Ayurvedic Herbs and Thyroid Health
Ashwagandha, an adaptogen, has been used to restore equilibrium to the body for millenia. The thyroid balancing properties of ashwagandha have been illustrated in many studies. In one 20-day study, mice were given extracts of ashwagandha daily. The authors found an increase in serum T3 and T4 levels without a significant increase in iodothyronine 5'-monodeiodinase indicating an increase in thyroid function. The researchers also noticed a decrease in gluconeogenesis and an increase in antioxidant enzyme activities. In an experiment on bipolar subjects designed to assess the cognitive benefits of ashwagandha, the authors found that it was able to increase T4 levels during the eight week study period and concluded that it may be an effective herb for subclinical hypothyroidism.
Bacopa is a very useful herb in the regulation of hypothyroidism. In an experiment on male mice, extracts of Bacopa monnieri (200 mg/kg) were used in an attempt to regulate thyroid hormone levels. The investigators found that bacopa had the ability to increase T4 concentrations by 41%. In addition, bacopa played a significant role in increasing superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase (CAT) activities while decreasing lipid peroxidation thus establishing an antiperoxidative role.
Piper longum (pippali)
A study looking at women suffering from chills and associated symptoms such as insomnia, unstable emotions, and mental fatigue assessed the usefulness of pippali supplementation. Women were randomly divided into two groups and the effects of Piper longum were studied by administering low and high dose of the herb respectively to these groups. Later, physical parameters related to chills, such as peripheral circulation and the skin surface temperature was assessed. The study revealed that “Piper longum significantly facilitated the recovery of skin surface temperature at either low or high dosages in participants who suffered from chills.” Interestingly, the authors found no change in skin temperature in those without chills.
Piperine is the key active ingredient in both black pepper (Piper nigrum) and long pepper (Piper longum). A study was conducted on rats to analyse the effects of piperine on thyroid hormones and apolipoproteins. The experiment was conducted on anti-thyroid drug-induced hyperlipidemic rats. Changes in lipid profiles, hormone levels and apolipoproteins were carefully observed. The results revealed that piperine supplementation was successful in improving the plasma levels of apo A-1, T3, T4, testosterone, and iodine. The alkaloid also significantly reduced apo B, TSH and insulin to near normal levels thus demonstrating that piperine possesses thyrogenic activity. Piperine has also been shown to decrease adipogenesis by inhibiting the relevant transcription factors and also increases distal circulation by calcium channel blockade.
While guggul is best known for its effects on blood lipids it is also very effective for regulating thyroid function. Studies have shown that it can increase thyroid function and iodine uptake. One such study conducted on mice demonstrated that the active ingredients of guggul have strong thyroid stimulating actions and increase iodine uptake. Additionally, the antioxidant properties of the herb are effective in protecting the thyroid gland from oxidative stress, decreasing lipid peroxidation in the liver, and increasing the liver’s transformation of T4 into T3. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, 25 mg of guggulsterones three times daily, efficiently works towards lowering the high cholesterol levels associated with hypothyroidism.
In a study from the Journal of Ethnopharmacology female mice were given Bauhinia purpurea bark extract daily for 20 days. At the end of the study period Bauhinia increased triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) concentrations. The herb also plays a very significant role in enhancing secretion of antioxidant enzymes, inhibiting oxidative stress, and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. A similar study found that both bauhinia and ashwagandha are able to reverse metformin induced hypothyroidism. Interestingly, lectin compounds from bauhinia have also been found to bind to various cancers of the thyroid.
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1 J Pharmacy and Pharmacology. 1998 Sep;50(9):1065-8. Changes in thyroid hormone concentrations after administration of ashwagandha root extract to adult male mice. Panda S1, Kar A.
2 Journal of Ayurveda Integrative Medicine. 2014 Oct-Dec;5(4):241-5. doi: 10.4103/0975-9476.146566. Subtle changes in thyroid indices during a placebo-controlled study of an extract of Withania somnifera in persons with bipolar disorder.
Gannon JM1, Forrest PE1, Roy Chengappa KN1.
4 Nihon Shinkei Seishin Yakurigaku Zasshi. 2009 Feb;29(1):7-15. [Effects of Piper longum L. on chills in Japanese young women: time-dependent changes in skin surface temperature and its recovery rate following the exposure to mild cold stress].Yamada N1, Nishihara C, Yoshimura H, Yamaguchi Y, Takagaki R, Miyakoshi M, Mizutani K.
Piperine, a component of black pepper, inhibits adipogenesis by antagonizing PPARγ activity in 3T3-L1 cells.
Park UH1, Jeong HS, Jo EY, Park T, Yoon SK, Kim EJ, Jeong JC, Um SJ.
11 Phytother Res. 2009 Aug;23(8):1140-5. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2765. Amelioration of metformin-induced hypothyroidism by Withania somnifera and Bauhinia purpurea extracts in Type 2 diabetic mice. Jatwa R, Kar A.