since ashwagandha is believed to increase the T3 hormone, it may help provide an energy boost and also help you burn more fat. It’s also possible that using ashwagandha for thyroid health can increase free T4 levels, and bring TSH into the normal range.
In one fairly recent study that looked ashwagandha and thyroid dysfunction, taking the supplement for eight weeks normalized the thyroid hormone levels in the treatment group.
The effects of ashwagandha on the thyroid are primarily thought to be linked to the role the herb plays in the regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis, which again goes back to the ability of the herb to lower cortisol levels.
Are There Any Side Effects of Ashwagandha?
If you’re considering taking ashwagandha for thyroid dysfunction, again, speak to your health care provider first.
Beyond that, there are very low rates of side effects that occur with ashwagandha, and this is true of most apoptogenic herbs.
If you are taking medication for thyroid function, blood pressure, or blood sugar, make sure you talk to your doctor about any possible interactions.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, avoid taking supplements like ashwagandha.
The Best Ashwagandha Supplements for Thyroid Health
A few of our favorite ashwagandha supplements include the following:
- 100% pure ashwagandha for stress relief, thyroid support, and mood
- High-potency ashwagandha is combined with organic black pepper extract to increase absorption
- Made with certified organic ashwagandha root powder
- Contains no heavy metals, fillers, binders or allergens
- Complete adrenal complex
- Boosts energy levels
- Promotes improvements in cognitive function
- Made from the whole herb instead of extracts which helps with efficacy and bioavailability
- Supports your natural energy and metabolism
- Provides a way to support your natural response to stress
- Antioxidant properties destroy free radicals
- Supports a healthy inflammatory response
- Made from USDA-certified organic herbs
- GMO and gluten-free
- 600 mg of ashwagandha plus ginger and probiotics
- Supports a healthy stress response and boosts energy levels
- Made from organic ashwagandha
- Helps support healthy digestion
- Made from 100% organic and non-GMO ingredients
- Certified USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified
- The serving recommendation is just one tablet a day
- Provides stress relief, balanced energy and mood support
- 120 vegan liquid capsules
- Ashwagandha is grown on a Certified Organic farm
- Capsules are designed to dissolve within 10 to 12 minutes of taking them
- The liquid extract is also super concentrated
- Top-rated ashwagandha product on Amazon with excellent reviews
- Specifically formulated to provide support for thyroid health
- Includes 14 ingredients for thyroid health including L-tyrosine, iodine, vitamin B12, and ashwagandha
- Includes the herbs bladderwrack and Schisandra, which are believed to help the body create thyroid hormones
- Created in the U.S.
- Added minerals include zinc, magnesium, copper, and selenium
- Well-reviewed product and users say they saw the results in their lab work
Summing Up—The Ashwagandha Thyroid Connection
Overall, ashwagandha is a wonderful medicinal herb, as long as you take it with your doctors’ approval. It’s been used for thousands of years and can help with everything from anxiety and mood to thyroid health. Ashwagandha is likely best suited to someone with hypothyroidism as opposed to hyperthyroidism, however, because it can increase thyroid hormone levels.