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Ashwagandha and It’s Many Benefits For Your Thyroid

Ashwagandha offers many benefits for people suffering from thyroid disease.(*) The history of its use in traditional Indian medicine dates back nearly 3000 years. In my opinion as a Functional Medicine Practitioner, I believe it’s probably one of the best-kept secrets that traditional medicine doesn’t want you to know about. In today’s article, I will review the many benefits of Ashwagandha for patients who have thyroid disease, why and when it’s used and lastly, I will also review who should not take Ashwagandha and why they shouldn’t take it. 

What Is Ashwagandha

Indian ginseng is also known as Indian winter cherry, Ashwagandha, or the herb Vitania sluggard (Withania somnifera). The raw material used in medicine is the root, and the name “Ashwagandha” is derived from the word “ashwa”, meaning horse. It is believed that after consuming the root, one gains powers similar to that of a horse. The second part of the name “gandha,” means fragrance and refers to the characteristic smell of the fresh root of the plant. Since ancient times, it has been traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine as a substance that strengthens the nervous system. This is evidenced by its adaptogenic effects and medicinal uses. (*)

Its current research covers many aspects of human health, including neuroprotective, sedative, and adaptogenic effects and effects on sleep. There are also studies on the anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, cardioprotective anti-diabetic, and stress-busting properties that ashwagandha is known for. But today I’m going to specifically focus in on how ashwagandha helps certain people with thyroid problems.

Stress and the hormones produced during stress namely cortisol and adrenaline have a major impact on thyroid function. More than 50% of people who have problems with their thyroid also have problems with their adrenal glands known as your stress-handling glands.

Improving your body’s ability to adapt to stress is a key factor in supporting your thyroid naturally.

Sometimes we just can’t escape the damaging effects stress has on the body, but we almost always can help support our bodies as far as adaptation goes. Here’s what happens.

Ashwagandha and It's Many Benefits For Your Thyroid

Understanding What Happens Under Stress

Understanding the impact of stress on thyroid function is a cornerstone when it comes to natural thyroid treatment options. Heres why. Under an episode of stress, your adrenal glands make a hormone called cortisol and high levels of cortisol have been shown to affect your TSH thyroid-stimulating hormone levels. (*)

TSH is the hormone made by the brain that instructs the thyroid gland to make thyroid hormones like T3 and T4.

Stress (cortisol and adrenaline) can affect your TSH levels and in turn your thyroid hormones. But that’s not all stress does. High-stress levels (High cortisol) can also cause Chronic inflammation in the body. When you are inflamed, for whatever reason, your thyroid hormones can’t bind to thyroid receptors. This is one of the reasons you may have many thyroid symptoms but your doctor when he or she reads your thyroid bloodwork says that your thyroid is fine- there’s nothing wrong with it.

Think about it like this. Receptors are like locks on your front door and your thyroid hormones are designed to fit into those locks. You have locks for T3 thyroid hormone, and you have locks for T4 thyroid hormones. When thyroid hormones can’t bind to thyroid receptors (when the right key doesn’t fit into the right lock), you experience hypothyroid symptoms.

Many people suffer for years with low thyroid symptoms but every time they complain to their doctor, their doctor just tells them that they have normal thyroid hormone levels. The blood has plenty of thyroid hormones, the problem is that it’s just not working with the lock.

For these people, it’s the receptors that are the problem, not the actual thyroid hormone blood levels. (*,*)High stress can also raise another thyroid hormone (a thyroid metabolite) called Reverse T3.

Under chronic stress, your body will convert the T4 hormone into the Reverse T3 hormone. This is another problem for the thyroid because Reverse T3 is not able to work the way T3 thyroid hormone works. So, when you have high levels of reverse T3, you often will have low levels of T3 thyroid hormone.

So right about now, you might be getting the idea that stress, high cortisol, and high stress is not good for your thyroid gland for several reasons. But what does this have to do with Ashwagandha?

    Ashwagandha and It's Many Benefits For Your Thyroid

Anxiety

If you are suddenly experiencing anxiety when you never had it before, it may be due to thyroid dysfunction. Conversely, if you’ve already been diagnosed with hypo or hyperthyroidism, don’t be surprised if you begin having bouts of anxiety. Ashwagandha supplementation is well known to help with stress-induced anxiety.

While anxiety is often thought of as a mental health disorder, when it comes on suddenly without any history of anxiety, it may be caused by hypothyroidism and Ashwagandha might be something that can help.

Ashwagandha is considered an adaptogen, meaning it helps your body manage stress. It’s also used to combat aging, strengthen and build muscle, aid neurological disorders, support GABA Levels, and relieve rheumatoid arthritis (****, *, *).

Here’s a study, this was an 8-week study where they took 50 people with hypothyroidism. They put them on a daily regimen of ashwagandha. What they found is that daily Ashwagandha led to significant improvements in thyroid levels, compared to taking a placebo (*).

As far as thyroid hormone levels go, those in the Ashwagandha group showed significant 41.5% increases in T3 levels and a 19.6% improvement in thyroxine (T4) levels. In the same study, TSH levels decreased by 17.5% (*). Keep in mind that these are not things you would want to do if you had hyperthyroidism or you are in a Hashimoto’s flare up and you are leaning towards hyperthyroidism.

Another study looking at Chronic prolonged stress, Cortisol levels, T3 and T4 levels showed that chronic stress leads to an increase in cortisol levels, but lowered levels of T3 and T4. In this study, the researchers concluded that Ashwagandha appears to stimulate the endocrine system, boosting thyroid hormone levels by reducing cortisol (*).

Ashwagandha has also been shown to help with anxiety through its influence on one of the most important calming neurotransmitters in our body- GABA (*) GABA is produced in the brain to minimize excess glutamate. Too much glutamate and nerve cells in the brain begin to die. GABA puts the breaks on Glutamate.

A 2015 study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology showed that ashwagandha naturally supports the body’s healthy production of GABA while calming the brain. It doesn’t sedate or slow brain function but rather enhances cognitive performance.(*)

So, when it comes to thyroid function and ashwagandha you need to remember that while ashwagandha may be very helpful to the thyroid patient with low T3 low T4, and high cortisol. Ashwagandha can increase your T3 and T4 levels and that’s great if your levels are low, but what if your levels are normal or a bit high as they often are in patients with Hashimoto’s? In this situation, if you took ashwagandha, you could cause thyroid toxicosis (*) and that can be something that causes you to end up in the emergency room. For this reason,

I would always advise Thyroid hormone Testing and cortisol testing before you rush out and start taking ashwagandha.

What else should you know about Ashwagandha when it comes to the thyroid? Ashwagandha can be very helpful for chronic inflammation. Inflammation is your thyroid’s worst enemy. Inflammation does a lot of damage to the body and a lot of damage to the thyroid.

Ashwagandha and It's Many Benefits For Your Thyroid

Ashwagandha and Inflammation

When you have thyroid inflammation or high cortisol levels, your body is in a catabolic state or a state of breakdown, and this is often accompanied by oxidative stress, free radical damage, and inflammation. Ashwagandha has been shown in several studies to help improve inflammation.

Remember what I said earlier about stress and reverse T3 levels.? I said stress or high cortisol, and high levels of adrenaline can increase Reverse T3 levels. But that’s not the only thing that increases Reverse T3. Inflammation can also cause an increase in Reverse T3 and when Reverse T3 increases it leaves you in a state of Low T3. Feeling very hypothyroid. Inflammation impairs thyroid hormones in several ways.

  1. Inflammation affects thyroid hormone production,
  2. Inflammation impacts Thyroid Hormone conversion leading to Low T3
  3. Inflammation is damaging to the thyroid, and it also affects thyroid receptors. (*)

As you can see, Inflammation creates a vicious bi-directional cycle affecting many aspects of thyroid health. Ashwagandha when used appropriately for the right person at the right time can help with inflammation. If you are not able to take Ashwagandha, here are some additional ways to lower High Cortisol levels.

Ashwagandha and Mitochondria

Another benefit of Ashwagandha when it comes to the Thyroid has to do with its effects on mitochondria. Mitochondrial dysfunction is common in people with thyroid disease and Hashimoto’s (*). Mitochondria are the energy-producing “furnaces” inside your cells and ashwagandha has been shown in several studies to help improve mitochondrial ATP energy production.

Problems with mitochondria cause constant fatigue, Chronic pain, and brain fog among many other problems. (*) When it comes to Ashwagandha and mitochondria. Ashwagandha helps to protect your cell membranes (the outer protective barrier on the cell) from lipid peroxidation. (*)

Think of your cell like a green apple where the green skin is the cell membrane, and the apple seeds are the mitochondria. Mitochondria are very sensitive to oxidative stress (free radical damage) and cell membranes are very sensitive to lipid peroxidation.

Under oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation, free radicals are trying to damage the skin of the apple (your cell membrane) and those free radicals are also trying to get inside the apple and damage your mitochondria. Due to its antioxidant properties, Ashwagandha has been shown to minimize lipid peroxidation and oxidative stress. (*) which in turn protects the mitochondria(*)

Do you want more energy? Less brain fog, better focus, and clarity you need to improve your mitochondria health(**)

Immune System

Ashwagandha contains potent antioxidants that protect the body against oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Oxidative stress can impair immune function, making the body more susceptible to infections. By scavenging free radicals and reducing oxidative stress, Ashwagandha supports the overall health and resilience of the immune system.

Ashwagandha has been shown to increase white blood cell (WBC) counts, improving your body’s “first line of defense” against foreign intruders.(*)

Ashwagandha has been shown to enhance the activity of natural killer (NK) cells – a critical component of the immune system. NK cells play a vital role in identifying and destroying infected or cancerous cells, thereby aiding in the body’s defense against infections and tumors. Ashwagandha’s ability to bolster NK cell activity can positively impact immune system function.

Ashwagandha exerts immunomodulatory effects, helping to regulate the immune response for optimal function. It supports the immune system’s ability to respond effectively to pathogens while preventing overactive immune reactions that can lead to autoimmune conditions. I don’t recommend taking Ashwagandha if you are experiencing a Hashimoto’s flare-up.

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Brain Fog, Focus and Memory

One of the top complaints in my patients with thyroid disease outside of fatigue and weight gain is brain fog and memory problems. Here again, Ashwagandha helps support and improve memory and cognitive function. As you can see Ashwagandha has many benefits For Your Thyroid

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 20 healthy adults were randomized to receive 250 mg of ashwagandha twice daily for 14 days.(*)

After a battery of cognitive tests, the researchers concluded that the group taking ashwagandha saw significant improvement in cognitive and psychomotor performance compared to the control group. They found Ashwagandha has the potential to be a valuable addition to the treatment of cognitive function issues.

So, instead of living on coffee or caffeine to try and improve mental clarity, concentration, and focus, you may want to try Ashwagandha for that brain fog. (*)

So, there you go! I hope you learned a few new things today! But keep in mind while Ashwagandha seems like a magic bullet for people with thyroid disease, it’s not for everyone. Have questions about my Thyroid Program? Schedule a 15-minute discovery call and learn more about my Big Picture approach.

If you are going to take Ashwagandha be sure you get your thyroid hormone and cortisol levels checked and if you begin to experience symptoms of hyperthyroidism now you know why.

Check Out These Additional Articles

  1. Stress, High Cortisol and Thyroid Disease- 
  2. Lower Your High Reverse T3 Naturally without Hormones
  3. High Reverse T3 Levels- 5 Causes Behind Your High RT3 Levels
  4. Restore Thyroid Function by Lowering High Level of Reverse T3
  5. Take The Thyroid Quiz Here
  6. 5 Mistakes Every Thyroid Patient Makes

 

Ashwagandha for Thyroid support

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Tru Adapt

Holy Basil
Holy basil is an adaptogenic herb that enhances the body’s stress and immune response. Positive therapeutic effects of holy basil have been shown with neurocognition, immunity and metabolism. Holy basil has been found to have a statistically significant promise to help support low mood and attention.

Ashwagandha Root Extract
Ashwagandha’s strong adaptogenic properties provide an array of benefits for individuals who have compromised health due to extreme stress exposure. Ashwagandha’s benefits include improving stress resilience, supporting immune response, regulating the sleep cycle, supporting healthy thyroid function, and protecting against exhaustion of the nervous system. Ashwagandha has also been shown to be beneficial in supporting proper mood regulation and restoring a sense of calmness under stress.

Rhodiola rosea Root Extract
Rhodiola rosea has been categorized as an adaptogenic botanical due to its ability to increase resistance to a variety of stressors. Rhodiola has been studied extensively and is widely used in Eastern Europe and Asia to help support the nervous system, mood regulation, mental clarity, work performance and the sleep cycle. Within the central nervous system, Rhodiola has demonstrated an ability to preserve levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. Rhodiola has been examined for its significant reduction of fatigue under stress. It has also shown significant improvements in mental performance, greater mood stability, and improved sleep patterns.

Eleuthero Root Extract
Eleutherococcus senticosus has also been identified as a strong adaptogenic botanical and is widely used in China to improve general health, support memory and endurance. In addition to its ability to improve stress resilience and fight fatigue, Eleuthero has exhibited immune supporting effects. Eleuthero has demonstrated a reduction of heart rate in response to a stressor and improvement of performance in runners (race time).

Schisandra Berry Extract
Schisandra is an adaptogenic botanical that has been used for centuries in China and Russia to help support mental clarity, stress response and emotional wellness. It has been used with athletes and found to increase nitric oxide, a molecule which causes the blood vessels to expand resulting in increased circulation, increased blood flow and nutrients throughout the body. Schisandra berry has been shown to support learning and memory and may have some protective factors that support brain health.

Licorice Root Extract
The primary components in licorice root that support adrenal health include glycyrrhetic acid and glycyrrhizin. Licorice has also been shown to block 11-ß-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, the enzyme responsible for the conversion of cortisol to the inactive cortisone. When taken in small doses, licorice root extract can be used to maintain normal cortisol levels, an important factor for individuals that need to support adrenal hormone production and maintain healthy inflammatory pathways.

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