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Ashwagandha root extract (Withania somnifera) is an ancient medicinal herb with proven scientific health benefits. It is commonly known as "Indian Winter Cherry" or "Indian Ginseng" and is part of the nightshade family. Ashwagandha comes from a shrub that originates from India and Northern Africa. It is a remedy that has given to people of all ages for millennia and is said to have youthful physical and mental properties and boosts happiness.
Indian Ayurvedic medicine highly revers this Ayurvedic herb for its stress-relieving properties. Indeed, it is considered an adaptogen, which means that it helps your body manage different forms of stress. The withanolides, which are naturally occurring steroids found in ashwagandha, may inhibit tumors, decrease inflammation, and ward off Alzheimer's disease.
There is some evidence that the benefits of ashwagandha may include:
- May reduce cortisol levels in chronically stressed individuals
- May stimulate the immune system
Because numerous benefits come from taking ashwagandha, more research will help us understand the extent of how much benefit derives from this herb.
The thyroid gland is certainly not excluded from the effects of ashwagandha. Studies have found that ashwagandha can lead to significant improvements in thyroid levels. One human study concluded that people with subclinical hypothyroidism who were treated daily with 600mg of ashwagandha root extract improved serum TSH T3, and T4 levels significantly compared to placebo group.
One way that ashwagandha might raise thyroid hormone levels is through its ability to lower cortisol levels. Because ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb, it stimulates the endocrine system to ward off chronic stress, which in turn can stimulate thyroid hormone production.
The many health benefits of ashwagandha can specifically address some of the common symptoms of hypothyroidism. For example, ashwagandha may help improve depression, brain fog, fatigue, muscle weakness, impaired memory, and elevated cholesterol levels in people with hypothyroidism.
There is debate over whether or not people with Hashimoto's should use ashwagandha. Because ashwagandha supplements are found to boost the immune system, it may worsen the autoimmune attack on the thyroid gland. However, this herb also has anti-inflammatory properties, which may help repair the thyroid gland in people with Hashimoto's. If you have Hashimoto's, it is best to talk with your healthcare provider about whether or not ashwagandha is right for you.
Ashwagandha is traditionally prepared in a finely sieved powder form and added to water, ghee (which is clarified butter), or honey. This supplement is commonly available in 300 mg capsules or tablets. It can also be found in thyroid-targeting multivitamins.
Typical dosing of ashwagandha is two capsules (600 mg) twice daily, ingested after meals. Some people also take ashwagandha powder and add it to water, smoothies, or yogurt. Ashwagandha can even be prepared as an herbal tea.
It is important to note that there is no data available that suggests that a person can have toxicity for taking too much ashwagandha. Nonetheless, people with hyperthyroidism should avoid ashwagandha entirely to prevent thyrotoxicity unless their thyroid doctor recommends it.
Ashwagandha is considered a safe herbal supplement for most people to take. However, people with hyperthyroidism and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid ashwagandha. Because ashwagandha can boost the immune system, people with autoimmune conditions, including Hashimoto's, should check with their doctor first before taking this supplement. Furthermore, people taking certain medications, including diabetic medication and thyroid medication, should check with their doctor before supplementing with ashwagandha.
When taken in appropriate doses, there are few side effects associated with ashwagandha. Some people may develop some gastric upset, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you develop any of these side effects, stop using ashwagandha.
A note from Paloma Health
Larger-scale studies are necessary to determine the efficacy of ashwagandha in treating hypothyroidism and even Hashimoto's disease. Therefore, do not stop taking your thyroid medication in place of ashwagandha. If you're interested in taking ashwagandha to help improve your thyroid function, talk with your healthcare provider about the best strategy for you.