What is a thyroid and why is it so important? Most of us probably have a friend, or a cousin, or an Aunt that has some sort of thyroid problem. And yet, very few of us actually know what the significance of a thyroid is and how to take care of it.
As an herbalist, I’ve actually had a few clients come in with diagnosed thyroid issues and ask if the thyroid is something useless, like the appendix. After I’ve stared at them awkwardly for a moment, or two or three, I proceed to tell them the purpose of the appendix, as well as throw in a little bit about what the thyroid does.
Your thyroid is a part of the endocrine glands. For such a small part of your body, it actually controls quite a lot, especially when it comes to your hormones. When your thyroid isn’t functioning properly, you can suffer from infertility, irregular and even painful menstruation, iodine deficiency, chronic fatigue, weight loss, weight gain, and autoimmune disease, amongst other things. The thyroid is far from being insignificant and it is not comparable to the appendix, despite the fact that the appendix is useful. It’s just not super important useful, like the thyroid.
So, if you already have a known thyroid issue, or if thyroid issues run in your family, what should you do? Many people with thyroid issues turn to herbs for help. Depending on what type of thyroid issue you may have, certain herbs will work better than other. Some herbs will aggravate your symptoms, depending on what kind of issue you have, while for other people that herb will work the best. When using herbs, it is always best to do your own research and consult with a professional who is well-versed in herbal medicines. Don’t solely rely on the great and powerful Google for all of your herbal answers.
Now, let’s move on to the good stuff! Four herbs for thyroid disorders:
If you frequent mommy blogs and such, echinacea is often listed as an excellent herb for thyroid conditions. As an herbalist however, I rarely recommend echinacea to my clients with thyroid problems. Why? Because if they have an autoimmune disease (and many of my clients do by the time they come to me), then echinacea is one of those herbs that tends to aggravate the symptoms instead of actually helping. However, for some thyroid issues, such as thyroid problems from the stresses of pregnancy, echinacea can be useful (and it is considered safe for most pregnant and nursing women, so win-win!). This is definitely one of those herbs that you should consult with your herbalist about before taking.
When we think of medicinal herbs, we sometimes forget about popular cooking herbs as being medicinal. In actuality, our common cooking herbs tend to be the most medicinal plants around, and that’s why we started cooking with them in the first place. Parsley is no exception. Being one of the few herbs that contains a nourishing dose of iodine within its leaves, parsley is an excellent herb to use if you’re dealing with iodine-related thyroid issues. While you can sip it in a tea, I find it works best sprinkled over a delicious homemade pizza.
As an added note on iodine deficiency, adding seaweed to your diet can also give your body the iodine boost that it may be needing. Kelp and Dulse are both especially rich in iodine.
Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis)
For those who are dealing with hyperthyroidism, including Grave’s Disease, many herbalists turn to lemon balm. While lemon balm on its own will not be able to reverse all of the symptoms of hyperthyroidism, it can work in conjunction with other herbs and possibly medications to help alleviate some of the problems. Most herbalists recommend taking fresh lemon balm leaves and juicing them for the best results.
Turmeric is not an herb that I recommend to my clients to be used completely on its own. It is an excellent complementary herb, especially for those who are dealing with inflammation issues. Nearly every client I have worked with that has had a thyroid problem has also had inflammation problems. One of the best ways to consume turmeric, and my personal favorite, is by cooking with it. It’s a spice found in many Indian and Pakistani dishes, but it also pairs well with scrambled eggs. If you’re not much of a cook, you can also mix it into your milk or drink it as a tea.
While this is just a basic list of herbs for thyroid issues that you can possibly take, there are numerous more that can help. Do keep in mind, though, that when you only take something to treat a single symptom, like fatigue, you’re probably not treating the underlying condition. When I’m doing an herbal consultation for a client with a thyroid condition, I generally try to find one or two herbs that I feel will help with the main problem, and then I add a few additional herbs to help with some of the major symptoms. Even if your symptoms are really making life difficult, work with your herbalist to try to find an herb that will help treat the primary problem.
Remember, be kind to your body! Sometimes you just don’t realize how important a part of your body is until it begins to become uncooperative. The thyroid is a perfect example of this. So eat lots of leafy greens (especially those iodine-rich ones), drink clean water, find ways to minimize your stress, and your thyroid will thank you.