Your thyroid is only two inches long, but it plays a big role in how you feel. This gland secretes thyroid hormones called triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), which control your body’s production of energy, help regulate your metabolism, and determine how your body responds to other hormones.
Sometimes, the thyroid gland gets off kilter, and things go metabolically haywire. Luckily, there’s an herb that can help regulate the regulator gland. A new study published on ashwagandha found regular use of this ancient herb can help normalize thyroid hormone production.*
Is your thyroid out of balance?
Your thyroid takes its cues from thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is secreted by the pituitary gland. When your T3 and T4 levels are high enough, the pituitary gland takes notice and secretes less THS. When T3 and T4 levels are low, it releases more.
Usually, the pituitary gland keeps your thyroid hormones in balance, but sometimes the system misfires. If your thyroid is overactive, you may suffer from loose stool, experience unintended weight loss, and feel overheated.
The more common problem, though, is an underactive thyroid, which can lead to occasional constipation, weight gain, fatigue, dry skin, and cold hands and feet. If your thyroid is sluggish, you may find yourself being forgetful and feeling like you’re not running at full speed — physically or mentally. Getting your thyroid back in balance can help you feel like yourself again. That’s where ashwagandha comes in.
Ashwagandha and your thyroid: study details
Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine, for almost 4,000 years. It uses span everything from enhancing cognitive function, to aiding sleep, to supporting metabolism, to benefitting athletic performance.* But one of its most common uses is to restore strength and vigor during periods of stress.* Turns out, that may be because of its effect on the thyroid.
A recent double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine examined the effect of ashwagandha on 50 people with elevated TSH levels. (Elevated TSH is an indication that the thyroid is working harder than it should to keep nearly depleted T3 and T4 levels up. Because of this, THS levels may be a better indicator of an underperforming thyroid than T3 and T4 levels.)
The volunteers took either 600 mg of ashwagandha a day or a placebo. After 8 weeks, ashwagandha improved TSH, T4 and T3 levels by 19 percent, 45 percent, and 21 percent respectively.*, According to the researchers, ashwagandha “effectively normalized” thyroid hormones.*
How does ashwagandha work?
More research is needed to discover the exact mechanism by which ashwagandha modulates the thyroid, but it may have something to do with the herb’s status as an adaptogen.*An adaptogen is an herb that helps your body stay in balance, even under stress.* Unlike other herbs, which typically only work in one direction, adaptogens work in all directions. This means that whether hormone levels are a bit low or a bit high, ashwagandha can help bring them back to ideal levels.*
How should you take ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha root extract is available in capsules, tablets, powders, and tinctures. Because ashwagandha’s active constituents are called withanolides, it’s important to look for a formula standardized for withanolide content.
* FDA disclaimer