Are you feeling tired when shouldn’t? Are you feeling drained? Not sleeping well? Irregular periods? Irregular bowel movements? Dry skin? Gaining weight?
All of these are signs and symptoms of a thyroid problem. You may be experiencing hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid.
Here is our list of the 10 Best Thyroid Supplements:
- ThyroControl by HerbalGist
- Thyroid Support by VitaBalance
- Thyroid Support by Gaia Herbs
- Thyroid Support by 1 Body
- Thyroid Support by Zhou Nutrition
- Thyroid Support by LES Labs
- Thyroid Support by Healths Harmony
- Thyroid Support with Iodine by Purely Holistic
- Thyroid Energy by NOW Foods
- Thyroid Edge by Go Nutrients
These supplements were chosen on the basis of their ingredients, the brand reputation and consumer satisfaction.
Now, let’s get into what is an underactive thyroid and why these supplements can support the thyroid.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What Does a Normal Thyroid Do?
The thyroid gland plays a central role in maintaining your body’s energy levels, temperature, weight, and helps to maintain clear thinking. It also helps regulate your response to other hormones and helps regulate your overall metabolism.
Your thyroid is located at the base of your neck and wraps around the front of the neck. The two conditions that affect the thyroid most commonly are hypothyroidism (an UNDERactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (an OVERactive thyroid). It can take years for thyroid problems to develop—years during which different organs like the heart can be damaged because of inadequate or too much thyroid hormone, so it is very important that you take care of your thyroid! In fact, thyroid problems are so common it is hard to believe that it is one of the most underdiagnosed conditions—especially in women approaching menopause!
The thyroid produces thyroxine (T4) and tri-iodothyrodine (T3). T4 works as a precursor to the active hormone, T3. The numbers refer to the number of iodine atoms attached to each molecule—more on that a bit later.
For the sake of completeness, you should know that the thyroid also has “islands” of cells that produce another hormone, calcitonin. Calcitonin acts to help balance a narrow range of calcium and phosphate in the blood. Calcitonin helps maintain calcium levels in the blood by:
- Slowing down the breakdown of bone tissue that would increase the levels of calcium in the blood
- Decrease the amounts of calcium that the kidney reabsorbs into the blood
Finally, the thyroid can also produce another hormone—somatostatin. Somatostatin is also known by the more complicated (tongue-twisting?) name of growth hormone inhibitory hormone (GHIH). GHIH is also produced by other tissues in the body. It helps regulate the main hormone that controls the thyroid—this hormone is Thyroid Stimulating Hormone but is much better known as TSH. TSH is the main substance that is tested when your doctor wants to assess your thyroid function.
Thyroid hormones help regulate your:
- Overall metabolism
- Your metabolism is the sum-total of all the biochemical processes necessary for life—all the reactions going on in your body every second of every minute of every day.
- Your thyroid regulates how much energy is produced in every cell of your body. In the long run, your thyroid regulates how much energy you feel you have!
- Your metabolism is the sum-total of all the biochemical processes necessary for life—all the reactions going on in your body every second of every minute of every day.
- Heart rate
- Your thyroid regulates how often your heart beats AND the amount of blood your heart is able to pump every time it beats, AND how strongly your heart pumps out that blood
- Growth and development
- This includes fetal growth and development and how well you heal and also includes hair, bone and skin growth.
- For many years, the term “cretinism”, a form of serious intellectual disability, was used to describe a form of underactive thyroid caused by a lack of iodine in the mother’s diet.
- This includes fetal growth and development and how well you heal and also includes hair, bone and skin growth.
- Breathing rate
- Mental state
- Mental state can include feelings of well-being, your mood, anxiety levels and overall happiness
- Thyroid hormone levels can affect the levels of neurotransmitters like the catecholamines, a type of substance that carries signals from one nerve to another
- Body temperature
- The thyroid helps maintain a stable body temperature ideally suited for all the biochemical reactions that our cells perform.
- One clear and relatively stable sign of thyroid problems are a decreased or increased body temperature (as compared to normal).
- Body weight
- The thyroid helps balance your weight and the types of adipose (fat) storage tissue you carry around
- Thyroid hormones play a role in how and in what tissues calories are burned—and how efficiently those calories are used by the body
- In men, thyroid hormone levels can affect semen quality, sperm count, erectile dysfunction and libido
- In women, thyroid hormone levels can affect the risk of miscarriage, monthly ovulation and can cause irregular periods. Thyroid hormone levels can also affect the heaviness of menstrual flow
- Serum cholesterol and lipid levels
- Carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism
- The thyroid can help regulate how well and how efficiently your body uses nutrients
- Vitamin and mineral metabolism
- The thyroid can help regulate how effectively your body can use vitamins and minerals
- Muscle tone and strength
- The fatigue or lack of energy that is often seen in hypothyroidism is often felt at the level of the muscles—people complain that their muscles get very tired after just a little bit of exercise.
- Skin tone and hydration levels
- Another common symptom of an underactive thyroid is dry skin because thyroid hormones help regulate how hydrated the skin is
- The nervous systems
- Thyroid hormone levels regulate how well your nervous system responds to stimuli from inside and from outside the body
- Bone growth, regrowth and strength
You can see that thyroid hormone is pretty darned important for your health! One way to think about thyroid hormone is to think of it as a balancing hormone—in medicine, that balance is called homeostasis.
How are Thyroid Hormones Regulated
The human body is a complex network or web of interactions—just as a small raindrop can affect an entire spider web, a small change in part of your body can change the way hormones act and where they act—that is why homeostasis –your body’s balance—is so important.
Thyroid hormones do not work in a vacuum—they are regulated by groups of other hormones in what is called a feedback loop.
- The hypothalamus, located deep within the brain, senses the levels of T4 and T3 in the blood. When these hormone levels fall below a certain point—or when triggered by stress — the hypothalamus releases a hormone known as thyrotrophin-releasing hormone, or TRH.
- TRH acts on the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is also located deep within the brain, physically near the hypothalamus. Once TRH enters the pituitary, it triggers the release of the better-known thyroid-stimulating hormone or TSH. TSH is the hormone that is most commonly tested to determine the health of the thyroid.
- TSH then acts to stimulate the thyroid to take up iodine and other nutrients (like the amino acid tyrosine) so that the thyroid can make T4.
o T4 is secreted into the blood and taken up by just about every cell of the body—where it is converted into the active form, T3.
- Once the levels of T3 and T4 reach higher levels, they “feedback” onto the hypothalamus and can suppress the production of TRH. The suppression of TRH production makes this a negative feedback loop—the higher levels of T3 and T4 “feedback” onto the hypothalamus to direct it to stop making TRH.
The most common form of hypothyroid is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or HT. HT is an autoimmune disorder. In autoimmune diseases, your immune system gets confused and begins to damage and destroy your own cells—in HT, the body is producing antibodies to the thyroid and leads to decreased production of thyroid hormones.
There are other types of hypothyroid conditions—often they are classified as non-Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, non-Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or non-autoimmune thyroiditis.
Non-Hashimoto’s hypothyroid disease includes an under-functioning thyroid due to:
- Iodine deficiency
o This is relatively uncommon in the US, but if a major cause of hypothyroidism around the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) “ Iodine deficiency is the world’s most prevalent, yet easily preventable, cause of brain damage. Today we are on the verge of eliminating it – an achievement that will be hailed as a major public health triumph that ranks with getting rid of smallpox and poliomyelitis.” Iodine deficiency can cause hypothyroidism—and, more worrisome, it can cause subclinical hypothyroidism, a silent form of hypothyroidism because the symptoms, if they even show up, can be so “fuzzy” and vague that they go un-noticed. For example, how often do you think to yourself “Why am I so tired”? Maybe it is lack of sleep or a particularly busy day, but maybe it is a sign of subclinical hypothyroidism. How many times did you think to yourself “This time my period is really, really heavy!” but forget about it until maybe the next period or until you get asked about it at a doctor’s visit? How often do you have constipation and ignore it? Do you sometimes think you need to exercise more because suddenly, your muscles seem weak? All these may be signs of an underactive thyroid, but they get ignored because you are too busy, or you just don’t realize that this is something different! Subclinical hypothyroidism is such a concern because it can lead to all sorts of problems with the heart, lungs, skin, and adrenal glands a long time before a person even knows anything is wrong!
o The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for iodine is 150 mcg.
It is really, really important to know that too much iodine can also cause hypothyroid disease. So, if you choose one of the Top Ten Thyroid Supplements that contains iodine—make sure you do not take any other supplement that contains iodine. The Upper Limit (UL) of iodine is 1,100 mcg.
- Drug treatment
o There are several different medications that can damage or interfere with thyroid function. These medications include:
+ Lithium: Lithium is used to treat psychiatric disorders and appears to block the release of T4 from the thyroid
+ Iodine-containing medications: This includes drugs like amiodorone, betadine and potassium iodide.
+ Other medications: These include cholestyramine, colestipol, aluminum hydroxide, calcium carbonate, sucralfate, iron sulfate, raloxifene, omeprazole, lansoprazole, interferon-alpha, interleukin-2, dopamine, sunitinib and bexarotene.
+ Radiation therapy
- Subclinical Hypothyroidism
o Subclinical hypothyroidism may not seem like much, but it can lead to lots and lots of problems later in life. It can increase the risk of diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome. It can increase the risk of heart disease because of high cholesterol and blood lipids. It can make depression, anxiety and other mood disorders worse. It can increase the risk of osteoporosis and increase the risk of life-limiting fractures. Sound like much now? Probably, except that subclinical hypothyroidism can also increase the risk of infertility, miscarriage and complications of pregnancy, low birth-weight babies and preterm delivery. It can decrease your cognitive function AND increase your risk of thyroid cancer.
+ Estimates of subclinical hypothyroidism range from about 4-20% of the entire population! Why are so many people undiagnosed/subclinical hypothyroidism?
- People may be putting off or avoiding their own health care, especially if the symptoms don’t seem bad enough to warrant a doctor’s visit! Some people feel they are too busy, or maybe they don’t like doctors or feel uncomfortable visiting a doctor’s office or any health facility or clinic. Some may feel they can power through any problems. Others may have no health insurance or very poor health insurance, the lab tests are not covered or they are too costly….and on and on.
o There is another reason why so many people have subclinical hypothyroidism. This has to do with how TSH, T3 and T4 are measured and what is considered a normal result.
+ Most normal lab ranges are statistically determined from thousands of lab measurements. These thousands of measurements usually follow a “bell curve” that provides a normal range. A common normal range for TSH is from 0.4 to 4.0 mIU/L. Let’s say you get tested and your result is on the high end of normal. But—you don’t have a TSH value higher than 4.0. In this case you would be considered normal—but you are really just into subclinical hypothyroidism and this is not really normal for YOU!
- If you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, at first the values of TSH are monitored quite closely. But before any diagnosis, you may or may not ever have had a test for TSH before, so it can often be hard to know what is normal for YOU!
- Clinically, many people feel better when their TSH is below 0.4. On the other hand, some people may feel better when their TSH level is just a bit over 4.0—this can be perfectly normal for them, as well.
- Lab values are absolutely useful as a guideline and a diagnostic tool, but they can’t and shouldn’t replace how you feel. So, no matter what the “numbers” say, if you are not feeling normal, make sure you talk to someone who will listen!
o Another thing to remember is that TSH secretion can increase with age—so the older you get, the more TSH is secreted, possibly because as the thyroid ages, it produces less thyroid hormone—and it needs that extra “push” from the TSH. Make certain to take that into account.
o Finally—and this is very important too– most people—about 70% who are later found to be hypothyroid NEVER HAD ANY SYMPTOMS! They may have felt some fatigue or a sense of tiredness but that is nothing new for most of us, is it? Everyone complains about feeling tired, don’t they? Who isn’t tired a good deal of the time? This is such a common aspect of life on the planet that people seem to think its normal to feel tired—even when they feel tired nearly all the time!
Symptoms and Signs of Hypothyroidism
- Fatigue and a feeling of sluggishness or low energy
o This can be associated with muscular weakness, especially weakness in the large muscles, like those in the thighs. You may notice your muscles ache after climbing only a few steps
- Increased sensitivity to cold
o You are wearing a sweater and everyone else is wearing a short-sleeved shirt or you seem cold when everyone else is comfortable.
- Unexplained weight gain
- Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Excessive, heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding often with thick, clotted blood
- Memory lapses and/or difficulty concentrating or focusing on a task
- Pale, dry skin
- A puffy, roundish face, especially around the eyes
- Brittle nails
- Hair loss or thinning hair
o Thinning eyebrows (at the outer end, near the temples)
- Swelling of the tongue
- Slowed heart rate
- Elevated cholesterol levels
Lab Tests for Hypothyroidism
The most common lab test ordered to determine thyroid function is the test for TSH. Some physicians may order T3 and T3 levels. The chart below gives the possible results and what they mean, but first, some quick reminders.
- “Normal” really indicates a range of values. This is a statistical range that includes most people (95% of all people tested). It is possible, however, for your numbers to be higher or lower than the normal range and still be perfectly healthy and normal. For example, the normal range for TSH is between 0.4-4mU/mL—though the range may vary a bit from one lab to another. Some people who take thyroid replacement hormone, however, report feeling at their best with a TSH value of about 0.1-0.3 mU/mL. There may be several reasons for this, but one may be that normal for these people may be a bit lower than for most.
- Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
o TSH may be the only lab test given. It is a sensitive test for hypothyroidism, though other tests, given along with TSH can often give a better overall picture of thyroid function.
o If TSH is high, it usually indicates an underactive thyroid. This is because of the feedback loop we mentioned earlier. The hypothalamus and pituitary are getting a constant signal that there is not enough T4/T3 in your body, so the pituitary keeps sending out TSH in the hopes that it will stimulate the thyroid to produce more T4/T3.
- Other thyroid disorders that result in a high TSH include Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, liver function problems, rare tumors that produce TSH, thyroiditis, lithium and other drugs, ingestion of high amounts of iodine and severe chronic illness.
- Total T4
o T4 can either be found in the blood as free T4(fT4) or bound (linked) to larger proteins. When T4 is bound to proteins (eg thyroxine-binding globulin or TBG), it is unable to enter any cell or tissue to be converted into the active form of the hormone, T3.
- Total T4 can be increased if you are taking levothyroxine (the synthetic version of T4), glandulars which contain both T4 and T3 and with estrogens (as when you are taking oral contraceptives or during pregnancy)
- Free T4 (fT4)
o Free (unbound) T4 or fT4 can enter cells and be converted into the active hormone, T3. The fT4 value can be very important in determining if someone has an under- or over-active thyroid.
- Free T3(fT3)
o Most T3 is bound to proteins in the blood, so fT3 measures the unbound T3.
o Free T3 or fT3 can be useful to track an over-active thyroid or to determine if T4 is being converted to T3.
o fT3 can be increased due to iodine deficiency and decreased in cases of selenium deficiency
o Reduced conversion of T4 to T3 resulting in a low fT3 may be due to genetic differences. Some people have a different and less efficient forms of the enzymes (the deiodinases) that convert T4 to T3.
- Thyroid antibodies
o Antibodies (autoantibodies) are produced when the body recognizes something foreign, other or “non-self” and the immune system responds to it by producing these antibodies. When autoimmune disease occurs (and there are many forms of autoimmune (AI) disease), the immune system makes antibodies to “self” and all sorts of damage can occur, depending on what the antibodies are directed against. In the case of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the autoantibodies damage the thyroid.
o Antibodies to thyroid components
- Thyroid peroxidase (TPO) is an enzyme that is involved in the production of T4. Testing for these antibodies can help diagnose and follow the progress of hypothyroid disorders. Antibody to TPO can also be found in Grave’s disease or hyperthyroidism.
- Antibodies to thyroglobulin are formed against thyroglobulin, the protein which is used to make T4.
- There is another class of antibodies that bind to the receptor for thyroid stimulating hormone or TSH. These stimulate the receptor for TSH and are known as TSI—for Thyroid Stimulating Immunoglobulins (another term for antibodies). When these antibodies stimulate the TSH receptor, hyperthyroidism—Graves’ disease—is the result.
Lab Reference Ranges: Charts
Table 1: Common Lab Reference Ranges
|Test||Standard (Normal) reference range||Notes|
|TSH||0.4-5.5 micro IU/mL||Many people feel better near the lower end of the range. Some may feel better near the higher range.|
|Total T4||5.0 to 12.0 mcg/dL|
|Free T4 (fT4)||0.8-1.8ng/dL|
|Free T3 (fT3)||2.3-4.2 pg/mL||Low levels might be a sign that you are not converting T4 to T3, have a digestive disorder known as dysbiosis, or have high cortisol levels. It can also be due to high estrogen levels. Higher levels of fT3 may be related to elevated testosterone levels|
|TSI (measured as an index)||<1.3|
|Typical Lab finding in hypothyroidism|
|Total T4||Low (usually)|
|fT4 or Free Thyroxine Index (FTI)||Low|
|fT3||Normal or low|
|Antibodies to TPO and possibly thyroglobulin||High in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis|
Risk Factors for Hypothyroidism
Anyone can become hypothyroid, but your risk is greater if:
- You are a woman
- You are over the age of 60
- There is a family history of any thyroid disorder or autoimmune disease
- You have been exposed to radioactive iodine or any thyroid medications
- You have had radiation treatments of the head or neck
o About 10% of women get a condition called postpartum thyroiditis after they have their baby. This condition usually goes through two phases—the first phase consists of an OVER active thyroid followed by a phase of an UNDER-active thyroid. These phases usually last about 1-3 months but can take up to a year.
In the US, the most common cause of hypothyroidism is autoimmune Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, but in other areas of the world, iodine deficiency in the diet is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. Overall, hypothyroidism is more common than hyperthyroidism—an over-active thyroid, but you should still know a bit about hyperthyroidism as you choose which of the Top Ten Thyroid supplements suits your needs best.
The most common cause of hyperthyroid is Graves’ disease. Graves’ disease or GD is also an autoimmune disorder, but in GD, the autoantibodies stimulate thyroid hormone production and you get too much thyroid hormone. Some thyroid disorders occur after or during pregnancy, after viral or bacterial infections or after long periods of stress. Both hypo- and hyper-thyroid occurs predominantly in women starting at the ages of 30-40. Some cases of Graves’ disease have been associated with heavy metals and prescription drugs.
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
The symptoms of hyperthyroidism—an over-active thyroid—include fatigue, excessive sweating, intolerance to heat, diarrhea, nervousness, agitation and irritability, unexplained weight loss, a rapid heart rate and sometimes a tremor.
|Typical Lab finding in hyperthyroidism|
|fT4 or Free Thyroxine Index (FTI)||High|
|Antibodies||High in Graves’ disease|
How Supplements Can Help Support Your Thyroid
The thyroid—like every cell, tissue and organ of your body—needs nutrients derived from the diet to do its job. Too many people have poor diets—they may rely on fast food or processed food or their diets may be unbalanced in some way—many people eat too many carbohydrates, the wrong types of fat or too much (or too little) protein.
So, the first thing anyone concerned with their thyroid health should do is try to improve their diet in order to provide the thyroid with the nutrients it needs. In general, a whole-foods diet, containing whole grains, vegetables, fruit, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds is recommended. You should avoid red meats, eating red meat only 3-4 times a month, and substitute fatty fish high in omega-3 essential fatty acids Examples of fatty fish are salmon, mackerel, cod, tuna, herring, oysters and sardines. You should also include lean, skinless poultry. Game meat and grass-fed red meat have roughly equal amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids and can be included as well. But for the most part, focus on increasing the amounts of vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds you eat.
Supplements can help improve thyroid function by ensuring that you have enough of these nutrients. Keep in mind, though, more is NOT necessarily better. There are some vital trace minerals, for example, that can cause health problems if you overdo it. Iodine and selenium are good examples of this—don’t fall into the trap of thinking “If one is good, two must be better”! If you are taking several different supplements, make sure you are not overdoing any vitamin or mineral by adding up the totals on individual nutrients. Find a handy chart to check here.
Nutrients Needed by the Thyroid
Key nutrients for thyroid health include iodine, Vitamin D, selenium and Vitamin B12.
Iodine you will remember is needed for the synthesis of both T4 and the active thyroid hormone, T3. One of the actions of TSH is to stimulate the thyroid to take up iodine from the blood.
Iodine has been added to salt throughout the world mainly to combat iodine-deficiency forms of hypothyroidism. However, since many people avoid salt to avoid problems with their blood pressure, it is likely that many people remain iodine deficient, especially if their diet does not include significant amounts of iodine from seafood or sea plants like kelp and other seaweeds.
Both iodine deficiency and too much iodine in the diet can cause thyroid dysfunction. According to a 2014 review article, iodine excess can result in either an under-active or an over-active thyroid. The Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) have found that the tolerable upper intake level (UL) for iodine is 1,100 mcg for adults over 19 years of age. The recommended daily intake of iodine is 150 mcg for adults over 19 years of age. The recommended intake is 220 mcg for pregnant women and 290 mcg for breastfeeding women.
Iodine is essential for mother and fetus during pregnancy—one of the ways the thyroid gland responds to pregnancy is to increase the amounts of T4 made, making certain that there is enough T4 for the mom and for the growing baby. Some evidence also suggests that iodine may be beneficial to women with fibrocystic breast disease.
Keep in mind that ingredients like Bladderwrack, kelp and seaweed will increase the amount of iodine in the supplement—and the final amount of iodine in the supplement will be higher than listed. This is because bladderwrack is a type of seaweed and has significant amounts of iodine as part of the plant.
The thyroid gland has the largest amount of selenium of any organ of the body. Selenium is needed to make a group of enzymes (the selenoproteins) that are important antioxidants and protect the thyroid from the damaging effects of free radicals. Selenoproteins also play a role in the metabolism of the thyroid hormones. Selenium deficiency decreases the amounts of thyroid hormone produced.
The RDA for selenium in adults is 55 mcg and the UL for selenium is 400mcg. In pregnancy the RDA is 60mcg and in breastfeeding moms, the RDA is 70mcg.
Copper is an essential trace element needed as a cofactor for antioxidant reactions. Copper deficiency is not very common—and copper should always be taken along with zinc. The RDA for copper in adults is 900 mcg (1000 mcg when pregnant and 1300mcg when breastfeeding). The UL is 10,000mcg or 10mg.
Zinc is also an essential mineral needed for many, many different biochemical functions. The receptors (the surface structures that T4/T4 binds to) for the thyroid hormones are members of the zinc finger protein family. So zinc is needed for the thyroid hormones to function efficiently.
Vitamin B12 is needed for protein synthesis as a cofactor. Vitamin B12 deficiency as seen in some conditions such as pernicious anemia is associated with an increased risk of autoimmune disease in the thyroid. Studies have shown that low Vitamin B12 levels are associated with hypothyroidism.
The RDA for Vitamin B12 in adults is 2.4 mcg—for pregnant or lactating women, the RDA is 2.8 mcg. There is no determined UL for Vitamin B12.
Vitamin D—or the “sunshine vitamin” – is made in your skin when exposed to sunlight. The problem is that exposure to sunlight also puts you at risk for skin cancer—especially if you have lighter skin.
Studies have indicated that low Vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk of autoimmune thyroid diseases like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease.
L-tyrosine, an amino acid, is used to make the thyroid hormones T4 and T3. It is known that in severe illness, tyrosine levels decrease and this leads to decreased T4 and T3 production. You should not take a supplement that contains tyrosine if you have hyperthyroid disease.
Other minerals that are often included in thyroid support formulas are magnesium, manganese, and molybdenum.
- Magnesium is an important mineral for hundreds of biochemical reactions—it is important in energy production, the synthesis of DNA, RNA and proteins, nerve transmission and cell signaling.
- Manganese is important in antioxidant reactions in the body. There are some animal studies indicating that low manganese levels may be correlated with thyroid function.
- Molybdenum is needed for 4 enzymes in humans. Molybdenum deficiency is very rare, and it is not clear how molybdenum may benefit the thyroid—but it may support thyroid cells.
Herbs Used to Support Thyroid Function
Herbs have been used as medicines for many centuries. Every traditional medicine has its own set of herbs that have been used to support thyroid function. Supplement formulators can use the best herbs borrowing from traditions like Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Native American medicine, South American, Japanese and Korean medicine traditions.
Here are descriptions of the herbs used in our Top Ten Supplement list—and how these can support healthy thyroid function!
Withania somnifera or Ashwagandha comes from the Ayurvedic traditions. Ashwagandha also supports the adrenal glands and can reduce high cortisol levels. Ashwagandha should not be used during pregnancy and may worsen autoimmune thyroid disease (and other autoimmune disorders). If you have HT, talk to your healthcare provider before using a product with Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha increases the production of thyroid hormone. It can be combined with thyroid hormone replacement therapy if used cautiously. Ashwagandha can cause some drowsiness.
One way that ashwagandha may help support the thyroid is by relieving stress. The thyroid reacts to stress based on its biological network connections to the adrenal glands.
Clinical studies have indicated that ashwagandha can increase the production of both T4 and T3. Some of these studies indicate that Ashwagandha may be particularly useful in normalizing thyroid function in those with subclinical hypothyroidism.
The scientific name of bladderwrack is Fucus vesiculosus. It is a species of brown seaweed that grows in colder ocean waters. Bladderwrack contains high levels of iodine and is very useful for hypothyroid disorders caused by iodine-deficiency. You should not take bladderwrack if you have hyperthyroidism—it may make it worse.
Bladderwrack also has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory effects and may help normalize blood sugars.
Keep in mind that if you are taking a supplement that includes bladderwrack—or any seaweed or kelp, the actual amount of iodine you are taking is higher than listed on the label. The UL for iodine is 1100 mcg, but even at lower levels, too much iodine can still worsen any thyroid condition.
Cayenne pepper/ Black Pepper/Bioperine
Pepper extracts—from red (cayenne) or black pepper are believed to increase the absorption and bioavailability of nutrients given in supplements.
Coleus is a member of the mint family and is native to Nepal, India and Thailand. Traditionally, it is used to purify the blood and heart conditions. Because of its effects on the heart, if you are taking medications for any heart condition or for high blood pressure, talk to a doctor before using. Coleus appears to increase the efficiency of cell-signaling and acts as an antioxidant. It also appears to increase thyroid hormone production.
Schisandra berry (Schisandra chinensis)
Schisandra berry has been used in TCM for centuries and is also known as wu wei zi. It is an adaptogen, a class of herb that supports the organs responding to stress. These organs include the adrenal glands, the thyroid and the liver. Schisandra has been shown to improve liver function and have anti-inflammatory effects, particularly useful in autoimmune thyroid diseases.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is the main spice in curry and has been used in the Ayurvedic traditions for centuries for inflammatory conditions like arthritis. It is also used to relieve pain due to inflammation. Turmeric can be very useful for any inflammatory condition—and this includes any form of thyroiditis.
Guggul comes from the resin of the guggul tree (Commiphora wightii). Guggul can increase the conversion of T4 to T3. If you are undergoing treatment for hypothyroid disease, talk to your doctor about reducing the amount of thyroid hormone you are taking before using guggul. It can, in theory, increase the T3 levels too much if taken along with thyroid hormone.
There are many herbs to choose from that can have positive effects on the thyroid. Some of these include stinging nettles, horsetail, sage and shepherd’s purse.
Stinging nettles is part of nearly every traditional medicine system—it is used to support the thyroid, the prostate and as an anti-allergy remedy.
Horsetail is an ancient plant and used primarily to increase urination. It contains significant amounts of silicon and is often used to support the bones, teeth and skeleton.
Sage is used for digestive problems and for excessive sweating. Preliminary data indicates that it normalizes the production of TSH.
Shepherd’s purse is often used for nervous conditions and may interfere with thyroid hormone therapy, so use only after consultation with your health care provider.
A Return to Our Top Ten Supplements for the Thyroid
Let’s go through these supplements one at a time:
ThyroControl by HerbalGist
ThyroControl by HerbalGist contains the vital thyroid nutrients including iodine, zinc, selenium and Vitamin B12. It also contains copper, manganese and molybdenum. The herbs and other nutrients include tyrosine, schisandra, ashwagandha, kelp and bladderwrack with cayenne pepper to improve absorption.
The company offers a risk-free guarantee. The product is made using Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) in an FDA-registered and inspected facility. This is a reflection of the confidence the company has in the quality of their product. Insider tip: Way too many supplement companies do not follow GMP and do not have their products registered or inspected—this is always a good sign!
Just be aware that while the label states that it contains 150mcg of iodine, the inclusion of bladderwrack as an ingredient means that you are likely getting more than 150mcg per serving. The label does not make it clear if it is listing the total iodine content.
Each bottle contains 60 capsules or a 30- day supply at a cost of $19.95 ($0.33 per capsule or $0.66/day)
Thyroid Support by VitaBalance
It took me WAY too long to find the list of ingredients (its at the bottom of the website under the hyperlink labeled “Supplement Facts”. But it was worth the search—this supplement contains Vitamin B12, iodine, magnesium, zinc, selenium, copper, manganese and molybdenum. In also includes the amino acid tyrosine as well as schisandra, ashwagandha, bladderwrack, kelp and cayenne.
We’ve mentioned that schisandra acts as an adaptogen, supporting the adrenals. That is important because the thyroid and adrenals are functionally related and it can be very important to support the function of the adrenal glands along with supporting the thyroid gland. In other words, adding Schisandra to the other ingredients makes this supplement more broadly supportive of the thyroid gland…it’s a bit like adding an additional generator.
Each bottle contains 60 capsules or a 30- day supply at a cost of $23.95 ($0.40 per capsule or $0.80/day). You can also purchase two bottles for $42.96 ($0.36 per capsule or $0.72/day) or get 3 bottles with 1 free for $63.96. ($0.27 per capsule or $0.54/day).
Thyroid Support by Gaia Herbs
The company, Gaia Herbs has an excellent reputation along with many years’ experience with herbal medicines. This is a vegan-friendly product with certified organic ingredients. It also clearly states that it is a non-GMO product.
The label lists ALL the sources of iodine as a total so you know exactly how much iodine you are ingesting—100 mcg, prudently leaving some “room” for other sources of iodine. It also contains ashwagandha and a proprietary blend of schisandra and coleus. This provides well-rounded support for the thyroid, the adrenals and likely your cardiovascular system.
Each bottle contains 120 capsules or a 60- day supply at a cost of $31.94 ($0.26 per capsule or $0.52/day)
Thyroid Support by 1 Body
This is another vegan and vegetarian-friendly product manufactured in the USA at a cGMP certified FDA-registered lab. The product is also made with no wheat, gluten, soy, milk, egg, fish, or tree nuts. Also—no artificial fillers.
It DOES contain Vitamin B12, tyrosine, zinc and copper…and other minerals like selenium, manganese and molybdenum in highly absorbable forms (as amino acid chelates). The iodine is provided both as a chelate and in bladderwrack and kelp. Again, just be aware that you are actually getting more than 100% RDA of iodine – but you won’t know how much more, at least not from the label. The label does not make it clear if it is listing the total iodine content.
The formulation also contains schisandra, coleus and ashwagandha.
Each bottle contains 60 vegan capsules or a 30- day supply at a cost of $23.95 ($0.40 per capsule or $0.80/day).
Thyroid Support by Zhou Nutrition
Zhou Nutrition is part of a company that has one of the longest histories in the supplement industry. The formulation is vegetarian Friendly, Gluten Free, Soy Free, and Non-GMO. The product is made in an FDA certified facility following GMP and is lab-tested for purity. This is a significant plus—having the product 3rd party tested (rarely done) is even better, but the company tests for microbes, heavy metals, pesticides and gluten—they comply with California’s Prop 65, meaning the testing is quite stringent. Good for them!
The total iodine amount is clearly listed, and manganese, molybdenum and selenium are provided as amino acid chelates. The magnesium, copper and zinc are oxides—which means they are not as bioavailable, but still a reasonable source of those minerals.
The formulation also contains Vitamin B12, tyrosine, schisandra, ashwagandha, bladderwrack and kelp along with cayenne to improve absorption.
Each bottle contains 60 capsules or a 30- day supply at a cost of $20.90 ($0.35 per capsule or $0.70/day).
Thyroid Support by LES Labs
Thyroid Support from LES Labs has some extra special ingredients for you. The company was founded in 2009—the LES stands for “Life Enhancing Supplements”. So what are the “extra special ingredients”? Vitamin D and Vitamin E. The Vitamin D is given at 50% daily value with 447% Vitamin E—the Vitamin E functions as an antioxidant and has been shown in lab animals to normalize thyroid hormone production.
The label provides a total iodine amount and the zinc and selenium are provided in highly absorbable forms. You also get Vitamin B12, tyrosine, ashwagandha, turmeric and bioperine (to aid bioavailability). The turmeric in this formulation may be especially important for anyone with autoimmune or inflammatory thyroid disorders. They also have no artificial fillers.
Each bottle contains 120 capsules or a 60- day supply at a cost of $17.83 ($0.15 per capsule or $0.30/day).
Thyroid Support by Healths Harmony
Healths Harmony is a young company, founded in 2014. They promise “full disclosure” on the label – and provide it. They use all-natural products, rigorously tested for purity and made in an FDA-approved facility. This company has uses GMP and non-GMO products.
They provide the total iodine amount and provide some of the minerals as chelates—the selenium, manganese and molybdenum. Zinc, copper and magnesium are provided as oxides—again, these work they just tend to be less-well absorbed.
Other ingredients include VitaminB12, schisandra, ashwagandha, bladderwrack and kelp along with cayenne pepper.
Each bottle contains a two months’ supply or 120 capsules. The cost is $17.83 ($0.15 per capsule or $0.30/day).
Thyroid Support with Iodine by Purely Holistic
The company, Purely Holistic pushes three things—Natural, Nutritious and No Nonsense. They provide a supplement that is non-GMO, free from fillers or binders and has a 100% money back guarantee. Their thyroid support product is one of their most popular and is produced using GMP.
The product contains Vitamin B12, iodine (from kelp only), the minerals magnesium, zinc, copper, selenium, manganese and molybdenum, tyrosine and schisandra, ashwagandha, bladderwrack and cayenne pepper.
Purely Holistic also provides a 2- month supply in every bottle at a cost of $20.97 ($0.17 per capsule or $0.34/day)
Thyroid Energy by NOW Foods
NOW Foods is a well-known and well-established company founded in 1968.
Their formulation is a little different because in addition to Vitamin B12, they also provide two other B vitamins—Vitamin B6 and folic acid. This is to optimize your energy levels. They are also different in that the zinc, copper and selenium are ALL in a very absorbable form. The full amount of iodine (150%DV) is listed and comes from potassium iodide, again a very absorbable form.
NOW Foods includes tyrosine, ashwagandha…and guggul. As mentioned above, guggul is included to support the conversion of T4 to T3.
Each bottle contains 90 capsules for a 45-day supply. The cost is $7.45 ($0.17 per capsule or $0.34/day)
Thyroid Edge by Go Nutrients
GO Nutrients went the traditional route by providing thyroid support as a liquid. This can be particularly useful for anyone who has trouble swallowing pills or capsules—and some people with thyroid conditions DO have difficulty swallowing—remember, the thyroid is in the neck and if it is enlarged, as in a goiter or in other cases of thyroid disease, this can cause some significant swallowing issues. Also, liquids tend to be absorbed more easily and more quickly—don’t forget, when you take a capsule, your body has to first dissolve the capsule itself and then dissolve the contents—with liquids, that isn’t an issue.
Each 60 mL bottle (2 fluid ounces) contains a blend of stinging nettle, horsetail, kelp, bladderwrack, Irish moss, Shepherd’s purse, Fenugreek, black walnut and sage. This is a traditionally influenced blend and contains iodine (from the seaweed) as well as supportive herbs.
The liquid is alcohol-, gluten-. Soy-, dairy-, preservative- and artificial-ingredients free. It is also non-GMO and comes with a money-back guarantee. Also— this product is 3rd party tested for purity and is GMP-produced.
You can take ¼ teaspoon up to three times a day. It is not very clear, but that ¼ teaspoon is about 1 dropperful.
The cost for each bottle is $24.47 and will last for 48 days if you take one ¼ teaspoon once a day. That works out to $0.51 per day.