Thyroid Health and Ashwagandha
Common Thyroid Problems
Thyroid is a small, butterfly shaped gland located in the lower part of your neck. It produces thyroid hormones, which play an important part in almost all physiological processes in your body.
Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism of nutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, fat, and vitamins) and affect basal metabolic rate (which reflects how much energy you consume at rest). They are also involved in bone growth, the development of brain cells (neurons), and regulation of body temperature.
There are 2 basic ways in which the thyroid can malfunction – it can produce too little or too much of the thyroid hormones.
When you suffer from sluggish thyroid, you have a condition that is called hypothyroidism. Symptoms of this condition include fatigue, weight changes (you can either lose or gain weight), dry skin and hair, and irregular menstrual cycle.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have hyperthyroidism. This is a condition in which your thyroid produces excessive amounts of thyroid hormone thyroxine. Among other things, signs and symptoms of overactive thyroid are excess sweating, hand tremors, nervousness, rapid heartbeat and palpitations, weight loss, and changes in bowel movements.
What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is an herb, native to India, which is often used in traditional ayurvedic medicinal preparations.
Ashwagandha has many health benefits, which have been extensively studied in the last couple of decades. Most commonly used part of ashwagandha are its roots, which are grounded into fine powder (also called ashwagandha churna) and sold as supplements in capsule form.
How Does Ashwaganhda Help You Regulate the Thyroid Function?
Ashwagandha is famous for being an herbal adaptogen. Adaptogens are plants that are able to adapt their action to the specific needs of your body.
In theory, this would mean that someone who has a sluggish thyroid should have a very different experience with ashwagandha than a person who is suffering from an overactive thyroid. However, the end result ought to be the same – ashwagandha should help them both bring the levels of thyroid hormone into balance.
That is why ashwagandha is often touted as being helpful for both people with hyperthyroidism as well as hypothyroidism.
What Do the Studies Say
There have been few studies made regarding ashwagandha and thyroid function. These were mostly animal studies and in all these studies ashwagandha has been shown to increase serum concentrations of thyroid hormones.
Studies have shown that ashwagandha stimulates the thyroid gland to produce more hormones.
One woman who has been taking ashwagandha extract for chronic fatigue developed hyperthyroidism. Fortunately, the condition was reversed once she stopped taking the supplement.
It is hard to make firm conclusions based on the few studies made up to date. Still, it is clear that people with thyroid issues should take ashwagandha only under medical supervision.
If you decide that you want to try out ashwagandha supplementation, it is recommended that you keep a diary of your symptoms and regularly check your blood levels of thyroid hormone.
People who are already suffering from an overactive should be extra careful with ashwagandha supplements (it might be best if they stay away from them completely).
- Thyroid hormone. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thyroid_hormone
- Hypothyrodism. http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/hypothyroidism-directory
- Overactive thyroid makes too much thyroid hormone. http://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/hyperthyroidism/hyperthyroidism-overview-overactive-thyroid
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hyperthyroidism/basics/definition/con-20020986
- Ashwagandha. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-953-ashwagandha.aspx?activeingredientid=953&activeingredientname=ashwagandha
- Changes in thyroid hormone concentrations after administration of ashwagandha root extract to adult male mice. Panda S, Kar A. The journal of pharmacy and pharmacology. 1998 Sept. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9811169
- Thyrotoxicosis following the use of ashwagandha. van der Hooft CS, Hoekstra A, Winter A, de Smet PA, Stricker BH. 2005 Nov. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16355578
- Withania somnifera and Bauhinia purpurea in the regulation of circulating thyroid hormone concentrations in female mice. Panda S, Kar A. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 1999 Nov. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10619390