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People with hypothyroidism may be interested in using alternative treatment options like drinking herbal teas to balance their thyroid hormones. To date, there are no plants that will correct hypothyroidism. Treatment of overt hypothyroidism requires thyroid hormone replacement medication. However, some plants with healing properties may help optimize thyroid function by how they interact with hormones in your body. Here, we explore some of the best teas for hypothyroidism and when you may want to use them to support your thyroid function.
People have been drinking medicinal teas for centuries. While the effects may not be as strong as certain modern-day medications, we know that plants can have a powerful impact on various systems in our bodies. Indeed, plant medicine is the oldest type of medicine in human history.
There certainly is a role for medicinal teas when it comes to thyroid function. The thyroid is one of the most important endocrine glands regulating our metabolism. It produces and secretes thyroid hormone into our bloodstream that signals cells how to use energy. Because of its role in metabolism, the thyroid helps regulate everything from our heart rate and blood pressure to body temperature.
People with subclinical hypothyroidism may benefit from drinking teas that help prevent thyroid dysfunction. Subclinical hypothyroidism is where you have a normal T4 (thyroxine) level but an elevated TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone). Subclinical hypothyroidism is an early and mild form of hypothyroidism that may progress to full-blown hypothyroidism if thyroid hormone levels and inflammation are not well managed.
If you have subclinical hypothyroidism, you may not require thyroid hormone replacement medication. Usually, that decision is between the doctor and patient based on the severity of their symptoms and any risk factors and family history that may be influential. Often, people with subclinical hypothyroidism prefer to try other methods before taking medication. Lifestyle changes like diet, exercise, stress management, treating other health conditions, and tapping into plant-based medicines may be a preferred starting point for people with this condition.
Iodine is a critical mineral that supports the formation of thyroid hormones. When the diet lacks sufficient intake of iodine, it may cause hypothyroidism. Low iodine intake is not usually a cause of hypothyroidism in countries like the United States, where iodized salt is widely available in our food. You can increase your iodine intake through diet and drinking teas made of certain plants rich in iodine content, such as seaweed.
Of course, too much iodine intake can also cause hypothyroidism, so it is best to avoid adding more iodine to your diet unless your doctor recommends you boost your intake to normalize your levels.
Most teas will not necessarily correct thyroid dysfunction. However, they may help decrease stress and inflammation in the body and improve symptoms related to an underactive thyroid. While most data on teas look at the effects of green and black teas, some herbal teas may benefit thyroid function.
As one of the most important herbal medicines in Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is known for its adaptogenic properties. An adaptogen helps counter the effects of stress in the body. We know that stress is a hallmark cause of disease, and it can present in a variety of ways in the body.
People take ashwagandha to help with the following problems:
- Decrease inflammation
- Reduce blood sugar
- Decrease cortisol levels
- Boost memory and overall cognition
- Stimulate the immune system
- Inhibit the growth of cancerous cells
Note: Most of the studies above are small and/or done on animals. The research on ashwagandha isn't exactly conclusive; more research is still needed.
Ashwagandha is most often taken as a capsule. However, there are several ways you can take it as tea. You can steep either a dried or fresh root, and you can also use root powder. If you go with a root powder, know that it is generally more powerful to taste than using the roots.
Chamomille tea is a common herbal tea used to alleviate various ailments. People often use it to help with sleep and relaxation, and it can also soothe an upset stomach. Digestive complaints such as constipation are common in hypothyroidism, so chamomile can be a supportive way to manage some of the unpleasant symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Some studies show that it may also help decrease benign and malignant thyroid disease. For example, a small Greek study found that drinking 2-6 cups of chamomile tea can lower your risk over several years of consumption.
You can find chamomile tea ready-made for steeping. However, you can also make your loose leaf tea by steeping chamomile herbs.
From the same Greek study, sage tea also was found to help decrease the incidence of cancerous and non-cancerous thyroid diseases in those who drank it several times a week. Along with reducing this risk, sage tea may also help improve mood, boost memory retention, and prevent Alzheimer’s. Because people with hypothyroidism often struggle from depression and low mood, sage may be an excellent addition for helping with mood stabilization.
The health benefits of green tea are plenty. Studies show that green tea helps with cancer prevention, cardiovascular diseases, inflammatory diseases, neurological conditions, and cholesterol problems. However, when it comes to using green tea for thyroid conditions, it may negatively affect thyroid health.
In an animal study, researchers found that a high intake of green tea (equating to 5, 10, and 20 cups of green tea a day) leads to goiters and thyroid gland enlargement in rats. However, as most people do not consume green tea in these quantities, the study demands further investigation with smaller amounts.
There are other potential complications of drinking green tea with a thyroid condition. For example, we know that caffeine may interact with your thyroid medication like levothyroxine. Caffeine intake can decrease levothyroxine in the blood, making it less effective by lowering T4 levels.
Does this mean you cannot drink green tea when taking levothyroxine? Certainly not. However, it is best to separate when you drink your cup of green tea from when you take your thyroid medication.
Tea can be a great way to support your overall health. Yet, most people with hypothyroidism require thyroid hormone replacement medication to correct low thyroid hormones. Therefore, teas should not be used as the sole treatment for hypothyroidism but can be a supportive therapy.
Additionally, as we have seen, certain teas may cause more harm than good. So, suppose you plan to use tea regularly. In that case, it is best to consult your thyroid doctor to ensure you are promoting rather than hindering your thyroid health.
To learn what the best tea for hypothyroidism is for you, meet with a holistic thyroid doctor from Paloma Health.