Herbal Medicines for Thyroid Disorders

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Below is a transcript of the video on Herbal Medicines for Thyroid Disorders:

I want to welcome everyone. This is Dr. Nikolas Hedberg and tonight we’re talking about herbal medicines for thyroid disorders. Let’s go ahead and bring out that slide show.

Thank you everyone for coming. We just started doing these webinars a few months ago and I’m going to be doing more and more of them. I think that these are great way to educate everyone on different topics.


Thyroid disorders, it’s a big topic. Approximately 28 million Americans have a thyroid issue so it’s something that we need to know about.

I’m going to be opening it up for questions at the end of the webinar. For questions, you just type your question into the chat box. That really has been the best way to do questions because it allows the questions to be concise and I can answer them very quickly so I’ll let you know when that is going to happen.

I’ve been in practice for ten years now practicing functional medicine with a big focus on thyroid disorders.

I have published a book called The Complete Thyroid Health and Diet Guide.

We’re in this digital age now where we can get a lot of information out to a lot of people very easily and very effectively.

Tonight I’m going to talk about the best herbal medicines for thyroid disorders and the big three we’ll talk about are what we call non-autoimmune hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and then Graves’ disease.

You’ll see a little bit of overlap in some of these but all these herbs are highly effective.

Why don’t we go ahead and start with Hashimoto’s. About 90 percent of people with hypothyroidism have Hashimoto’s. Hashimoto’s is the most common autoimmune disease in the world, about 28 million Americans, so a big, big issue and the rate of Hashimoto’s is significantly growing.

Hashimoto’s is basically an autoimmune disease where the body is making antibodies against the thyroid gland and that’s usually triggered by an infection. Whether it’s the Epstein-Barr virus or it’s H. Pylori, another microbe called Yersinia, Enterocolitica.

The serious infections that we carry that trigger autoimmune diseases and those are the big three for Hashimoto’s. Hashimoto’s we do thyroid auto-antibodies. The thyroid Peroxidase and the anti-thyroid globulin antibody to make the diagnosis of Hashimoto’s.

The reason why there’s so many people who have a thyroid issue and they still have symptoms is because they have Hashimoto’s and conventional medicine really doesn’t treat Hashimoto’s any differently than they do non-autoimmune hypothyroidism.

If you have hypothyroidism you get Synthroid, if you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism you get Synthroid so nothing really changes but in functional medicine we do consider this an issue because obviously the gland is inflamed, something has triggered the body to attack its own tissue and it’s important to find out why.

The things we focus on with Hashimoto’s is a gluten free diet, good vitamin D levels, things like that. I did do a Hashimoto’s webinar, last month or the month before and that’s up on YouTube and on the blog as well. I get into all the different causes of Hashimoto’s and things like that.

Let me say right off the bat that we don’t use all of these with everybody. Everyone is an individual and one thing might work for someone and it might not work for another so these are general recommendations.

The first herb that we use in some people with Hashimoto’s is Ashwagandha, also known as Indian Ginseng, it’s an Ayurvedic herb and it’s main uses in Ayurvedic medicine and then in modern functional medicine is as an adrenal adaptogen and we know that when the adrenals are out of balance then most likely the thyroid is going to be out of balance as well because cortisol affects thyroid function.

It does help to balance the way your body responds to stress, that’s basically what an adrenal adaptogen is. Ashwagandha will enhance the conversion of T4 into T3. T4 is the inactive form of thyroid hormone and then the body converts T4 into T3 which is the active form.

Synthroid or Levothyroxine, conventional prescriptions, are just T4 and some people have issues converting T4 into T3 for a variety of reasons and Ashwagandha really helps to enhance that conversion.

If T3 levels are low, Ashwagandha can help in that regard. Ashwagandha has also been used as an aphrodisiac in Ayurvedic medicine. It can work well for men and women to enhance sex drive.

The second one is Schisandra berry. Schisandra’s a really great herb, it’s a good anti-viral, anti-histamine, it’s a liver protective herb and it’s also an adrenal tonic.

One of things that Schisandra does is it helps to raise glutathione. Glutathione is your body’s most abundant antioxidant. Whenever there is autoimmune disease we always want to increase glutathione levels and that can be done through a variety of ways.

One way is just eating more protein. One is by adding a good whey protein to your diet. Another way is by taking selenium. Selenium really helps to boost glutathione and it also helps Hashimoto’s.

Another way is with what we call N-acetyl-cysteine or NAC. N-acetyl-cysteine will also help to increase glutathione and that just helps to balance the immune system and it reduces inflammation in the thyroid gland which is a big part of what we’re trying to do with Hashimoto’s, that is to decrease that inflammation hence we can spare the gland for as long as possible.

The third herb is Nettles sometimes also known as Stinging Nettles, traditionally used for seasonal allergies. It’s also good for prostate issues but it also works well with Hashimoto’s. It’s an anti-histamine, an anti-inflammatory and it really helps to balance the immune system.

Blue Flag is probably one of the most uncommonly used herbs out there for the thyroid. One of the things we know about Blue Flag is that it actually detoxifies the thyroid gland so mercury can be a big trigger of autoimmune disease and mercury can disrupt thyroid function.

There are so many chemicals in our environment that the thyroid is very sensitive to and Blue Flag can help to detox those out of the glands. Blue Flag is a good herb and it will also stimulate thyroid function.

With Hashimoto’s, I’ve mentioned the infections before, the big one is really Epstein-Barr virus, H. Pylori also known as helical back or pylori can also trigger Hashimoto’s and then Yersinia Enterocolitica.

Yersinia is a gut bacteria and Yersinia is actually in the same species that caused the Bubonic plague in Europe. Kind of a modern day plague that a lot of people don’t know they have because they think they have a gut infection or a stomach virus, things like that, they have a lot of diarrhea and digestive issues.

That can actually be Yersinia and Yersinia is transferred just by contaminated food or water, hand to mouth.

Epstein-Barr being the big player in a lot of these cases, will use Reishi mushroom. Reishi mushroom has direct anti-Epstein-Barr activity.

Monolaurin derived from coconut also works directly on viruses.

Olive leaf extract, an excellent anti-viral also a great anti-bacterial.

Larrea tridentata is used in the south west by the Native Americans in the desert, that’s where it grows. It’s also known as Chaparral. Too much of it can be toxic to the liver so you need to be careful but a good solid dose of Larrea works really well for herpes viruses as well. The Epstein-Barr virus is a herpes virus so any that we would use for herpes virus can potentially work well for the Epstein-Barr virus.

And for those of you who don’t know the Epstein-Barr virus is the virus that causes what we call mono or mononucleosis or the kissing disease. 95 percent of the world’s population has this virus but genetically some people cannot control it throughout their life and it drives the autoimmunity.

So those are some of the really great herbs for Hashimoto’s. As I said, we’re usually working on the infection and gut health and gluten free and all those kinds of things.

These herbs can really help with energy levels and all of the symptoms related to hypothyroidism.

Just to mention, hypothyroidism, the symptoms are going to be anything related to a sluggish metabolism so you might be very cold, cold hands and feet.

Fatigue because you can’t make energy, constipation because thyroid hormone drives foods movement through the intestine so that can become sluggish. Dry, brittle hair and nails, depression, so a lot of things related to hypothyroidism.

Now, if someone does not have autoimmune thyroid disease and they just have straight hypothyroidism, then a couple of these herbs could work really well.

We talked about Ashwagandha but Eleuthero is a really great herb, not just for hypothyroid but for a lot of things. Eleuthero, also known as eleutherococcus used to be known as Siberian Ginseng.

This was heavily researched by the Russians in the 70’s and in the 80’s because they were looking for something to enhance their Olympic athletes’ stamina and athletic performance. So, while they were studying it they found out a lot of great things about Eleuthero.

Like Ashwagandha it is an adrenal adaptogen. It is in the Ginseng family just like Ashwagandha but Eleuthero will support thyroid function across the board.

You’ll notice an increase in stamina and energy. It will increase DHEA which is an adrenal hormone. If you’re more of a cortisol dominant type person, where you are having troubles responding to stress, Eleuthero will help to raise the DHEA and decrease the cortisol if it’s too high.

Eleuthero has also been shown to be a mono-amine oxidation inhibitor which basically means that it enhances serotonin so that can help with mood especially if someone has depression. Eleuthero is great for chronic fatigue and low thyroid function.

One of my favorite herbs, Bladderwrack is one of the most popular ones out there on the internet and it’s in health food stores. A big part of that is because Bladderwrack contains iodine and that’s why we don’t have Bladderwrack recommended under Hashimoto’s because in Hashimoto’s you don’t want to take too much iodine.

Bladderwrack also has some compounds in it that support the thyroid so just an overall simulator and supporter of the thyroid gland.

Ashwagandha, we talked about that but the other thing I forgot to mention about Ashwagandha is that it does improve sleep in some people. Sometimes we’ll have people take it a night if they don’t seem to have any kind of stimulating affect from it. It really helps people sleep.

Guggulipid, Commiphora mukul is another classic hypothyroid herb. Basically this works by enhancing the conversion of T4 into T3. We talked about why that was important, because T4 is inactive and T3 is active so we want to enhance that conversion.

So these are great herbs if you have general hypothyroidism that’s non-autoimmune in nature.

Let’s talk a little bit about Graves’ disease which hyperthyroidism. In hyperthyroidism, the symptoms are going to be the opposite of hypothyroidism.

In Hashimoto’s people might start off more hyper and then they eventually go to hypothyroid.

With Graves’ they’re always hyperthyroid so you have too much thyroid hormone so the metabolism is revved up. Initially you’ll see a lot of weight loss, rapid heart rates, pounding hearts, agitation and you might feel really nervous, you might be sweating a lot and insomnia.

Again, your whole metabolism is revved up so everything is in this heightened capacity. With Graves’ disease we want to manage the symptoms and find the underlying cause of the autoimmunity’s.

Graves’ is also an autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s, it’s just a little bit different.

With Graves’ we’ll use Bugleweed, a classic herb for hyperthyroidism and in Graves’ disease there is antibodies usually against thyroid stimulating hormone receptors and Bugleweed helps to block that action.

Bugleweed also inhibits the conversion of T4 into T3 so this is good because in Graves’ you’re going to see a very high T4 and T3 levels so we want to get those levels down so Bugleweed works very well.

Lemon-balm, also known as Melissa officinalis. Lemon-balm does the same thing as the Bugleweed but it also helps with the symptoms. Lemon-balm works really well for people who are agitated and restless and who can’t sleep.

Lemon-balm also works well when what we call catecholamines which are adrenalin epinephrine and nor-epinephrine. When adrenalin is high, Lemon-balm really helps to calm that down. It’s also anti-viral specifically a lot of the research has been done on its anti-viral properties against herpes and it also reduces anxiety. So Lemon-balm is another great herb.

Then Motherwort inhibits the conversion of T4 into T3 so we use a product called thyroid calm pound from Herbalists and Alchemists and it has Bugleweed in it, Lemon-balm and Motherwort. It is designed for hyperthyroidism.

Now with Graves’ you also want to look for Epstein-Barr virus as a potential trigger. H. Pylori tends to be the big player in Graves’ disease.

The helicolbacter pylori, it’s a bacteria in the stomach. It’s one of the most common causes of ulcers because people are under a lot of stress and that breaks down the stomach barrier.

It breaks down the mucus membrane and then the H. Pylori is opportunistic so it grows and eats away at the lining of the stomach. In some cases is just stays there at a very low activity because the person is under a lot of stress and so these all work great.

For H. Pylori, Matsic gum, zinc carnosine and berberine. Berberine is found in things like Goldenseal and Chinese Coptus, Oregon grape root are very good for H. Pylori.

DGL also known as Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice, Vitamin C and then Methylmethioninesulfonium, all of these will inhibit H. Pylori growth.

So when we’re working with Grave’s, we want to help with the symptoms, with the herbs but we also want to address the infection, namely H. Pylori and then we’re doing our other functional medicine things like healthy diet, gluten free diet, work on healing the gut, et cetera.

L-Carnitine, although it’s not an herb I did want to mention it here. L-Carnitine has been shown at about two to four grams a day to significantly reduce the symptoms of Graves’ disease. L-Carnitine works by inhibiting T3 uptake into the cell.

In Graves’ you have a massive amount of T3 floating around, L-Carnitine inhibits the T3 from getting into the cell and binding to the receptor.

These work really well. I did mention boosting glutathione when we talked about hypothyroidism so we use a lot of N-acetyl-cysteine and whey protein and selenium and things like that.

All of these work really well for Graves’.

Let’s just briefly talk about the best way to take all of these herbs. My two favorite ways are either capsules or an alcohol based herbal tincture.

Capsules on average for any of these herbs, you want to take about four to six capsules a day depending on how much is in it and you want to look for a standardized extract or just a whole herb from a viable source.

A lot of people wonder if they should be taken with or without food, clinically I really haven’t seen many differences if you’re taking herbs with or without food.

And alcohol-based tinctures, these are highly effective. You get about 30 percent better absorption than with the capsules and that’s because of the alcohol with helps with the absorption of the herb.

One of the important things about herbs is actually smelling the herb and so when people are taking these herbal tinctures, either straight or in a little bit of water, they smell the herb and that traditionally has been said to enhance its properties.

Usually one dropper full, one squeeze is about 30 drops and so if you’re 100 pounds you take about 30, if you’re 150 pounds you take about 60 drops, if you’re 200 pounds about 90 and so you kind of adjust it from there.

Initially you might need to take the tinctures every couple of hours for the first few days just to get it built in your system. Sometimes we’ll have people take it five to six times a day for two or three days and then drop back to about three times a day.

And again, the same thing with alcohol, it doesn’t really matter if it’s with or without food.

These are the two most highly effective ways to take these herbs if you are going to try them or if you have any of these thyroid issues.

It’s really important to identify the underlying infection that’s driving the autoimmune disease. We talked a little bit about the Epstein-Barr virus and H. Pylori.

For non-autoimmune hypothyroidism, the herbs can give a nice boost to the gland, not really a long term solution. You want to find out why the gland isn’t working well. Whether it’s an iodine deficiency, nutrient deficiency, whether it’s the adrenals that are shutting down the thyroid or mercury, environmental toxins, all these thing can affect the thyroid.

Capsules or tinctures are the preferred methods. The adrenals must be in balance. It’s really important that you’re under the supervision of an Endocrinologist if you have Graves’ disease.

Too much thyroid hormone can kill you and result in death or being rushed to the emergency room. You should be on medication if you have Graves’ and I have a basal body temperature tracking chart at the patient resources link and this is something that I recommend for anyone with hypothyroid, is to check your basal body temperature.

It explains how to do that and so what we do is we look at this over a week or two and I can tell if the thyroid issue is more thyroid related or if the issue is more adrenal related.

If it’s thyroid related you look on the graph and you’ll see virtually a straight line across the board meaning that the thyroid is low and it’s just staying in that lower temperature.

If we see a graph like this, where it’s going up and down and up and down, that tells us it’s more related to the adrenal glands. The adrenals are constantly trying to adapt to some kind of stress going on with you whether it’s a food sensitivity or there is something stressful in your life like your relationship or your job, etc. That tells us that it could be more adrenal related.

There are two forms there, there is one that you can track your body temperature for a long period of time and then there is one that gives the instructions where you can do five measurements. It’s just an inexpensive and easy way to see what’s going on with your thyroid and your adrenals.

We’re about 27 minutes in and I’d like to open it up for questions. It looks like we already have questions here. If you have a question you can type your message into the chat box and I’ll get to that as soon as I can. We have a bunch coming in here.

One of the questions is, “Audio not available online.” The audio, you call in the phone number that was sent out with the link for this presentation. “What part of nettles do you use to root the seed or the leaf and who prepared and the dosage?”

In the Nettles, the roots and the leaf are the most commonly used. This brings up a discussion about using the whole herb versus certain parts of the herb. Nettles, I haven’t really seen any difference in the different types. I like Weed Botanical Company, that’s Dr. Nicholas Weed who makes the Weed Botanical formulas. He’s has great Nettles.

Any of the good companies out there that make Nettles, capsule or tincture is going to be fine. That’s fairly straight forward and then we talked about the tincture dosing.

Schisandra? Again, we’ll use a tincture or capsules. I have patients that are recovering alcoholics so I’m not going to give them an alcohol based tincture, we’re going to use the capsules and they’re both equally effective.

“How do we get a copy of the slides?” This is going to be posted up on my website and the blog. This week I’ll send out an e-mail when that’s out and you can see the slide then.

“How do you test for Epstein-Barr virus and H. Pylori?” That’s a good question. For Epstein-Barr virus we do a blood test and we’re looking at a few different things. We’re looking at the early antigen, the VCA which is the viral capsid antigen and the nuclear antigen. We’re looking at IGG and IGM anti-bodies so that’s done in the blood, that’s fairly straight forward.

Then for H. Pylori, we do blood and we do a stool test. The stool test is highly sensitive for H. Pylori and then the blood tells us if it’s gone systemic because H. Pylori can actually get out of the stomach and become a systemic issue. So that’s how we test for those two in the blood and a stool analysis.

Here’s another good question. “Could some of the herbs used for Graves’ be counterproductive for Hashimoto’s?” Yes, definitely because the herbs for Graves’ disease are basically for hyperthyroidism where there is too much thyroid hormone and in Hashimoto’s you have hypothyroidism so yes, even if you don’t have a thyroid problem, taking those herbs will inhibit the thyroid function. So, if you have hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s hypothyroid, then yes, that’s going to make it even worse so you want to avoid those.

Another good question. “For Hashimoto’s patient, do you recommend adding the recommended herbs at once or one at a time and for a period of time?” That’s a good question. It really depends on the individual. I’ll give you a couple of examples. Some people will have Hashimoto’s and there doesn’t seem to be any infection related to it so we’re not going to use any of those herbs that treat the infections.

If someone has Hashimoto’s and it’s just because of gluten then that’s going to affect how we treat and then of course if they have an infections that’s really going to change things as well.

So that’s an individual question. Every patient is going to be different. It is possible to go in and take the Ashwagandha, the Schisandrea, Nettles, the Blue Flag and stuff like that and it’s really not going to hurt anything. But we’ll usually use one herb at a time.

Okay, if you have a question, go ahead and type it into the question box. Really good questions tonight. Go ahead and download the basal body temperature tracking forms from the website. Those will be very helpful.

Janet, I see you had a question here but it just says, is there a, you didn’t completely type it in. As soon as you do that I can answer the question.

Okay, so we’re getting close to wrapping it up now. There doesn’t seem to be any more questions coming in.

Again, this is being recorded and it will be up on the website and on YouTube in the next couple of days.

I’m just getting a lot of thank you’s from everyone. Thank you for joining us and stayed tuned. If you’re on my e-mail list, I will be sending out notices of when I’ll be doing more webinars.

Here’s one more question coming in. “Herbal company recommend, since I have heard most herbs are not very good from places.”

That’s a good question. I like to everything from Moss Nutrition, and I’ll put that in here, http://www.mossnutrition.com, that’s where I like to order most of my herbs from. They carry a variety of brands that we use.

A lot of the herbs out there are just garbage so you need to be sure that you’re getting something of high quality and everything that Moss has is going to be excellent.

Okay, well let’s wrap it up. Again, thanks everyone for joining us and we’ll see you at our next webinar. Take care and have a great night.

"I am so grateful to have found Dr. Hedberg!  Thanks to him, I am feeling great. Again, a huge thank you Dr. Hedberg, for giving me my life back!”

by - Michelle

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